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.

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