My journey in preservation starts a little over fourteen years ago. I stopped to read a Texas Historical Commission subject marker at 7902 Hwy 6 in Hitchcock. The historic site was Stringfellow Orchards and growing up in Hitchcock I had driven by it many times. The marker was placed there in 1992, but I had never stopped to read it. After reading it and driving on the site I thought to myself this would be a great project to flip as an investment.
The 1884 Queen Anne Victorian house sitting in the middle of almost ten acres seemed to be calling me to save it. I looked up the owners in the county tax records and let them know I was interested. In 2004 I was in the middle of changing investment firms and thought it was too big of a project to take on at the time.
This diamond in the rough remained hidden behind the overgrown vegetation. I didn’t know at the time, but there were over thirty live oak trees tucked away waiting to be discovered. The property grounds were just as impressive as the home. The home was filled with furniture and items from the family that had owned it since February 1920.
In late 2005 the owners and I agreed to a price and on December 15, 2005, I closed on what I called the “Promised Land.” I called my close family members and asked them to meet me on the highway, I had a surprise.
My grandmother, her brother, and several other family members that had lived in our small town since the 1950s parked close to the property on Hwy 6. Together we walked as I talked about the property and I eventually shared that I had bought the most historic property in Hitchcock.
The purchase of this property meant so much not only for me but for the people that sacrificed so much for me to be in a position to buy it. Many of them deceased and not able to physically be present to see their hope finally realized through their descendant.
One of the first things I wanted to do was host a community celebration on the site, and I thought the best time to do it would be Juneteenth 2006. Juneteenth is June 19, 1865, the day the enslaved people of Texas were freed in Galveston. Juneteenth celebrates the evolution of our country to a more perfect union.
I began the work of restoring the home and clearing the grounds to prepare for the celebration. I was even able to secure funding from my employer at the time to help cover the cost of the celebration.
In the end, we had maybe one of the best and most comprehensive Juneteenth programs in Texas that year. Artist Ted Ellis captured the activities of the day in his Juneteenth painting, “Free At Last.” [See painting here].
Things went so well I was able to get funding for Juneteenth programs in 2007 and 2008. Those first three years were filled with many trials and errors. I didn’t know the right questions to ask or where to get the help I needed. This was just chapter one of my journey.
To learn more about Stringfellow Orchards, visit their website here or read its page on the Texas Historical Commission website here. Please watch the video below to see pictures of the historical site, all photos provided by Mr. Samuel Collins.