WRAPPED IN HISTORY
The Flowers Continue to Bloom at this 1892 Grand Victorian in Bastrop
By Natalie de la Garza
Christine Cartwright admits to being less than thrilled when her husband, Lieutenant Colonel Donald Cartwright, a recently retired Weapon Systems Officer with the United States Air Force, told her he wanted to restore an old home.
“I swore he had never had Hammer 101 before,” laughs Cartwright. “But he drove me nuts for three years [about it].”
The couple looked at dozens of homes but it wasn’t until they visited a Methodist minister in Bastrop, less than an hour southeast of their hometown of Austin, that they found the perfect house sitting right across the street – the H.P. Luckett House.
The 14-room, Queen Anne-style two-story is named for its first owner, Dr. Humphrey Powell Luckett, who purchased the property in 1892. The lot, once the span of an entire city block, previously housed Bastrop Academy and, later, Bastrop Military Institute, which prepared young men, including Sam Houston, Jr., for service during the Civil War. Post-war attendance waned, leading the Institute to relocate to Austin and the City of Bastrop to take control of the land, using its buildings as schools until the establishment of a public school system.
No longer in need of it, the City of Bastrop sold the lot to Luckett, an expert on yellow fever who was named Bastrop’s city health officer in 1897. Luckett razed the existing structures and hired architect Louis G. Mauer to design a $14,000 eye-catcher, with bay windows, fish-scale shingles, and two big, wraparound verandas.
Though subsequent owners Alex and Lucille Waugh turned the one-family dwelling into a three, converting the upstairs into two apartments while residing downstairs, Mauer’s exterior went virtually unchanged, catching the eye of the Cartwrights who, in 1983, became only the home’s third owners.
Cartwright says the first thing her husband did was remove the screen from the screened-in upstairs porch — “He said, ‘That screen does not belong there,’” recalls Cartwright — and return the then-white house back to its original green hue.
Inside, the Cartwrights chose to gut the beadboard kitchen, which Cartwright says was so old it was beginning to turn. They started over, installing a period-appropriate tin ceiling. “We had to rip that out or put something over it, so we put the tin over it,” says Cartwright. “It’s the same pattern that they used back then.”
The kitchen cabinets are made from wood salvaged from several different places, including the lower front porch and a nearby home damaged in a fire. And speaking of wood, Cartwright says her husband copied one of the three ornate carvings found in the hallway and placed it above the kitchen sink.
Fretwork can also be found on the two downstairs entry doors. Cartwright says when the couple chose to stain and varnish one of the doors, it took three weeks and dental picks to get the paint out of the deep grooves.
Cartwright describes the décor as “purely Victorian,” adding that two downstairs living areas still have the original wallpaper and one room has the original carpet.
“I can’t say that it looks gorgeous,” admits Cartwright, “but my husband would have a fit if he found out I changed the wallpaper or the carpet.”
The draperies, however, were all sewn by Cartwright, and another 250 yards of fabric wallpaper the hallways. “We took many a trip to Houston to buy fabric,” says Cartwright.
Today, Cartwright’s primary residence is an upstairs suite. During World War II, when the upstairs was divided into two apartments, Cartwright’s sitting room would have been a tenant’s living room, her bedroom their bedroom, and her master bath their kitchen.
“At one time, there were three kitchens in this house,” notes Cartwright, adding that other than a moved door, no major architectural changes have been made. “There’s just so many things that were done, but nothing destroyed.”
Despite the majesty of the grand Victorian, Cartwright’s favorite piece is an upstairs cabinet, made with French doors of stained and etched glass that she bought for her husband.
“We didn’t go in for a nice ring or earrings,” says Cartwright. “We always gave each other antiques for gifts.”
Looking back on living for almost 36 years in a house on the National Register of Historic Places, not to mention an official Texas Historic Landmark, Cartwright says it’s been overwhelming – “The upkeep is unbelievable,” adds Cartwright – but fun.
“You’d get mad, and you’d get tired, and then you’d get inspired once you got something done to do another project,” says Cartwright. “It’s a totally different experience.”
1408 B Chestnut, Bastrop
Bastrop County Historical Society Museum & Visitor Center
904 Main, Bastrop
H.P. Luckett House
1402 Church, Bastrop
National Register of Historic Places, #78003296
Texas Historical Marker