Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - August 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk County Publishing Company
The Downes-Aldrich Home has a new look!
Houston County Courier - August 2009
The big Victorian home on the corner of Seventh and Lamar streets known as the Downes-Aldrich House is nearing completion of the first phase of a two-phase renovation project estimated to cost about $28,000.
The historic home has been a landmark to many Crockett residents for most, if not all of their lives.
The first phase of the renovations cost much more than anticipated $10,000 due to unforeseeable decays of wood once the project was underway. Phase one cost $16,000.
The second and final phase, which will include landscaping and fencing, are on hold until the board can raise the some $12,000 needed to complete the project.
“The undertaking of a project of this magnitude could never have been possible without the support of our community,” Jeanie Driskell, chairman Downes-Aldrich board of directors said.
Ms. Driskell added, “Support from local businesses including Sherwin Williams, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, S.C. Maxwell, Tractor Supply, Stowe Lumber Company, RSC Equipment Rental, Spring Creek Country Club, Tchoupitoulas, Moosehead Café, and Rosemary’s Hilltop Kitchen made phase one of the renovation possible.”
“Labor provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Institutions Division; Eastham Unit added to the success of phase one of the project,” she continued.
Ms. Driskell said the unit has a unique program that helps rehabilitate their offenders and supports the community in a very positive way.
This project would not have been possible without the approval of Eastham Unit Warden II David Sweetin.
The unit provided a guard to supervise the project and eight offenders to provide the labor.
The supervising guard, Neal Smith, is a 29-year veteran at the prison and renovates homes as a side job.
Smith used his carpenter skills to ensure a successful project.
“The Eastham Unit should be very proud of the end results,” said Ms. Driskell.
Warden Sweetin has also agreed to send the offenders back to help with the second phase of the project.
Once the current renovation project has been completed, the home will be open to the public and for special events and guided tours.
Board members provided lunch for the offenders each day they worked as payment for their labor.
Each board member was assigned days they were personally responsible for providing, serving and cleaning-up the lunch meal.
“The offenders worked so hard, and the heat was such a factor during this portion of the project, but they could hardly wait to see what the menu was for the day,” said Ms. Driskell.
“Everyone did an outstanding job. I’m very proud to be a part of this organization, and I look forward to the completion of the second and final phase of improvements to this beautiful historical home,” Ms. Driskell said.
The home was build by James Elbert Downes in 1893 and was one of Crockett’s show homes in its time.
After the tragedy of loosing their son in the war and daughter-in-law, Cora Jones Downes during childbirth, Mr. and Mrs. Downes sold the home to Armistead Albert Aldrich, known as “AA” Aldrich in 1910 and moved his family to Dallas.
The Aldrich family lived in the home 66 years until 1977.
Miss Mary Aldrich, the last resident of the home, and living heirs, left the home to the state of Texas for preservation.
On March 20, 1980, the Texas Conservation Foundation passed conservatorship to Historical and Cultural Activities Center of Houston County, Inc. (HCAC).
At which time the board of directors was formed to preserve and manage the property.
Organizers said it was quite a task starting with $200 in the bank. The past and current board members have worked hard to maintain the home with limited funds raised through various fundraisers through the years.
Those wishing to make a donation can do so by sending it to Downes-Aldrich House c/o James Ostler 605 East Goliad Avenue, Suite 102 Crockett, Tx 75835.
For information about the availability of the home for special events, and scheduled tours call 544-4804.