A Timeless Texas House

Very often Timeless Houses are historic houses. Many pre-1940 homes have the characteristics of timelessness that is elusive in many new homes. My company is privileged to be working on one of the oldest houses in North Texas. It is the Nance Farm in Desoto Texas. Otway Bird Nance brought his family to North Texas in 1851.

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Originally a Greek Revival home, we are restoring it to the 1890’s period. The home was a working farm until 1951 and remained reasonably well intact before the city of Desoto bought it in 1975.

In this phase of work we put a chimney back on the south side of the house. The north brick chimney is not original and was most likely updated in the 1940’s. The evidence for the chimney came from an historic photo, which shows 2 matching stone chimneys on each end of the house.

This photo shows the timber frame exterior wall that we exposed when we began work on the south end. We don’t see a lot of timber framing in this part of Texas as most early houses are made of stone. These timbers are hand-hewn and look very rustic and unrefined. Their rough characteristics reveal a farmer’s hand who may have been working with scarce resources.

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The south wall had bad aluminum windows dating from the 1980’s. We removed the windows and installed a stone chimney.

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The interior walls were sheathed with wide horizontal boards that showed evidence of original wallpaper muslin. I worked with a wallpaper consultant/friend Bo Sullivan in Portland who used to be the historian for Restoration Hardware. He has a great library of historic books and now consults through his company Arcalus. I learned that it was typical in the 1890’s to have wallpaper on the walls and ceilings in a pattern very similar to this.

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Timeless Houses tell a story. In this case, a story of an early settler in North Texas, and the evolution of the house that mirrors Texas’s growth and change. When complete, this house will communicate the ideals and aspirations of a family growing up in the late 1880’s and 1890’s that was enjoying new trends and styles popular through ladies magazines and Montgomery Ward’s catalogs. The house and its simple values should give us fresh perspective on our lives, and should cause us to pause and reflect on who we are, what we believe and what is most important.

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