When the rain let up enough for us to have a small adventure, my Texas friend and I decided to find out why there were so many historic and architecturally significant houses in Weatherford, Texas, so we visited the chamber of commerce, which is housed in a historic building of its own — the erstwhile train station.
The woman we talked to was pleasant enough though a bit condescending. “All towns have such houses,” she informed me when I asked why Weatherford had so many historic houses. “We just didn’t tear ours down.”
I have lived in several old towns and visited others. Yes, some small places such as Colorado mining towns had a plethora of historic homes, but other towns seemed to have skipped that phase. Perhaps the folk in those towns were still homesteading during the late nineteenth century or the early part of the twentieth when so many of those large houses were built. Or perhaps the town or county was simply too poor to make merchants and local bankers rich.
So no, not all towns had such houses. I didn’t want to argue with the woman, and anyway, “not tearing the houses down” didn’t explain why so many had been built in the first place. In cattle and horse country, rich ranchers build their homes on their property, not in town.
Finally, the woman gave us a pamphlet for an historic driving tour that described some of the houses and their early residents. And the mystery was solved. Apparently Parker county was so wealthy (cattle, horses, agriculture, oil, manufacturing) that bankers, merchants, lawyers, politicians, even an artist or two grew prosperous. And they built lovely houses for themselves, often tearing down the truly historic homes of homesteaders in the process.
And so it goes.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)
The cream-colored Italianate house with the red door and gray roof is where Mary Martin and later her son Larry Hagman grew up. The other houses belonged to grocers, druggists, bankers, and lawyers.