Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Historic Pratt House - The Rest of the Story

Let's head on a little road trip. We're not going far I promise. Boudreaux has his own seat...but he really doesn't like to be crowded...you've been warned.

A part of this post was made in 2009...but stay with me. I'll play Paul Harvey (you do know him right?) and give you "The Rest of the Story" at the end. Now don't skip down to look. It will spoil the story.

As you know, Mr. Dumpling and I love to take "excursions". We ride, look at landscaping, throw in a little antiquing and call it a good day!

There is a house in East Texas that has long fascinated me...almost an obsession. When I first spied the house, two elderly sisters were living in the home. It needed work at that point but was still lovely. 

Many, many, many times, I would have Mr. Dumpling park across the street and just let me stare at it. I'm not saying this is normal...I'm just saying...

This is the house at the original location before being moved.

Here's a brief history written by Bob Bowman in the local paper:
"In 1908, as Sallie Pratt's house was being completed a block from downtown Hemphill, she "prayed a hedge" around the imposing structure and asked God to safeguard her home from man's destruction -- much in the Biblical fashion of Job 1:10.

Today, more than a few Hemphill townspeople are convinced Sallie's prayers 95 years ago have protected her house from the wrecker's ball and will lead to its eventual restoration.

Sallie's home was built for her by husband, George Edward Pratt, who had followed his father's footsteps in the general mercantile business at Hemphill and Bronson. The house was furnished by quality furniture shipped to Hemphill.

Sallie's bed was so elegant that it was reportedly used in a scene from the film, "Gone With the Wind."
(End of article)

Fate worked against the house. The sisters passed away and a male relative was left in the house. He was quite an original and loved to march in parades (uninvited) in his boots, shorts and twirling a baton. He called himself a "Global Twirler". Highly intelligent, a class Valedictorian...but a little different. He used one room of the THREE story house 7000 sq. foot to live in. Here he is:

An auctioneer friend of ours was contacted to auction the contents. He was admitted into the house (which was a RARE honor). He said the house was covered in antique treasures...walls, cabinets, stacked on the floor...and oak (I adore American oak) everywhere. The house had double staircases!

Well, by this point, just hearing about "my house" had me gasping in delight I tell you!

To shorten the story, the auction never happened. Distant relatives came in, divided the possessions (so I heard) and the house was left empty. Ok, I peeked in. You know I did.

Some in the small TX  town wanted it torn down. I made a few calls to see if the house was for sale. We hadn't built this home yet but we had the land. I just knew I could get it across the LA line and on our land. I told you...I loved this house! Someone suggested floating it across Toledo Bend Lake...at that point, Mr. Dumpling just paled.

In the end, the local church sold it and it was moved to make way for a parking lot. The local Historical Society bought it, moved it and a restoration fund was established but it still sat empty...and deteriorating. Here's the house after being moved to a new location:

And so the local town had fund raisers and began to raise money to save the house.
Yes, I have peeked in the windows. I have sat on the porch. I have pretended it was mine and how I would restore it.

Is that obsessed? I would rather think I have an excellent imagination and a love of old things. I want to save them, restore them and treasure them.

Boudreaux just demanded to be in this post. You know how he is! Such a little camera hog.
OK, here's the rest of the story. We were over in Hemphill, TX antiquing a couple of weeks ago and I made Mr Dumpling take me by to see the house. I check on it when we go thru just to make sure it is okay. I am NOT obsessed...truly.

We drive down the road and both say something seems odd. Isn't this the right road? Of course it is...but there is NO HOUSE. No...it can't be.

Here's the story from "The Daily Sentinel" July 2010.
Hemphill loses Pratt House to fire
"Built in 1908 by local merchant George Edward Pratt, the 7,000-square-foot Greek revival home housed the Pratt family until the late-1990s and later became a community restoration project. Last week, the 102-year-old structure inexplicably went up in flames."

I admit it. I cried. Not weeping tears but sad tears. My house is gone. I ranted a little. If they hadn't moved it, it would be okay. If they had sold it to me, it would be okay. I really hate to see us losing the beauty and the history of these old houses and mansions.  What a treasure it could have been again.

And that's the rest of the story.

Some of the parties I share with:
Wednesday Outdoor
Thurs Open House

Vintage Thingie Thursday
Friday Feathered Nest  
Vintage Inspiration Friday

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Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow. If I saw that house I would drive by it a lot and sit and look at it, too. There was a similar looking old house that we could see from I-40 between Memphis and Jackson, TN when we would drive to Jackson to visit my inlaws. It sat in the middle of some fields -- probably an old plantation house. Over the course of the 25+ years we drove by, it was abandoned, and then (I think during the housing boom/bubble) it was apparently being restored and we watched its progress from afar. Then one day we drived by and it had burned to the ground.

Ceekay-THINKIN of HOME said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh how sad. I would have cried too. My dog is a Llasa Apso mix...and big time spoiled...I adore him!!

Linda said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh no...I certainly would have cried too! I love old houses and I wish I could afford to live in one...but it's not to be.

Martha said... Best Blogger Tips

What a yucky end to the story!!! I do understand how you feel -- and I'm sorry you lost your house!

Honey at 2805 said... Best Blogger Tips

It is certainly understandable why you shed real tears over the fabulous old treasure. What a shame.

We met during the "Wedding Party". I am happily gollowing you and hope you might consider same.

Nancy said... Best Blogger Tips

So sad!! I could've gone without hearing the rest of THIS story! :(

Pamela said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh Judy, I have tears in my eyes!! It was such a beautiful home and i kept thinking just maybe you ended up with it. History lost for sure.

d e l i g h t said... Best Blogger Tips

This drew my attentiona as my husbands middele name is Pratt and he has many Pratt relatives.
Very interesting post! Found you at Sherry's.

Marlis said... Best Blogger Tips

What a truly sad sad story. I too love old homes. They have so many stories to share with us. Many Blessings, marlis

Unknown said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi! I am sad along with you. Tho I have never been to the house, its a part of America's history and didn't deserve this end. I have been to it in my mind and will continue to visit her. The town's residents must have been devastated too. Ever learn what really happened?

Hemphill author 1965 said... Best Blogger Tips

I grew up in Hemphill and like you, I had often longed the beautiful old house could one day be mine. It was the last remaining of several greek revival style homes that once stood in Hemphill. Having seen the once grand old house go from being immaculately cared for and then as years went by, slowly fall into a state of disrepair, for me it never lost its look of grandeur and intrigue. I was one of the lucky ones in that my mother knew the Pratt sisters and I did get to see the old home many, many years ago. I recall how big and fine and "antique" everything seemed to be. Even as a young teenager I felt such awe and appreciation for the house.
Not particularly "fancy" on the inside, still there was a grand feeling about it. Probably due to just the size of it. Three floors of living space...it seemed to go on and on. The old grand piano, pine floors, front and back staircases, room after room of beautiful antique furnishings, crystal, draperies,pictures,and fireplaces in almost every room it seemed. Large bookcases filled with books and even the attic full of hundreds of articles of clothing dating back to what Im sure was the turn of the century. Whatever became of all these treasures is anyones guess. When the Sabine County Historical Society took ownership of the house from the First Baptist Church and obtained enough grants and donated money to relocate the home, how proud the residents of the town were. I think the entire town must have turned out to witness the perhaps 1500 yard move to its new home. The old landmark Sallie Pratt house would be saved and once again become a beautiful great treasure to the community that it had once been. And sadly after nearly a century to lose such a treasure brings a certain sadness and loss to the hearts of those of us who admired the house for so many years. Although we come across many grand old homes during our lives, especially to the residents of the Hemphill area, never will there ever be another Old Pratt House.

Pratt said... Best Blogger Tips

I love the attraction you had to the old Pratt house. My maiden name is Pratt and it was distance aunts that lived in this home. My dad tells me stories of eating there as a small child at the long farmhouse table, and then playing with his cousins in the back yard. Lots of family history in that town, it's just sad that my own children will never get to see the historical home. Stories are all that are left behind.

MiMI said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for your comments. I still love the house and all the stories that go with it. It must have been a wonderful place with so many "treasures" inside. Keep sharing the stories...it keeps the memories alive!

purple car said... Best Blogger Tips

It breaks my heart to know this house isn't around. I have always loved that place. I wanted it for myself.

Mhelton said... Best Blogger Tips

I loved this old house. I married a guy back in 1995 that his family had a place in Lowes Creek. We passed by that house many many times. I always loved to see the beauty of history. I also loved to see Audrey Dean walking and twirling. Loved that guy ! I was so sad to see that it had been moved and then later burned down intentionally by some idiot. Sad a major part of history and this small little country town lost so much on this day. Just heartbreaking !

Carrie75022 said... Best Blogger Tips

Does anyone know where the Knox family house? Hiram and Lillian Knox of Knox Lumber co.