So many people over the years since we’ve lived in the house at 122 N. Mound Street have said to us, “Don’t you love old houses?” I guess they don’t know what I know about this one. They don’t have to put up with the creaky floors, the plumbing that always needs attention and the exorbitant energy bills.
Actually, we don’t live there. But, I joke that because of the number of hours we work there, it feels like home. Where we live is much newer say…by about a hundred years or so. Everything in the newer house still works properly. Things haven’t been remodeled, refurbished, reworked and replaced a hundred times. For all my complaining, though, I’m proud to be the owner of the old house, because it has a proud history.
It was built and designed by the German-born Rulf brothers. Dietrich Rulfs designed so many homes in the area over a wide span that he’s become known as Nacogdoches’ master architect. Dr. Nelson, for whom the house was built, was the son of A. A. Nelson, a sailor who became district surveyor in Nacogdoches for many years. He rubbed elbows with people like Adolphus Sterne, Haden Edwards, Sam Houston and Thomas Rusk. All we know of these people is part of recorded history, but we’ve been told some of what’s happened to the house and its occupants since. These stories come to us in bits and pieces from various people. An appreciation for this old house deepens with each new story I hear. They’re like clues as to what this house once was or about the people who it once knew, and it leaves me wanting to know more. All these snippets have become like puzzle pieces that don’t fit together.
One question I’ve pondered since moving into the house thirteen years ago was about the wainscot that runs all through the house. Most of it was painted at some point, except for the room into which you enter the house. The wainscot in that room was made from burl wood, the likes of which could be used by a sculpture. This room is the one you see first; originally, it would have been the room in which suitors would wait for their date. But, I’d wondered why it didn’t wear the coats of paint that the other wainscot wears.
A piece to that puzzle fell into place at the Blueberry Festival. When I met Eric, he was inside the house studying the beautiful wood as it wrapped around a door opening. Eric Gaylord told me he’d once been a member of a fraternity that lived in the house. He said that he and a buddy had restored the wainscot in that room to it’s former glory, a painstaking process he assured me. As founding member of the fraternity, I surmised that he’d taken it upon himself to do a little “sprucing up” of the place which included stripping the paint in the entrance. There were so many questions I would have liked to ask him, but the busyness of the day took him to his next appointment quickly
When I’m alone in the house and it’s quiet, I think about the people who lived here before me and the questions they could answer. I wonder if I had all the puzzle pieces finally in place, they’d form many puzzles. After all this old house has outlived many of its occupants and, most likely, many more to come.