Historic American Buildings Survey of Blount House

A month after the federal government authorized the Historic American Buildings Survey to document the country's historic structures, two teams of architects from Dallas headed to San Augustine to begin their mission in East Texas. Over four days in January 1934, one team measured and sketched the Colonel Samuel W. Blount House at 501 East Columbia Street.

National Park Service (NPS) officials had launched the massive survey of early American architecture, commonly known as HABS, as a ten-week relief program to generate work opportunities for one thousand unemployed architects and draftsmen. Authorized by the Federal Relief Administration with $448,000 in funding from the Civil Works Administration, this New Deal initiative would be, according to its directors, "an enormous contribution to the history and aesthetics of American Life" that offered relief to "one of the professions that has suffered most conspicuously during the years of the economic depression."

The NPS divided the country into 39 districts, each under the supervision of a District Officer whose appointment came with approval of both the local branch of the American Institute of Architects and the Secretary of the Interior who oversaw the NPS. Charles E. Peterson, an NPS architect who drafted the original plan for HABS had initially considered making Texas into at least two districts, East and West, but in his final proposal, Peterson designated Texas as a single district.

Marvin Eickenroht, a 35-year-old native Texan who had studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was named District Officer for Texas or District #33 as it was formally identified. Earning $200 a month and working from his San Antonio office, Eickenroht supervised the survey activities of 40 architects, including the team of three assigned to document the Blount House.

Team members Clarence Castleman Bulger, Charles Franklin "Frank" Dunham, Jr., and Eugene Osborn Taylor took measurements, prepared sketches and collected historical information about the home. Over the next couple of weeks Dunham and Taylor prepared the measured drawings which Bulger then checked. Taylor also took photographs of the property in late February and Charles B. Witchell, an architect with the second team, later wrote a brief history of the structure.

Built around 1838 for Stephen W. Blount, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, the home was designed by architect Augustus Phelps but may have been inspired by a house in Vermont where Blount had previously lived. Blount's one-story home had two additions and a later extension but the original house still featured many of its original Greek Revival elements including a pedimented front porch with Doric columns and an entablature with triglyphs and metopes. One of Blount's sons, 94-year-old Thomas W. Blount, lived nearby and provided the architects with information about the history of the house.

Preservation architect and East Texas native Raiford L. Stripling later acquired and restored the Blount house, and it was often included on local historic home tours. Today it remains a private residence.

Images

Blount House from Southwest

Blount House from Southwest

Taken by Eugene Osborn Taylor, this 1934 photograph shows the Colonel Stephen W. Blount House as seen from the southwest. The home is located on the northeast corner of East Columbia and North Ayish streets in San Augustine. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Blount House Entrance

Blount House Entrance

This photograph of the front entrance on the south side of the building shows important architectural details, like the Doric columns and the pattern of alternating triglyphs and metopes below the pediment. These elements were typical of Greek Revival architecture popular in the early to mid-19th century. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Blount House South Elevation

Blount House South Elevation

This image shows the front or south elevation of the Blount home and was taken from East Columbia Street. The center part of the house is the original structure, built about 1838. A member of the survey team standing on the porch can be seen holding a foot rule or similar device for scale. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Blount House from Southeast

Blount House from Southeast

Taken from the southeast, this photograph shows the original Blount house in the center, as well as the east wing. According to the HABS historical report, Blount made this addition in 1855 and then added a west wing in 1859. The architects and builders of these two additions are not known. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Blount House Measured Drawing of Floor Plan

Blount House Measured Drawing of Floor Plan

Prepared by architectural draftsman Frank Dunham, this measured drawing of the Blount house floor plan shows the dimensions and uses of each room and exterior features like stairs and porches. Dotted lines indicate more recent additions to this original historic structure. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Blount House Measured Drawing of Elevations

Blount House Measured Drawing of Elevations

Measured drawings detailed not only the dimensions of a structure, but also the materials used for the foundation, siding, roof and steps. This drawing drafted by Frank Dunham shows three elevations or sides of the Blount home as well as the brick and sandstone foundation, wooden shingles and steps, brick chimneys, and beveled siding. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Blount House Measured Drawing of Details

Blount House Measured Drawing of Details

Eugene Taylor drafted two pages of measured drawings of architectural design details for the Blount house, including this one focusing on the south elevation. These precise drawings capture key design elements such as mouldings, cornices, columns, latticework and even the downspout leader heads. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Current View of Blount House

Current View of Blount House

Taken in 2013, this photo shows the front elevation of the Stephen W. Blount House. This historic structure is recognized today as one of the earliest existing homes in East Texas. | Source: texastravel3 on Flickr.com View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amy Bertsch, “Historic American Buildings Survey of Blount House,” East Texas History, accessed June 25, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/64.

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