Texas was once part of the Western frontier, which means that much of our oldest structures are actually Spanish missions, and even those tend to be as much as a century newer than the oldest structures on the East coast. But Texas has more than its fair share of historical houses, and while they may be relatively new compared to colonial homes in the East, you have to keep in mind that when Texas’s historic homes were built, there wasn’t much else around here.
Here are 10 historic Texas mansions built before the turn of the 20th century that hold a host of stories just as Texan as the Alamo.
Neill Cochran House – Austin
Built in 1855, the museum now known as the Neill Cochran House was commissioned by land surveyor Washington Hill to be built by famous Texas builder Abner Cook. The home was later purchased by the Neill family, and later leased to the Cochran family, until 1958 when it was sold to the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America for historic preservation. Tours are available Tuesday through Friday from 1-4 PM.
Moody Mansion – Galveston
This beautiful Romanesque structure was completed in 1895 for $100,000 or over $2.8 million today. The home was originally built by Narcissa Willis, who only lived in it until her death in 1899. After the devastating effects of the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, the home was sold to the Moody family for $20,000 — a mere fraction of the cost of construction. The Moody Mansion is now a museum of the Moody family, and is open for tours.
Varner-Hogg Plantation – West Columbia
One of the few antebellum plantations still standing in Texas, the Varner-Hogg Plantation exists today to tell the story of slavery in Texas. Originally commissioned by one of the original Austin 300, Martin Varner used the home as a rum distillery. Later the plantation was sold to the Patton family of Kentucky, who turned it into a sugar plantation. After the civil war, the Pattons briefly used convict labor to continue the sugar operation, but it was eventually abandoned for many years. After the home was devastated by a hurricane, it was bought and renovated by Texas Governor James S. Hogg. During Hogg’s residence there, oil was discovered on the property, and it once again became profitable. Tours are available Tues.- Sun. from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Fulton Mansion – Rockport
Rancher and entrepreneur George Fulton commissioned the Fulton Mansion in 1877 and named it “Oakhurst.” Built in Rockport, the home was very modern for its day, boasting such conveniences as gas lighting, indoor plumbing and central heating. The mansion is open for tours Tues. – Sun. from 10 AM to 4 PM.
W.H. Stark House – Orange
Built by lumber baron and Orange, Texas philanthropist W.H. Stark in 1894, the W.H. Stark House was closed in 1936 after the deaths of its original owners. The house remained closed until 1970 when it was opened and underwent a 10-year renovation process which concluded with the opening of the W.H. Stark House museum. Tours are available Tues. – Sat. from 9 AM to 4 PM.
Ashton Villa – Galveston
The Ashton Villa was the first brick mansion built in Galveston. The three-storied structure was strong enough to withstand the devastation of the Civil War as well as the 1900 Galveston hurricane, and during the Civil War, the house served both the Confederate and Union army as headquarters. While Ashton Villa isn’t available for tours, it is open for event rental.
Whitaker-McClendon House – Tyler
Built in 1878 for Mattie and Harrison Whitaker, the Whitaker-McClendon House was the home to the Bonner sisters, first Mattie and then Annie. Annie was a prominent suffragette whose daughter Sarah went on to become a successful journalist in Washington, D.C. The home was a showpiece for Tyler when it was first built, but later fell into disrepair. It was restored in the early 1980’s and is now open for tours Fridays and Saturdays from 10 AM – 4 PM.
Ball-Eddleman-McFarland House – Fort Worth
Built in Fort Worth in 1899, this home just made it in before the turn of the 20th century. One of the original cattle baron houses built in the historic Quality Hill area of Fort Worth, the home was originally designed for Sarah Ball by Howard Messer. The home was sold to Fort Worth banker William Eddleman. Its final tenant was Eddleman’s daughter Carrie McFarland. The home is now in use as a wedding venue.
Littlefield House – Austin
When strolling around the grounds of UT Austin you might notice a beautiful Victorian house situated not far from the Tower that seems a little out of place amidst all the towering libraries and campus buildings. This is the Littlefield House. University of Texas alumni will recognize the name from the Littlefield fountain, and Littlefield dorm, because George Littlefield was a Confederate veteran, cattle baron and generous benefactor to the University. The house is an official campus building, so tours aren’t available to the public. However, there is a historical marker outside the home visible from the sidewalk, and pictures of the interior are available on the University of Texas website.
Starr Family Home -Marshall
Banker and land surveyor Frank Starr moved his family to Marshall and built the home that is now known as Maplecroft in 1871. Starr and his father opened Marshall’s first bank, called James H. Starr and Son. Maplecroft was one of several homes built on the same property which now encompass the Starr Family Home State Historic Site. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 AM to 4 PM.