Why an Old House on the Texas Bayou Gives Me Hope

Social media takes a beating as the bogeyman of our society, and often deservedly so when it unmasks bad people, mean-spirited sentiments and unleashes fury. But, it can still bring people together.

Take NextDoor. If you’ve joined your neighborhood group, you may have seen some of the ugly emerge. For example, a teen got shot nearby and the police activity had everyone talking on NextDoor. And, wait a few minutes, boom: someone made a comment that was considered racist. Then, a debate ensued as to whether the colloquialism used (I actually can’t recall what it was because I hadn’t heard it before) is indeed racist or not. It turned me off. Still, I didn’t disconnect from NextDoor.

I’m so glad I didn’t. The other day, a man posted about a property that a lot of people wonder about. Here we are in the sprawl of “Houston” (we’re beyond the city limits in an unincorporated area of the county) with subdivisions packed cheek to jowl. But 20 years ago, our subdivision was a horse farm. The whole area was a hodgepodge of farming and industrial properties. A very fancy subdivision nearby actually sits atop an abandoned oil field.

The particular property that has intrigued me for a long time is a huge tract behind a state highway chock full of strip centers with banks, pharmacies, restaurants, Home Depot, Lowe’s, tire stores, Bed Bath & Beyond – you get the picture. Yet, there is this big green space, mostly shrouded in trees. Still, if you catch a certain angle on a major road, you see it: a weathered tin roof over a ramshackle looking house. A rather large house, to boot. If you check it out on Google Earth, it become apparent that there are multiple structures, including what appears to be another, larger house with a colonnade. Or is that just stripes on a roof? It’s really hard to tell. The house is set far enough back from a busy road that you cannot easily take pictures. But there is a moment as you drive past when your eyes take in this glimmer of an estate.

I’ve cobbled together some basic knowledge and lore about the place from reading tidbits on websites about local history. This area was home to a German community from the 1800s that had to move when a reservoir was built in the 1940s. Some of the wood used to build the mystery house was reclaimed from those older homes. Or, so I read. And a lot of other people chimed into the NextDoor conversation with that idea.

There was also a neighbor who remembered the school bus dropping off a classmate at the end of the long driveway. Stories of an eccentric millionaire living there. Recollections of a polo field and pony farm.

Stories about one of the buildings housing tenants who would bring barflies home from a local watering hole and their memories of the place. Someone who knew a tenant who swore it was haunted.

A story about a nosey lady being greeted by armed men. Teenagers who were afraid of the ghosts and/or the armed men.

A lady said the Gulf Coast Cottage architecture reminds her of her family home in Louisiana. Apparently, it reminds all the neighbors of something: the past, a connection, history and a dream.