Repairs from storm damage underway at Heritage House Museum.

Published 6:57 am Saturday, August 7, 2021

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By Dawn Burleigh

A quiet house in downtown Orange gives a glimpse at the middle class of yesteryear. It is a typical upper middle-class residence of the 1900-1929 periods. This home is currently being repaired for damages caused during Hurricane Harvey, and further damages from Hurricane Laura and Delta.

Needing work from foundation to roof had caused delays in finding contractors.

“They are working on the foundation of the Williams Research Center now,” Executive Director Charlotte Alford said. “That damage was caused during Harvey. They should finish with the work on the Administration Building on Friday and we can start moving back in next week.”

Currently the office is in the kitchen of the main house while repairs were under way.

The main house had roof damage from Harvey but also had wind damage from Hurricane Laura.

“They should start on the foundation next week,” Alford said. “Hurricane Laura caused the chimneys to start pulling away from the building.”

With hopes of all the construction being completed by end of the year, Alford said, “It has been a long time coming.”

Alford has been the Executive Director of the museum since January of this year.

Canceling tours and other programs made an impact of the museum and Alford is hoping to see positive changes in the future as they have started holding different programs again such as the Evergreen Cemetery Walk, and the Ghost Walk is planned for October this year.

The ghost walk is a fun way to learn local history. The stories are true events with a bit of lore and legend tossed in.

Tours start at Heritage House and then go eastward to the courthouse. From there, groups will continue east on Division to the Riverfront Pavilion grounds and along the boardwalk to Ochitree-Inman Park. Then the walk will circle back to the Heritage House.

“We will have Santa at the Heritage House this year,” Alford said. “We had it last year but had to hold it as a drive thru.”

The Vidor Pirates Theater Group was on hand making toys come to life for the visitors.

“We are planning to have rotating art exhibits,” Alford said. “We want to be more involved with the community as well.”

She added that once the museum does reopen, the Williams Research Center will be available for those interested in learning more about the rich history of Orange.

“We also want to start programs teaching young adults how to knit, crochet or quilt,” Alford said. “We would like to see them earn the old arts. We had a quilting frame donated to us that is dated 1902.”

It will also have rooms for small clubs to hold their meetings and small events.

“Wwe want to be active in the community,” Alford said.

Heritage House Museum of Orange County, located at 905 W. Division St. in Orange, was originally the Jimmy Ochiltree Sims home. Roy Wingate, co-chairman of the Bicentennial Commission, asked city officials to donate the house for use as a permanent museum after learning the home was to be demolished.

The structure was moved from its original location at 809 Front Street and restored to its earlier appearance.  The exterior of the home is painted gray with maroon trim just as it was in 1919.  When major modification was made the long leaf pine woodwork and original lighting fixtures inside were restored, and reproduction period wallpaper and curtains cover the walls and windows of the original two-story six room structure. The house is listed as a Recorded Historic Texas Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission.  The rooms reflect the lifestyles of the upper middle-class family in the early twentieth century in Orange, Texas, according to its official website.

Heritage House, through the support of citizens, civic groups and others within the county, continues towards restoration of historic artifacts of Orange’s past.

The museum represents a community working together to preserve the history of the area.