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PROGRESS 2020: W.H. Stark House reopens after restoration

By Dawn Burleigh

 

W.H. Stark House stands majestically in downtown Orange. Most of 2019, its doors remained closed as the Nelda C. & H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation moved forward with restoration needed to the house.

“Orange is an important industrial town,” Interpretation and Programming Manager for the W.H. Stark House Joshua Cole said. “There is a lot left from the glory days. There is a lot going on with the house, one part was to get it back open. It is a resource for Orange and it needs to be here for Orange.”

While the house is open one weekend a month for tours, trying to find the right balance is a concern.

“Being open five to six days a week was not sustainable,” Cole said. “We have a team of wonderful volunteers, but we don’t want to burn people out either.”

A walking tour on the second weekend of the month is offered through the 14,000 square foot, three-story home that stands much as it did at the turn of the 20th century, with fifteen rooms of original family furnishings, personal effects, and decorative arts, including antique rugs, original textiles, silver, cut glass, and antique porcelain. 

Built in 1894, The W.H. Stark House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission. 

“The house is really incredible,” Cole added. “Support from the Foundation was incredible.”

After extensive restoration of both exterior and interior spaces following water damage from an air handler leak, The W.H. Stark House reopened in time for the holidays in 2019.

The newly restored Formal Dining Room, featuring a hand-painted, full ceiling mural by local artist Grace Chadwick. On the second floor, enjoy our newly restored Sitting Room, complete with silk wall treatment minted in France and installed by the textile team from Woven Inspiration in Galveston, Texas. All restoration elements have been painstakingly researched to showcase the House as it was in its prime. 

“Nothing was considered a total loss,” Cole said. 

Cole added the greatest resource was the volunteers at the house.

“Our volunteers are peers helping peers,” Cole said.  

The restoration also allowed the Foundation to take time to look at long-standing issues and address them.

“We replaced the air handler/climate control so we would never have the problem which caused the damage in the first place,” Cole said. 

According to Cole, one of the advatages of the House was only one couple lived in the house.

“It was one couple,” Cole said. “All the items are theirs over the 40-year span. So the hardest question was what period to restore it too.”

Second Friday and Saturday monthly tours are free but require an online reservation. Visit starkculturalvenues.org/whstarkhouse and Facebook page, @thewhstarkhouse, for more information about upcoming events and programs.

All tours start at the Carriage House at 610 W. Main Avenue (just behind The W.H. Stark House) and parking is available in the Lutcher Theater parking lot. Stairs are an essential part of the tour. Admission is limited to individuals six years and older.