Historic American Buildings Survey of Garrett House

As New Dealers looked for work opportunities for the unemployed, officials at the National Park Service (NPS) identified a critical need for architects and architectural draftsmen to document historic buildings, like the William Garrett Plantation House. "Our architectural heritage of buildings from the last four centuries diminishes at an alarming rate," explained NPS in its initial publication for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Recognizing how the Great Depression threatened such structures, NPS further noted that it "is the responsibility of the American people that if the great number of our antique buildings must disappear through economic causes, they should not pass into unrecorded oblivion."

The responsibility of determining which historic buildings would be documented through HABS fell to the State Advisory Committee made up of members of the architectural profession within the state as well as non-professional members representing local civic, patriotic or historic groups. The commission developed a list of priority projects in Texas and the Garrett home was one of the first two in East Texas to be documented.

Dallas architect Frank Olonzo Witchell selected six architects to work in East Texas and the team dispatched to San Augustine to survey the Garrett home included Witchell's own son Charles Burley Witchell as well as Robert Hudson Linskie and Hunter McKay, Jr. NPS provided them with paper, pencils, ink, erasers and field notebooks but required that the survey teams furnish or borrow the necessary tools of measurement, specifically rules, squares, triangles, tapes, scales, pocket compasses, drawing boards and drawing instruments.

The team surveyed the Garrett home over four days in January 1934, taking measurements and drawing sketches of the one-and-a-half story wooden structure located just west of San Augustine on Highway 21. Linskie and McKay later prepared the measured drawings which Charles Witchell then reviewed, and Eugene Osborn Taylor, who worked nearby with another team, visited on March 1 to take photographs.

Built around 1857 by an unknown architect for planter William Garrett, the home is considered to be an enhanced configuration of an early Texas cabin. The gable roof extends over a recessed front porch that runs the length of the five-bay house. The gabled dormers on the second floor reflect a variation from the traditional cabin form. In his written report, Witchell noted the relatively recent alterations then-owner Sam Parker had made to the original home, such as partitions that narrowed the central hallway.

The William Garrett Plantation House was featured on historic homes tours in the 1960s and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Today it remains a private residence owned by a descendant of the Parker family.

Images

Garrett House from Southeast

Garrett House from Southeast

Eugene Osborn Taylor took this and other photographs of the William Garrett Plantation House as part of the 1934 survey work documenting this historic structure. The view shows the house, located along Highway 21 just west of the San Augustine city limits, as seen from the southeast. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Garrett House South Elevation

Garrett House South Elevation

This view of the south elevation shows the full length of the front porch as well as gabled dormers with six over six sash windows on the second story. The original home had a front porch which had been removed at one point but was later reconstructed. The HABS team noted that the reconstruction was "borne out by the general lines of the house." | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Garrett House Entrance

Garrett House Entrance

This photograph shows the front entrance, located on the south side and in the center of the house. A survey team member on the steps can be seen holding a measurement tool for scale and behind him the double doorway is visible. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Garrett House Mantel

Garrett House Mantel

HABS work also documented the interiors of historic structures. This photograph shows the design detail of the mantel of the living room fireplace located on the west side of the Garrett home. Also clearly visible is the serial number assigned to this specific survey. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Garrett House from Northwest

Garrett House from Northwest

This photograph taken from the northwest shows the rear of the Garrett home. Two doors are visible but a more recent addition obscures the opening from the center hall. This photograph is the only one that shows all five chimneys. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Garrett House Measured Drawings Cover

Garrett House Measured Drawings Cover

The architectural survey team drafted four pages of measured drawings of the William Garrett Plantation House, as well as this cover sheet of the site plan. Like other cover sheets, it shows the location of the property, names of the team members, dates the house was surveyed, and dates the drawings were created. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Garrett House Measured Drawing of Elevations

Garrett House Measured Drawing of Elevations

Hunter McKay, Jr., drafted this measured drawing of all four elevations or sides of the Garrett home. Like other HABS measured drawings, this was created from sketches and field notes after the site visit had been completed. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Garrett House Measured Drawing of Details

Garrett House Measured Drawing of Details

Robert H. Linskie prepared two pages of measured drawings of important design details. This one shows elements of the door and window engineering as well as the stone fireplace and wooden mantel seen in a photograph. | Source: Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amy Bertsch, “Historic American Buildings Survey of Garrett House,” East Texas History, accessed June 25, 2017, http://easttexashistory.org/items/show/68.

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