Monday, November 30, 2015

My Tour of the 1909 Barton House at the National Ranching Center

Not only are my husband and I updating our 1974 house to our taste, which has been consuming much of my time, but I am also a writer. My current novel in progress centers around a couple renovating a 1921 Craftsman bungalow kit home. When I mentioned this to a friend, she told me there's a kit home at Texas Tech's National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas.

While it turns out she was close but not quite right--it was built from a design ordered from a catalog rather than a mail-ordered kit--I decided to head on over to take a peek anyway. I mean, how often do I get the chance to tour a home over a hundred years old and a mere eleven years older than the one I am learning everything I can about?

The Barton House at the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.

When I first went over, I found that the home is not often open to the public, but I was able to make an appointment and visit with the very knowledgeable and patient Robert Tidwell, curator of historical collections. He gave me a personal tour of the Barton House, a 1909 Queen Anne/Eastlake-style mansion and the jewel of the Proctor Historical Park. I was able to explore up close and learn about everything I could think to ask about--from the design to the construction, the flooring to the finishes.

For example, I was surprised to learn they had linoleum at that time (apparently it wasn't unusual: "It's just linseed oil.") and intrigued by the green stained woodwork upstairs (again a typical trend I wasn't aware of). The low banisters and handrails around the staircase and the balcony made me feel tall for once (not bad for someone 5'2") though the high ceilings brought me back to size.

The upstairs landing to the "hidden" staircase from the bedroom below.

Second-floor landing.

There were hidden staircases and curious hatches. (I really wanted to stand on the built-in window seat to peek into those storage spaces, but I refrained. Barely.)

Entrance to the "hidden" staircase from the one bedroom on the main floor to the bedroom right above.

I love the character--the built-in window seat (with full pull-out drawer),
the double closets, and the intriguing "hatches"--okay, they're just storage spaces,
but what's hidden in there now? Something that's been hidden for decades?

My favorite parts of the house were the leaded glass window in the living room and the stately transom over the front door in the majestic foyer. The heart of the home really was that entryway with its stairwell that curved slightly at the base, and the gorgeous butler's pantry to welcome guests with refreshment. Mr. Tidwell pointed out where the phone had been installed, and I could picture the home adapting as time marched on, though that kitchen obviously struggled to keep up--I couldn't imagine using it.

Isn't this a gorgeous window?

Entryway butler's pantry pass-through.

I found myself imagining generations of the Barton family growing up in that home. How beautiful a large Christmas tree must have looked in the big front windows. Or picturing the family playing jacks on the front porch with the adults sitting in rockers, lemonade glasses in hand while they enjoyed the shade. It helped too, when Mr. Tidwell told me about '50s wallpaper and '70s shag carpet. I just loved the history and joy that home must have been to many.

How nice this gorgeous porch must have been on summer evenings!

The entire home has been beautifully backdated to what it had been at construction in 1909 except for the second story bathroom which is mostly empty right now. (This makes sense as the home is rarely open for visitors, especially the second floor.) Mr. Tidwell pointed out slight variations the builder incorporated in his home, deviations from the original plan created by architect George Barber, mostly consisting of flipping the kitchen and maid's quarters. Quite a logical change, when it comes down to it.

The house as advertised in a catalog. Property of Texas Tech and the National Ranching Heritage Center.

I was even able to take a peek into the attic. The attic stairs are quite steep and shallow tucked into the back corner of the second story, but that added to the fun. I lifted the attic cover, holding onto it so it wouldn't flop over on its hinges. The attic is HUGE! They easily could have finished another couple of rooms and still had room for storage areas. The dormers let in oodles of light. With it so light and open, only having some beams holding a couple of ladders (one old wooden one and a modern aluminum one) next to each other, it was enchanting. A little girl could have had fun playing house up there. Mr. Tidwell told me there were stories of the town holding school up there but the family assured him it was just rumor. But it would make a great Wuthering Heights type of house. Or Mansfield Park.

Attic stairs. Aren't they cool? And yet creepy if you had to sleep near them, am I right?

Overall, it was great for research for me. Just to see details in person. The woodworking--carving, coloring, staining, built-ins and pass-throughs. The fireplaces and tile. The linoleum. The height of the ceilings and expanse of the rooms. It was fascinating to hear about the transition from gas to electric light fixtures, and how the water was plumbed and heated.

Pass-through between dining room and kitchen.

If visiting a house like this is interesting to you, I suggest heading over to the National Ranching Heritage Center. There are several different types of structures of various ages open and free to the public. The staff at the center are helpful and friendly--as well as extremely knowledgeable. Here's a link if you'd like to learn more.

Property of the National Ranching Heritage Center, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.

I look forward to being able to put my research into my work. Now if I could just get access to a kit home. Anyone know of one open somewhere near Lubbock, Texas?