Stephen F. Austin State University

The Starr Family Home Site - A Legacy of Historic Preservation (October 2013)

The Starr Family Home Site - A Legacy of Historic Preservation
By Jeff Campbell

I love old buildings; houses, churches, stadiums and lighthouses. I enjoy admiring the masonry and carpentry work performed by craftsmen decades ago. Studying the detail and precision, performed without the benefit of modern tools and methods. The other thing I admire about old buildings is the work done by Historic Preservationists to sustain these historic treasures for future generations. I have been fortunate to work on many preservation projects and one of these was the Starr Family Home Site restoration.

The Starr Family Home State Historic Site is located in Marshall, Texas. The Starr Family dealt in real estate during the post Civil War era of Texas. The patriarch of the family, James Harper Starr, served the Republic of Texas as Secretary of the Treasury and as the Texas General Land Office Commissioner. During the Civil War he served the Confederacy as the Trans-Mississippi Postal Service Director. James Harper Starr had two sons, Frank and Amory.

Frank Starr served the Confederacy in the disastrous New Mexico campaign. After the war Frank and his father opened the first bank in Marshall, Texas. Their successful business campaign of real estate, surveying and mapping a new frontier were instrumental in the growth of post Civil War Texas. Amory Starr was at first too young to join the war effort but was finally enlisted in 1864. After the war Amory became involved with the Knights of the White Camellia. The Knights fought the United States reconstruction policies and campaigned to intimidate and disenfranchise newly freed African Americans. Of the three Starr men, Amory is the only one that did not reside on the present historic site.

The Starr Family Home State Historic Site consists of many structures but the main three buildings are Maplecroft, Rosemont and the Starr-Blake Home. Maplecroft was the home of Frank Starr, Rosemont the home James Harper Starr and the Starr-Blake Home was built for one of Frank Starr's daughters. In 2010 the Texas Historical Commission made the decision to close the site to the public for massive renovations.

The Texas Historical Commission hired a man of many hats (Teacher, Historian, Author, Actor, Coach and most importantly Historic Preservationist), Whit Edwards, to be the Site Manager and lead the restoration team. Over the next year and a half this team left gallons of sweat equity in the Starr Family Home State Site.

The Starr Family collections were accessioned. An interpretation plan was formulated and installed. Paint analyses were performed to establish the original colors of the homes. Master carpentry work was executed to replace wood, ravaged by time. Many long, laborious weeks were spent scrapping old, multiple layers of paint off the homes so the new paint could be applied.

On November 30th, 2011 the Starr Family Home staged their Grand Reopening. Whit Edwards and his team had reached their goal of restoring this Texas treasure. Again the site was open for the public to enjoy and learn about a piece in the tapestry of Texas History. Unfortunately, Whit Edwards passed away on September 24th, 2013.

In this life about all we can hope for is to leave a legacy, whether our work is great or small. I am sure Whit Edwards touched many people as a Teacher and a Coach. However if you would like to see a man's legacy, a legacy of historic preservation, pay a visit to the restored, preserved Starr Family Home State Historic Site. When you do visit, please remember and tip your hat to those that preserve yesterday for tomorrow.

The Star Family Home State Historic Site is located at 407 West Travis Street in Marshall, Texas. For more information call 903-935-3044.