August 14, 2009

Texas Escapes

Well, it looks like things have come full circle in a way. This blog began as an way to work out my Frank Sinatra fixation and attempt to do "pop culture archeology and tribute," with increasing focus on photography and the documenting of small towns through photography. I frequently used the site Texas Escapes as a guide to the various places I visited to do those small town posts. So you can imagine the thrill of having the editor of Texas Escapes, John Troesser, contact me with an interest in my doing an ongoing column for them. It's nice as my interest (and "the Internet's") in this blog has sort of has atrophied and ground to a halt, that I should have this opportunity with Texas Escapes. It is possible I will do more posts here, at EBiN, but I really don't see the point as my visitors are increasingly limited to Google image searchers. That feels pointless and hollow. EBiN has been an attempt to reach out, hopefully to like-minded people sharing my interests, and remedy, yes, boredom. Thank you to those people who linked to me and visited my blog and enjoyed what they found here from time to time. Thank you to those who let me know of their opinions and appreciation via commenting and email. Here is hopefully the start of something "big." We'll see...


Retro Hound said...

Good luck. I'll kinda miss this little blog of yours.

Chris said...

Thank you! That's nice to hear. I appreciate it muchly.

Amy said...

I will certainly miss your blog...I've enjoyed it for years. Best of luck in the new endeavor.

Chris said...

It kills me to hear that, Amy! A year ago, that would have buoyed me to do more posts. Thank you for enjoying what I've tried to do. I will miss nice comments such as yours!

Frank Jump said...

Hey Chris- Congrats! We may be driving through Texas within the next week or so. Maybe we can meet up for coffee and a chat. Best, Frank

Leigh said...

Oh, man, I've got really mixed feelings about this! I am so glad to hear that your incredible photos and essays have earned "pro" recognition. Congratulations!

On the other hand, :-(

I mostly visit science, theology, and news blogs; yours is the only pop culture venue I really, really like. Please do post here to let us know when you've got a column coming out!

And I'm holding you to that walking tour of Nacogdoches; you'll be accompanied by a couple of old broads, but I can promise you some stories of old Nac!

In other news, I'm wondering if there is a Rulfs we might have missed. It's at 516 E Main St. I would date it at 1910-1915, or possibly a little later; it appears to be made of the same red brick used in the Henry Mast and A.T. Mast houses, while the roof massing recalls the Perkins house. I also detect some similarity to the Hoya Mast houses, though this house lacks the Hollywood-Spanish stylistic flourishes.

I almost bought this house in 1994; it's a gem inside, too, with the most pristine "hygenic" tile bungalow kitchen imaginable - and the original appliances. (Oh, how I hope that was preserved!) A friend of my cousin's owns it now.

Could it perhaps be a commission from the "lost years"?

I still want to give Steen Library a copy of the book, so keep my email address. Wouldn't it be nice to stop by the Library to do that donation, and then set off on our pilgrimage on some glorious day this fall?

And finally, here's Frank to sing one of my favorite Gershwin tunes to celebrate your new job:

They All Laughed

Chris said...

Hi, Frank. Thanks! Yes, let me know. Email me ( when you think you'll be coming through. There are a couple of coffee places here that might be a nice place for this.

Leigh-I hate to disappoint the few people who have enjoyed this. I really, really do. It motivates me to continue. I will at least post whenever they use something of mine at Texas Escapes.

Please let me know when you will be here. I think you still have my cell, or you could email me. I felt bad that I may have missed you, your last visit to Nac.

Yep, I've wondered about that place. I think it's one of the homes pictured within the "23 Reasons" thing done back in the early twenties to sell Nacogdoches to the state college board(?) as the place to build the university which became SFASU. It sure does look like one of his Prairie Style homes. Other than walking up and knocking on there door to ask them, I don't know any way of being sure. I'll check the Texas Historical Commission Atlas. I've also wondered about the large, yellow Victorian home one lot east. I feel like it his "Swift House," but I just can't be sure about it. I had it in the current version of the book I've nearly completed, but decided I wasn't sure enough to include it. Swift Street is nearby, and one of his homes near the address was moved at some point to empty the lot for a gas station. Regarding 516 East Main, I think it would be within what I thought were "lost years." Turns out, I just hadn't yet identified things he'd done between 1916-1924. So my romantic notion about him being distraught over the deaths of his wife and brother was just that. It makes for an interesting story, though. He did a lot in those years (the Hoya House, the Hoya Office Building, the Mast House among others)! Those are included in what is the final (hopefully) version of that book. The Hoya House and Mast House are very similar to 516 East Main.

I would love for you to donate a copy of the book to Steen. Regarding SFA/the Center for East Texas Research, I emailed Jere Jackson ("old senile") back in June, and got no response. I'm not sure how to "read the tea leaves" on that. He probably thinks I'm a nut, or someone trying to sell a book.

Thanks for the Frank video. That's one of the best from that Trilogy: Past, Present, and Future album he put out around 1980. Most people know it only for "Theme from New York, New York."

Let me know about the pilgrimage!

Chris said...

Leigh- The THC Atlas lists the home as being constructed in 1910. No mention of Rulfs, though. :(

Now that doesn't necessarily mean he didn't do it, and they don't always mention him when he could have. But sometimes they do. This has been my dilemma with several structures. I finally "called" it on a house known as "The Price House" (on Price Street) only after seeing blueprints he'd hand drawn at Steen's East Texas Research Center and comparing them to the house. I've included a copy of those blueprints in the final version of the book.

Leigh said...

1910? Really? That would make sense, for reasons below . . .

Also, I've just realized that we haven't included 725 N Mound either. This is another of the houses I looked at in 1993-94, though this one had been remodeled by the time I got to it (and was priced in the low $400's, way out of my range). I was told at that time that it was a Rulfs.

The National Historic District info for 725 N Mound gives its date as 1912, but makes no mention of Rulfs. I'll admit, this was one I had in mind when attributing the E. Main house. One thing I will say . . . if the Hayter House is Rulfs, so is this house, or I'll eat my hat!

725 N Mound and its fancy upsized cousin the Hayter House are basically almost square (slightly deeper than wide), as is the East Main house, but their rooflines more clearly show the Prairie influence. The East Main house is very, very similar in floor plan, wide wrapped porch, and porte cochere, but its roof lacks as much horizontal influence as the other two.

This would be consonant with a slightly earlier date for the East Main house. Still, Nacogdoches wasn't so very far behind Chicago in embracing Prairie style!

One thing you can certainly say for Mr. Rulfs, he kept up with the fashions. I wonder how many magazine and newspaper subscriptions he must have had, to stay so au courant in our little backwater?

Chris said...

You are referring to the fraternity house? I guess it could be a Rulfs. If it is his, he sure was flexible in moving through various architectural styles. I would never have linked the Frank Sharpe House with him, either, but there you are. In what will end up being the final version of the Rulfs book, I have a couple (the Hoya House, for example) that I'm going to asterisk, to signify the likelihood, but uncertainty, of being designed by Rulfs. I could do that with the frat house and the one on East Main you previously mentioned. At some point, I may just have to include EVERY SINGLE HOUSE on Mound! Did this man ever sleep??

Amy said...

Sorry I didn't comment until recently - I selfishly lurked! It's rare for me to find a blog that fit my quirky retro interests so well (I always looked forward to new posts!) so I'm still melancholy about "losing" this blog. :( But, what you're moving onto is such a good opportunity - you gotta do what you gotta do, as they say.

I hope to visit TX sometime in the next few years for some small town meanderings with my Texas born Deco-loving dad, and you've given me lots of ideas of where to go. So thank you for that!

Leigh said...

Oh, no, not the frat house (the Sigma Taus are at 711 N Mound; a Lufkin architect did that one). . . the next one north from it. Maybe it is in the book and I'm not remembering it (I lent the book to my daughter).

The picture on Google maps was taken during the winter, so you can see house fairly clearly. It's a tan brick. I'm assuming it's at 725 because the description matches . . . it has a short wall with wrought iron railings around it.

You can barely see the house in person now because of the dense plantings around it.

Leigh said...

I don't think that Victorian, now yellow, on E Main is Rulfs, or if it is, it was very early. I looked at that house in 93-94 also, including inside, and the proportions are all off. The porch was mean and cramped, and the face just looks wrong to me.

But maybe I only get a clear "feel" for them when they're his later, more assured work.

Chris said...

Oh, that's okay, Amy (I thought you had, anyway). Maybe I should have just done some sort of "poll" of my visitors to see what they think about the blog before I declared it to be over...I didn't realize the appeal it has had. Maybe I should be content with my small, but in-synch-with-my-tastes set of visitors. I'm glad I've given you ideas for things to see, and I hope you use some of my posts as a reference in the future!

Thanks for clearing that up, Leigh. I have wondered about the house you meant. It is very similar to 516 E Main St., isn't it? The problem with Google maps is the addresses are always way off, at least when you use street view. I think I checked the address of that home at the THC Atlas, and it didn't mention Rulfs. But that doesn't mean he didn't design it. I trust your instinct on the yellow Victorian which I felt might be the "Swift House." It sure is magnificent though, much like the Charles Perkins House or the Judge Stephen Blount House.

Leigh said...

When I looked at it in '94, the E Main house was occupied by a pair of elderly twins, a man and a woman, who told me it had been in their family all their lives. It was quite a luxurious place, too. The kitchen in particular was remarkable: large, with built-in storage, beautiful tile work, and lots of countertop space. It is very similar in floor plan to 725 N Mound, so much so that I think they must have come from the same hand.

The next time I'm in, I'm going to beg an introduction to the folks who live in the E Main house from my cousin. Perhaps they'll know something, or maybe we'll get very lucky and there will be some cache of old documents!

I just went to take a look at the yellow Victorian in Google. Boy howdy, it looks a heck of a lot better than I remember it! I see what you mean about its resemblance to the Stephen Blount house. The porch is reminiscent of the Rudisill house, too. You may be right; this is another one we need to look into some more. It would be interesting to compare the floor plans.

Chris said...

Ooh, a cache of old documents. I've dreamt of just such a thing. The closest I could come are the Missoura Garrett Price Papers at the Center for East Texas Research, located on the second floor of Steen.

Look at page 8 of this, and check out the second house from the bottom (the photograph placed just above the one of the child standing on the back of the horse). Does that not look like 516 East Main?? Of course the top photo is of "the twins" on Logansport, the third photo is of the Robert Lindsey House (where you showed your friend my book), and the fourth is of the Sam Hayter House (La Hacienda). The others I can't really identify. The point being though, they all appear to be done by Rulfs.

Also, here is a better picture of what I felt might be Rulfs' "Swift House."

Chris said...

I take it back - the house on page 8 (the second house from the bottom) doesn't really look like 516 East Main at all. That may be the Blount House (the one currently for sale) -- the one you felt might have been on Fredonia, near the elementary school, but the realtor's site stated had been moved from North Street.

Leigh said...

That reminds me, the next time I'm in I need to ask my cousin about the house on Fredonia. I'm pretty sure I know where it is now (also off Appleby-Sand, but closer to town).

The house just above the child-on-horse photo (why in the world did they think that was a good advertisement for the town's amenities, I wonder?) is . . . THE HAYTER HOUSE. Really, I'm pretty sure it is. It's hard to recognize now, though. When the house was converted to a restaurant, they "took in" the L-shaped porch and the porte-cochere to create more floor space. I almost died the first time I went up North Street and saw what they'd done.

The entire look of the house was altered and bastardized, though I must say they accomplished the rape with as much sensitivity as could be expected from, well, rapists.

Your photo of the Hayter House is taken from almost exactly the same angle. I recognized the it from the old photo immediately, though I'll bet you never saw the house before it was altered.

The alteration makes it look very similar to House #3 because it obscures what once was a key design feature, the white stonework that crowned all the brickwork. You can differentiate them because Hayter House, like 516 E Main, has this distinct white layer above all the red brick.

And that is also, I think, why your eye picked out that old picture and matched it up to 516 E Main.

(more later, this darned computer acts like it's about to go toes up)

Leigh said...

Which leaves us with the question, what is house #3? That's obviously a Rulfs Victorian to the left. I believe that it's the Blount house, originally on North St and later moved to County Road 2011. The footprint would be about right in size, and while the roofline is slightly different, they of course had to rebuild the porte cochere and reroof after it was moved. They made a sad mess of the porch, too, in addition to setting the entire thing far too close to the ground. But I shouldn't be so critical of the house's saviors; it cost them a pretty penny to move the thing at all, without throwing in the enormous expense of a ton of masonry that would only be appreciated by the most fanatical of purists.

That brings me to the yellow Victorian. When I saw it, it was in a sad state of dilapidation that I fear involved sagging and screening. Your lovely picture makes it clear I overlooked an orchid, and the more I look at it, the more like him it seems, at least the Rulfs of the Gay 90's.

At this point, though, my eyes are crossing, and I could easily find poor Mr. Rulfs under my bed tonight, bless his dear, creative heart!

Leigh said...

Oh, and many thanks for that priceless brochure! What a great find!

p.s. Now that I think about it, it wasn't stonework atop that brick, but concrete poured in place, which FLW had made all the rage.

Leigh said...

Oh, good lord, you'd already identified house #3 as the Blount house! My reading comprehension and retention have gone astray.

And picture #2? That's a miniature horse, by God, accompanied by what was no doubt the son of the richest folks in town, brother to the waif risking life and limb in picture #7. One presumes the city fathers were promoting wholesome family life, not reckless behavior.

Speaking of horses, I'm dismounting my hobby horse and going to bed now!

Chris said...

Leigh-Your late night/early morning loopiness was entertaining! I sometimes also feel the font within the Blogger comment template is difficult to read.

So you are saying another Rulfs home was moved from the city, out to the Appleby Sands Road area (in addition to the Blount House)? That would explain your confusion over whether or not the Blount House had been on Fredonia.

Yes, you can see why the yellow Victorian just screams "RULFS"!

You are no doubt exactly correct about the children. Were they Blounts? Schmidts? Casons? Monks? Hayters? Masts? That information is probably lost forever, but it would be interesting to know to which of the city's fathers they belonged!

If you get a chance (and you've rested your eyes and fixed your computer issues), would you look at these (or any of the others in my set titled "Designed by Diedrich Rulfs?")? The first two are located on what was once called Irion Hill (just off West Main):

corner of West Main and Sanders (very close to the Cooper-Bates House)

715 West Main

Plaza Mast House (you'll be familiar with this one, at the corner of Mound and Church)

Thank you!