And Now You Know: Felled pine tree graces Miss Lilly Rose’s home

Published 4:28 pm Monday, April 22, 2019

By Mike Louviere

United Shopping Centers, Inc. of New York bought a 34-acre tract of land on MacArthur Drive to build a shopping center in Orange. While clearing the land, a massive pine tree was felled. The tree measured 100 feet tall and had a diameter of three feet.

Miss Lilly Rose Stark counted the growth rings and estimated the tree to have been 107 years old.

Miss Stark was one of the principal owners of the purchased land. She took possession of the tree and ordered the tree to be milled in 12 foot lengths one inch thick and as wide as possible.

“I wanted the lumber milled in this manner in order to retain the original appearance of my home”, said Miss Stark.

Miss Stark lived on a 17-acre tract north of the acreage the shopping center would be built on.

She wanted the lumber from the large tree to be available for any repairs or additions to her home. The home was 126 years old and had been built by her father, John Thomas Stark, the patriarch of the Stark family in Orange. Stark had come to Orange in 1874 and built the home.

The home was built in the box fashion as were many homes in the early pioneer days. It held a fortune in cypress and pine boards sawed and smoothed by hand. Some of the planks measured 18 inches in width and were still sturdy. The flooring of the home was hand smoothed cypress 1 ½ inches thick. In the parlor was a hand-carved door of solid cypress.

Miss Stark had named her home “Pleasant View”.

There had been no visible changes made in the home since her parents had lived in it, except for the addition of an aluminum roof and a few repairs made after Hurricane Audrey in 1957.

The home was still heated in the winter by kerosene heaters and the lighting was from kerosene lamps. There was no radio or television. There was a telephone.

Original furnishings were in the home and there was a 70-year-old piano.

Miss Stark had wanted a career in music. After her father died, she stayed home to care for her mother. She spent many hours playing hymns and composing songs.

One of her compositions was “Texas is Calling You”. She set the words and music in an arrangement for a pageant with a cast of 50 people. It was presented in the Texas State Hall in Dallas as part of the Texas Centennial Celebration in 1936.

She had been asked to participate in the first Texas Women’s Fair in Houston in 1915 in the Division of Great Musicians and was lauded in the Houston Post for her solo of “Carmena” which was sung at a special program during the fair.

She also composed poetry and had a manuscript ready to be published. Two of her poems had been published in the 1947 edition of “Talent”, an anthology of songwriters and poets.

Miss Stark had a great love of flowers, trees, and shrubs. There were so many trees and flowers interwoven with the vines in the front yard that the house was almost hidden from view. Some of the trees were magnolia, Japanese plum, sycamore, cedar, palms, mulberry, holly, and several others.

Among the flowers were cape jasmine that had spread over 20 feet, narcissus, wild fern, and probably one of the largest varieties of daylilies in the area. Her start of the daylilies had come from the Buford and Fuqua gardens in Beaumont.

On the side of the house was a crepe myrtle that was so large it must have been planted when the house was first built.

Miss Stark had no plans to move from her home once the shopping center was built. She had plans to do a little “face lifting”, one project would be to rebuild the chimney and fireplace that had been removed when the house was re-leveled in 1943.

Included in the plans for the shopping center was an overrun parking lot on the north side of the shopping center. One reason given for this lot was to give Miss Stark access to her home.

Only one corner of the house was visible from the overrun parking lot of the shopping center. It was a mysterious looking, dark house, looking a bit out of place with the shopping center in its front yard. She lived in the house until she died in 1971 at the age of 87. She still lived by the light of kerosene lanterns and with kerosene heaters in the winter.

“And now you know”