The Carrolls, A love for History

by Kristina Wrenn

There are new home people and there are old home people according to real estate broker, Claudia Carroll. She and her husband Rick fall into the old home category. For years before they owned the Governor Hogg Home, now located on Chilton, they lovingly referred to the home as hers because she had fallen in love with it as a newlywed shortly after moving to Tyler.

With age and good bones this house also has an interesting history. The home used to be located downtown on the north side of West Erwin Street. It was built in the 300 block, which is now a parking lot of Marvin Methodist Church, in 1872. James Stephen Hogg, the first native born Governor of the State of Texas (1891-1895), bought the house in 1882, when he was District Attorney of the old Seventh District for $3,000. One of the Hogg’s four children, Michael was born in the home. Hogg was Attorney General before becoming Governor and is best known for establishing the Railroad Commission and starting the state archives, as well as his progressive principles that were instrumental in establishing many of Texas’ early pro-business laws. The Hoggs retained the home until 1911, although they were no longer living in Tyler. 

When the city of Tyler planned their first downtown parking lot, they acquired and sold the homes along West Erwin Street and the Hogg Home began its series of travels. The Buress family bought the home in 1946, moving the home to thirty-six acres of land they owned off Old Omen Road, an area which now includes McDonald Road, where it sat idle for six years. After Mr. Buress’ death in 1952, his wife moved the home to its current location, so she could live in town. The house was put up on tall pilings to create a first floor with the brick that was salvaged from an old building in Natchez, Mississippi. 

The Carrolls closed on the home December 27, 1999 a year after it was first on the market. Much to their surprise, they were told the skeleton key to front door (shown in detail) was the original, and they use it to this day. The rim lock doorknobs and the key really endeared the house to them. Just think of how many hands have turned that key over the last 140 years.

The original front door with glass surround and the transom windows above the doors in the foyer were frequently featured in colonial revival architecture. They were historically used to allow passage of air and light between rooms even when doors were shut.

With ownership, the Carrolls would begin a multi-year journey of remodeling and saving the home. When they moved in it was in much worse condition then they imagined. Though the house passed inspection they would go on to reroute gas lines, rewire the entire house, and change rotted siding to era specific clapboard siding which early photos of the house show it originally had. They were able to insulate the home where it had not been previously with the siding replacement.

The vibrant paint colors in the home are historically accurate. Paint colors of the time were usually pigmented in natural ways using plants, flowers, soil and minerals. Cadet blue, yellow, red, and different greens are prominently featured and show how everything old is new again. The Cadet Blue in the Drawing Room and Library changes hues throughout the day with the sun. Guests to the Carroll’s home have always enjoyed staying in the red room. 

The upholstery and the curtain fabrics on the second floor are a lovely contrast to the cadet blue walls. The reds coordinate across the foyer between the two rooms and look equally refined. Of particular interest is the difference in the curtain designs in a nod to what would traditionally have been gender specific rooms for entertaining.

Claudia and Rick each brought a love of antiques to their relationship. The home contains many family antiques that have been incorporated into the design elements. There are timeless furniture pieces and English antiques in the formal rooms. The Carrolls have a Russian Samovar that Rick’s grandmother smuggled out of Russia, forbidding her from ever re-entering. In other family lore, with three generations of collectors, you cannot marry into the Carroll family without a love of blue and white dishes, thanks to Rick’s mother’s love of old Canton Ware. Claudia also has a collection of southern decorative art and red slip ware from Seagrove, North Carolina. The cradle was used by their son and grandchildren. 

In their second year of ownership, the Carrolls tackled the master bathroom after a shower leak prompted the urgency of the project. They redesigned the bathroom to better use the space  They added a claw foot tub and modernized it overall. This project also included adding a closet, as homes from the 1880s did not have closets the way current homes do. Residents used freestanding armoires, which are not adequate for modern life. They have since added an additional closet to the master to provide them with more storage space.

These images show the second floor of the home, that has three bedrooms (including the beloved red room), the yellow bathroom, and a sunroom gallery at the top of the stairs, a favorite place for reading.

The Carrolls wanted to blend the downstairs to match the design of the rest of the home, but they wanted to live with it to decide what worked best for them before that undertaking. When they purchased the home, the downstairs was dark and decorated in a contemporary way, with the previous owners modern art collection, which made sense as the downstairs was the heart of the home. However, the Carrolls attention to detail has achieved a livable space that truly honors the home historically. 

In 2002, they took on a project to build a new addition to house a state-of-the-art kitchen. The Carrolls put in a gas range with griddle, two sinks for prep and clean-up and a granite topped island. The kitchen has warm, solid maple wood cabinetry and slate flooring to minimize the shine of the stainless-steel appliances and counters in keeping with the overall downstairs aesthetic. They added the window to infuse the space with natural light. Wouldn’t past owners marvel at how food is prepared in this home now?

The previously small kitchen was transformed into a perfectly sized morning room with sunlight streaming in throughout the day and a door to the outside. This access to the outside made the whole downstairs more usable and livable. Some of Claudia’s blue and white dish collection is displayed, mounted on the wall and in the corner hutch. There are also some unique crockery pieces on the sideboard. This room functions beautifully for a light meal or a cup of tea and is even better in this incarnation of its use.

Perhaps the most detailed project from a renovation perspective was the realization of the great room. The Carrolls sourced a large, reclaimed beam from New Orleans to be the primary focal point as the mantle of the fireplace. They boxed in the steel beams running the length of the room supporting the original house with wood and then they had smaller wood beams milled in Chandler to create the cross beams. They wanted the room to feel as if it had always been this way. The artisanal nature of the woodworking and finish out really does accomplish that. The beautiful stain color, as all the colors in this home, underscores the homeowner’s attention to what would have been.

To further update or in this case take the room back to its roots, they had to remove an old fireplace that did not work in the new configuration. The previous fireplace took up more space than it should, so it was not just a design decision, but a reclaiming of space. The Carrolls replaced the old unit with a smokeless, Rumford Fireplace. The Rumford Fireplace is a design from the 1700s still in use today. It was during the renovation of the great room that the Carrolls discovered the burned wood from the mischievous neighborhood kids who almost burned the house down building a fire under the home.

The floors in the great room are a continuation of the slate used throughout the first level, but with added rugs to split the space into eating and sitting areas. Over the table the chandelier is new but is in keeping with the fixtures in the second-floor formal rooms. The hurricane candles on the table might have been used in the same manner by previous owners of this home on their dining tables.

The Carrolls enjoy cooking and entertaining, so they chose to enclose a side porch to create a wine room and cellar across the great room from the kitchen. It is a counterpoint to the kitchen. In the wine room they incorporated cypress doors from the 1700s as countertops with a natural edge and a hand forged handle from the same time-period on the cellar door. The dimpled hammering of the metal can be seen in the closeup.

This room provides the Carrolls space to enjoy their wine collection and display more of the antiques they have collected over the years. Here they also paid particular attention that the paint color was from the Williamsburg Collection in keeping with the rest of the home. The paneling also mimics the tongue and groove two-thirds wood wall height with plate rails often seen in Colonial taverns. The wall sconces fabricated to look like lighted candles cast a warm glow in the evening.

In this room you can also see the continuation of the wooden beams and ceiling and how seamlessly they match the facing of the wine cellar doors. This detail really makes the entire first floor a cohesive space for living and entertaining.

Don’t think living in a home from the 1800s precludes you from having outdoor entertaining spaces. After the kitchen and great room project was completed the Carrolls added a large patio and firepit area off the morning room, planning the door to the outside for just this purpose.

The patio and firepit were created with flagstone that complements the interior and exterior brick. Here on the back patio, you would never believe this house had a history of being moved twice before settling here amongst the trees. The curve of the patio allows for more space for outside entertaining, while also creating a nice visual line connecting the patio and the covered outdoor room.

The covered outdoor room is used to grill and further enjoy being outdoors. The vaulted ceiling and large fan are essential in the heat of our Texas summers. The woodwork in the ceiling of this space, though not as extensive as in the house, shows thought about how to blend even an outdoor room with a centuries old home. The high-top table is a nice place to enjoy dinner outside for an extended part of the year, but it is just as easy to grill and choose to eat in the morning room, the great room, or the wine cellar.

In addition to the beauty and craftsmanship displayed in this home it offers a blueprint of how a historic home can be updated for current livability and entertaining while also retaining a home’s legacy and historical interest. Claudia and Rick Carroll are the ultimate old house people with the care they have shown to loving this home and renovating for posterity as well as their continued enjoyment.