Friday, February 13, 2015

Sam Houston Regional Library

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

On Wednesday, February 11, I visited the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center a few miles north of Liberty. I had visited the Center several years ago while gathering material for Sam Houston Slept Here, A Guide to the Homes of Texas’ Chief Executives (Eakin Press, 2004). There is a cluster of historic buildings at the 116-acre site, which was donated by Governor Price Daniel and his wife, Jean Houston Baldwin Daniel, a great-great-granddaughter of Sam Houston. I needed to search for images of Sam Houston for a book I’m preparing, and I wanted to devote a blog to this excellent but somewhat out-of-the-way historic site. 

Governor and Mrs. Daniel, whose ranch home was just to the west, donated the site in 1973. Four years later the impressive Sam Houston Center was dedicated. The handsome, columned structure provides 17,600 square feet of exhibit space, archival storage, research areas, classrooms, and offices. Archives focus on the 10-county surrounding region, as well as upon Sam Houston. Longtime director Robert L. Schaadt has retired, but I was welcomed and assisted by Darlene Mott, Lisa Meisch, Sandra Burrell, and Kayla Burns. The new director is Alana Inman. 

After finding several images of Sam Houston, I thanked everyone and took a walk around the spacious grounds. Of special interest is the Jean and Price Daniel Home and Archive, built in 1982 and 1983 at a cost of $557,000. The exterior is a replica of the Greek Revival Governor’s Mansion as originally designed by Abner Cook. The 1854 plans included single-story wings connected to the north and south sides, but in order to save money those wings were never built. Although the exterior conforms to Cook’s original design, the interior arrangement is different, except for the entrance hall and the famous curved stairway. The Daniels moved furniture, artifacts, book collections, and family mementos into the 7,318-square foot house. The Daniels occasionally used the house for overflow guests from their nearby home. The “1854” exterior may be examined and photographed by passersby, and tours are available to the public with a two-week advance appointment. 

Several historic buildings have been brought to the park. The Gillard-Duncan House was erected in 1848 by Dr. Edward J. Gillard. The Gillard family moved to Liberty County from Louisiana in 1845. The Creole-style plantation house included an upstairs school room, as well as a traveler’s room with a separate entrance on the right side of the gallery. 
Gillard-Duncan house
Although built in the 1880s, the Norman House exhibits a simplified Greek Revival architectural style popular before the Civil War. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was erected in Liberty in 1898 and served the congregation for nearly a century before being replaced by a larger house of worship. The Sam Houston Center today utilizes it as a lecture hall and makes it available for use by civic, historical and nonprofit organizations. Also on the grounds is the 1930 Hull Rotary Club building, a single-room, six-sided structure that will house a Rotary museum. 
Norman house

The Sam Houston Regional Library is an excellent research center, surrounded by a fascinating collection of historic buildings. And any Texas history buff will enjoy the Governor’s Mansion built to its original design. 
St. Stephen's Church

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