A Night in the East End National Historical District



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Last Friday in Galveston my sweet sister-in-law  Shannon  (you remember her from HERE) was invited for hor d'oeuvres in the East End by her friends and neighbors Shirley and Kirby.  They live up the road from Shannon in Chappell Hill, Texas in a to-die-for log cabin.  Now, make no mistake - this isn't  the kind of log cabin that once dotted the fruited plains of America - no, this log cabin is quite special, situated on several acres of rolling land overlooking a small lake.  Wanting a second home, several years ago Shirley and Kirby bought a run down, derelict, turn of the century, historic house in Galveston's East End.   After totally refurbishing it, taking it down to the studs and putting it back together as it once was, they now spend about a third of their time at the beach and the rest of their time in Chappell Hill.   If this all sounds vaguely familiar to you, you probably are a follower of Mary Emmerling's or an avid reader of Country Home magazine.    Some years ago, Mary, a friend of Shirley's,  sent  the Country Home crew to Chappell Hill and published a story on the beautiful log cabin.  After the beach house was completed, the magazine went to Galveston and wrote a story about that too.  And when Mary's latest book, Beach Cottages, came out, Shirley's East End house was included in it.

So, although I am quite  familiar with  the  Chappell Hill log house, and have been a visitor there, I have never been inside the Galveston home.  Of course,  knowing Shannon was going there for  drinks and a light dinner, I was determined to finagle a way to get invited too.    Shirley and Kirby graciously did extend the invitation to me, although they did so without realizing they were inviting a fervent member of the press corp!!!    Shirley has a wonderful sense of style - casual and comfortable, all slipcovers and linen, seagrass and antiques, and peeling, painted surfaces -- everything that I absolutely LOVE!     Knowing I was invited,  all I could think of was YOU, the reader, and how I could take pictures of the house without being a compete boor!    Thankfully, Shannon pre-warned Shirley that I would be snapping away for my blog and so on Friday - off we all went, me with my freshly blown-out frizzy beach hair wearing, what else, but white linen and dragging along my fully charged Canon camera. 

When we arrived at the East End home, all the window's outdoor shutters were closed tight to keep out the blazing summer sun, and the house was bathed in a low, dim, candle-lit light.  Perfect for the cocktail hour, but not exactly the kind of light I needed for good pictures!   It's hard to act nonchalant and snap away while you are   switching on ceiling lights and lamps.   But as embarrassing as it sounds, that's exactly what I did.  As the evening worn on and the sun was on the verge of setting, I grew more desperate for light and gave up any pretense or sense of decency as I turned up dimmers right in front of poor Shirley.   Shirley is a typical Southern Belle, born and raised in the deep south, her drawl and softly spoken words give her heritage away.   She's too much of a lady to let on her true thoughts, but  I'm sure she regretted ever inviting me and I'm surprised I didn't get kicked out on my ample fat behind, clinging to my  camera! 

All in all it was a wonderful evening with great wine and delicious food (not that I can actually remember any of it as I was far too preoccupied worrying about my next shot).    Shirley and Kirby are gracious hosts and enjoy giving tours of their house  and I eagerly ate it all up.    After all the anticipation, the house did not disappoint, in fact, it was more wonderful in person than I had presumed.  Shirley updated the house and designed its interiors totally on her own, and it's hard to imagine that any professional would have done a better  job.  For more (and far superior!!!!) professional photographs and great descriptions of the rooms, be sure to pick up Mary Emmerling's Beach Cottage.   For now, enjoy my ill-gotten pictures, slightly out of focus and with all the poor lighting:


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The East End National Historical District home, two stories, raised above ground level.  The double porches wrap around one side of the home.

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To the right of the front door, you can plainly see the bottom level.  As Shirley and Kirby are both tall, the ground floor is used only for storage - there isn't enough clearance inside for their height. 

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The front porch with it's old peeling wicker, is a perfect place for morning coffee and the newspaper.  This corner of the street was once a social gathering spot, according to the book, Galveston Architecture Guidebook.   Here, you can get a good view of the working shutters which in the summer, most homes keep tightly shut  against the oppressive heat.  All the original shutters were missing when the house was purchased, so Shirley and Kirby have spent considerable time and effort replacing them pair by pair with antiques.  Only a few windows are still missing their replacements.

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This plaque is from the Galveston Historical Foundation marking the house's stint on the annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour.  Because this house was built shortly after the Great Storm, it does not have the "Survivor" plaque that so many other homes in the neighborhood do.

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Upon entering the front door,  you are greeted by a large, wide center hall that runs the length of the house.   A seagrass runner covers the hall's floor.  You can just barely see the stairwell to the right in the middle of the hall.  On the left, is the small reception area, while the front parlor is on the immediate right.  Transoms are over each doorway.

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When you enter the front door, immediately to your left is the open area reception room.  A small love seat is upholstered in linen, as is most of the furniture in the house.  A large wicker trunk doubles as a coffee table.  The light is low and diffused caused by the closed shutters.

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To the right of the love seat, is a painted, peeling, antique cabinet with an antique mirror above it.  Seagrass covers the floor.

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The Front Parlor, directly on the right when entering the front door.  A small loveseat is slipcovered in linen, as is a larger tuxedo styled sofa.  Skirted tables in linen  flank each side of the sofa.  The only pattern in the room comes from the pillows and the throws.  The walls are painted a rich color (Flax by Sherwin Williams) which adds to the small room's cozy feeling.  The lamps here and throughout most of the home have bases made of mercury glass.   The small, charming, beachy coffee table is a tray filled with sand and shells, topped with a piece of glass.   Fresh peach colored roses  and prints of shells complete the vignette around the skirted table.

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Next to the slipcovered sofa, a slipper chair, slipcovered in linen,  with a small footstool tufted with rosettes.  Houstonian Hien Lam did all the upholstering in the house and Washington County's Michelle Fritts made all the wonderful slipcovers.   A paisley shawl rests on the back of the slipper chair.

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Behind the slipper chair, there is a large print of a dog and a bamboo shelf which holds antique books and knick knacks.

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Across from the sofa, a large, painted bookshelf holds transferware, coral, and books.  Originally a bright yellow, Shirley painted the piece to fit in with the house's decor.  Two diminutive slipper chairs, slipcovered in linen, flank the bookshelf.

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The small slipper chair and a painted demilune table behind it finish the room's decor.  The wheat colored shades here and throughout the house were purchased at Pier One.

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A close up of the slipcovered love seat shows off Shirley's sense of style.  Rather than toss the shawl across the back, she chose to place it under the cushion - a look I plan to emulate (a fancy word for copy, an even fancier word for steal!)

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Further down the center hall, across from the stair hall, is the large dining room.  A round wood table easily seats six chairs, each wearing linen slips.  The chandelier, just out of view, is still festively decorated with Mardi Gras beads and Christmas balls. With its many windows, you can see how the closed  shutters cast a romantic, Southern atmosphere over the dining room.  The shutters let in just enough light so that the room is not gloomy in the least bit.   The walls are painted a soft gray-blue-green, Silver Sage, from  Restoration Hardware.

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The buffet table is skirted in linen, with an antique mirror above.  The lamps have  mercury glass bases.

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In one corner of the room is an original storage closet.  All the doors are original to the home, stripped of their stain to match the mood of the decor. 

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A pine armoire holds an assortment of decorative dishes, some of which were called into duty for dinner.

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At the end of the hall on the right, is the totally new kitchen.  All the appliances are stainless, and the walls are bead board up to the ceiling.

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Functional antiques are everywhere in the kitchen - here a store's scale hangs in the corner.

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The breakfast table is two small demilunes pushed together.  The wicker chairs are upholstered in linen and tufted with rosettes.  Behind the chair is the walk-in pantry with a linen curtain for its door.  The back door leads downstairs to the outside courtyard.

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At the end of the hall is the powder room, its floors were painted by Shirley in a diamond pattern.  The walls are original bead board. 

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At the stair hall, a bamboo shelf holds books and accessories.

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Upstairs, the entire floor is wall to wall seagrass!  My favorite!  The master bedroom continues the same color scheme as downstairs with lots of pine furniture and linen fabrics.    Curtains made of burlap cover the windows.

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The upholstered headboard in burlap.  Notice the trim on the lampshade matches the trim on the shams.

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A linen slipcovered vanity table with a wicker chair.  The lamp has a mercury glass base. 

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A close up of the master bedroom's pine armoire with its French laundry basket on top.

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The red painted guest room with twin iron beds, dressed in linen.   The nightstand is an antique chest.

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The second guest room has a pair of newly installed closets, lined in linen. 

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A close up of the vanity table with its linen slip and antique mirror, along with its modern day mirror!

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The bathroom upstairs has an antique tub with a wrap around shower curtain.  The walls are beadboard that is original to the house.

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An upstairs TV room with its painted hardwood floor. 

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I've only read about these, never actually seen one, but the TV room boasts a window that doubles as a door to the front porch!   The window is original to the house and Shirley and Kirby lower their heads each time to pass through the window to the outside.


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Looking down on the front yard with its blooming hot pink crepe myrtles and birds of paradise plants.  My handsome nephew, Wills Webb, waves to us.  He is wearing his camouflage outfit, newly bought at Galveston's famous Col. Bubbie's    While Wills thought he looked ready for war in his new outfit, we actually thought he looked ready do some maintenance work.    Ssshhh - don't tell him!

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My so, so, sweet, adorable mother in law on the left and Shirley, the pretty and talented homeowner on the right - hanging out on the second floor porch.

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The terrier Lilly, knows how to maneuver through the window/door quite easily. 

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This house is right across the street and is visible from the upstairs porch.  It's a Texas Historical Landmark, as seen by it's plaque outside the house and next to the front door.  It's also a survivor of the Great Storm, built in 1887.   The shape of the house plays up the corner lot, with the large, third story angled window.  The original house on this lot burned down in the fire of 1885.

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The back courtyard is made of bricks taken from the house's charcoal fireplace chimneys which were dismantled.  Gravel paths outline the brick patio.   The house to the right was built by the owner of Shirley and Kirby's house in 1906, according to the Galveston Architecture Guidebook.   Interestingly, the owners of this house are the children of Shirley's life long friend, something they didn't realize when they bought the house.  Since they are now all good friends, Shirley and Kirby have elected not to build a fence between the properties.

I hope you've enjoyed a tour inside a Victorian house in the  East End!!!  Be sure to read more about it in Mary Emmerling's new book Beach Cottages here.

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