Today was not just another ordinary day in the life of this house hunter. Hunting houses and other buildings that were designed by my grandfather has become something of an obsession with me. I don’t get to do it every day but when I do, it is like becoming a detective following out leads in a murder case. I never quite know what will occur as I follow up on a lead. The chase today actually began about two and a half years ago when I became interesting in exploring the work, and the thinking behind the work, of my grandfather. It has taken several unique turns through the last couple of years but it basically culminated today when I was able to confirm and photograph one of the houses my grandfather had designed early in his career. I have found a lot of houses but this one stands out among them.
The story of this search for this particular begins about two years ago when I was going through records that my mother had managed to save for more than sixty years after he passed away in May, 1952. Unfortunately, the majority of the records from his firm of more than forty years were destroyed by the architect who purchased the firm after his death. This unfortunate act has created a huge hole in the history of architecture in Texas. Fortunately, the records that have survived have listed many of the earliest structures he designed, enough so as to provide some interesting clues to his importance to the architectural history of north Texas. In those records, I came across a copy of a letter he wrote in 1914 telling about his firm and some of the houses he had designed in Fort Worth and in a number of towns in Texas. One of those houses was a house for W. Q. Bowman in Hubbard, Texas. While cross referencing into some other records, I found that he had also designed a high school building for Hubbard. I also found that the job numbers for the two projects were with in about ten numbers of each other, which put them being designed within a few months of each other. It was a few months before I was finally able to plan a trip to Hubbard to look for the house. What I did not find on that trip was the house. What I did find on that trip was a high school building that was built in 1913 that was still in use today and in incredibly good condition. It was very apparent that it had been well care for by people who cared very much about preserving the old building. To say I was disappointed about not finding the house would be accurate but finding the school made up for some of that disappointment. The school had been restored after being abandoned as a school and was now in use as the town library, historical museum, and genealogical archives for Hubbard. It even had a cement plaque on the building near the door telling about the school board and my grandfather, and the Then mayor of Hubbard, W. Q. Bowman. So, I had a clue to the house. After making a stop at the city hall to see if they could help me locate the house, I headed on to my next stop. The trip was not a total waste of time. I sent out some emails in hopes of finding someone who would know something but never heard anything.
Moving forward in time about one and a half years, to September of 2014, I heard from someone in Hubbard who had seen my web site page about the school and my grandfather’s involvement. The high school had finally earned a historic marker and they wanted me to come down for the ceremony. Unfortunately, best laid plans don’t always work out and I was not able to go at the last minute. However, spoken word had filtered through many ears and the granddaughter of W. Q. Bowman found out about my quest to find her grandfather’s house and the fact that my grandfather had been the architect of the house along with the school. She apparently could not find my web site or email address but had seen an web blog by Mike Nichols, who has helped me several times in my search for my grandfather’s work. She had visited his site and left a message about her grandfather’s house and how to locate it in Hubbard on one of the several articles that had been written about my grandfather. Mike has written about my grandfather’s architecture on several occasions. His web site is http://www.hometownbyhandlebar.com and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Fort Worth history. He has helped me locate several projects that I did not have a record for in my grandfather’s files. He was a Star Telegram writer for quite a few years and when he retired, he started his web site and is an incredibly interesting writer about historical Fort Worth! He forwarded the post to me several days ago and that necessitated another trip to Hubbard. Monday morning, after getting my wife off to work, I loaded up, set the GPS for the address in the email, and off I went with camera batteries fully charged.
Over the last couple of years of studying the characteristics of my grandfather’s work, I have come to expect certain characteristics to be visible in the houses I am looking for. His little things that he personally liked to put into most of his work were things like he designed mainly two story houses and most had with sleeping porches that were over the driveway to the side of the house with a covered entrance door opening to the driveway under the sleeping porch. The heavy majority of his houses were built with a reddish-brown brick and the roofs were shingled, not with cedar shingles, but half round clay tiles, mostly green tiles, which last for many years. Many of the houses I have found still have the original clay tiles. I have also come to expect a lot of windows for ventilation, and in many houses, I have found covered front doors with columns holding the porch roof. I have also learned to expect a separate garage in the rear of the house that was a two story construction. On the second floor would be a living quarters for servants. These things have been pretty constant traits of his house designs. However, this house did not have most of the characteristic traits of his houses. It had a couple of outside visible traits but the difference between this house and most of his other houses left me wondering! Inside almost every quality house was a cedar closet, and many had clothes chutes. It also had a beautiful staircase from the upstairs that was just inside the front door in the entrance hall, another characteristic but I did not know this until I went it the. I haven’t had the privilege of touring most of the homes I have photographed but that is probably my fault because I don’t like to intrude.
When I first drove past the house, I noticed it seemed to be deserted except for some workers. I went over to the school and photographed the historic marker and the school from several angles and then went back to the house. When I talked to the workers, I found out that the owner was actually a woman who is probably in her early eighties and lives in the house next door to the Bowman house. I didn’t think much about the antique, spiked iron cemetery fence at that moment that surrounded both houses. So, off I go to see if I can meet this woman and find out a little more about this house I had just found that was not a typical Clarkson home! When she would not answer the door, I went back to the home and found I was now locked inside the yard of the two houses. They are surrounded by hundred year old iron cemetery fences, the type that had pointed spikes on the tops of the vertical bars making it impossible to climb out! That took me back to the other house where I heard talking around to the back of the house. I eventually found the man in charge of the workers and asked him if the owner was home. After I explained who I was and what I was doing, he walked to the door and called the owner and said “there is someone here you need to meet!” We had a nice chat about the house but she did not know much about the previous owners. Then she surprised me and offered me a tour of the house. Her maintenance man took me over to the house and told me about her as we walked. Then, when he unlocked the door, I stepped into the house and was immediately transported one hundred years into the past! The house was beautiful on the inside. The owner had spent years furnishing and restoring the house to what it would probably have looked like in the years following its construction. It was totally furnished in original early 20th century furniture, and decorations. This was her guest house and whomever had the honor of staying there, stayed in a fully restored home of the first part of the 20th century. The man who was showing me around said that he had carefully stripped and re-glued all of the original 100 year old linen wall paper which was in every room of the house. The wall paper was the original wall paper installed during construction. It was was absolutely beautiful! We had a really nice visit regarding this house while we walked. Unfortunately, neither the owner nor the maintenance many knew much history about the first owner, W. Q. Bowman. However, the owner did confirm it was designed by the same man who designed the school.
I wish I could have photographed the interior of the house for a presentation but that was not possible. However, here are a few of the outside photos of the house, along with the historic school building that is about six months newer. It was indeed a very interesting day.