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FROM THE SEA

Seafoam Green and Peach Details Freshen 19th Century Historic Home Story by Barbara Canetti | Photos by Illumine Photographic Services, courtesy of Galveston Historical Foundation

The beauty of old houses is not only their history, but also their design, construction and layout. Much has changed in consumers’ desires for homes today, but the lure of the historical houses remains. And this is evident in Galveston, as the Galveston Historical Foundation hosts its 45th Annual Galveston Historic Homes Tour.

All eight of the houses open to visitors this month are from the 19th and early 20th century. They range from majestic mansions to small “tenant” houses, designed for workers who couldn’t afford to purchase their own home.

One of the homes, the Conrad and Henrike Lenz house, falls in the middle of those categories. The house was built for $2,250 in 1887 by the Lenzes, who were German immigrants. Conrad was a butcher and had a carriage house and a smokehouse on his property, which included the next-door lot. Over the past 13 decades the house has changed hands multiple times but its basic footprint remains.

The present owners, David and Kristin Finklea, moved in six years ago and began a gentle remodel to fit the needs of their family. The master bedroom and its adjoining walk-through closet, office and en suite bathroom occupy the entire left side of the first floor. The couple decreased the size of the office – with its floor to ceiling bookcases – to make room for a larger closet (complete with an enviable shoe rack) between the two rooms. They updated the bathroom with double sinks and a subway tiled walk-in shower, and married the hexagon tiled floor with some of the old planked floor. One of the walls in the bathroom is the original tongue-in-groove wood, again contrasting the old with the new.

“I hate to see historic houses all new and modern. We tried to keep as much of the original character as possible,” Kristin says.

The center hall remains but has been shortened and decorated with art and artifacts pertaining to Galveston.

On the right side of the house is a large comfortable living room that leads into the ample dining room, with a grand piano in a nearby nook. The dining room and the music area each sport the same old-style chandeliers, giving them a coordinated look. The dining table, a large slab of dark acacia wood that was rescued from their flooded Houston house during Tropical Storm Harvey, dominates the room. A wall of enclosed cabinets holds dishes and curios belonging to the family.

The kitchen, although cozy, works for the family. A window seat and round table in the kitchen are perfect for the family’s casual meals. The kitchen’s two-tone cabinets and vertical plate rack give the room a warm look, with the glass fronted upper storage areas.

Behind the kitchen are a guest bedroom and a bath with an original claw foot tub.
The yard has been totally modernized: a pool and spa, plus garage and pool house, accessed from the screened in porch. Perhaps one of the quirkiest items in the house: the ornate wood door to the porch reportedly came from a 98-year-old, 120-foot yacht once used by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini but that sank in 2004 at Galveston’s Pier 22. The door was retrofitted for the house.

Upstairs are the children’s rooms. The daughter’s suite includes a sitting room, bedroom and door to an outside porch, while the son’s room has its own private bathroom.

The entire house is decorated with works of art by local artists – Mary Farragher, René Wiley, Jennifer Peck and Kristin’s brother Marc Wyatt.

“I like to support local artists,” Kristin adds.

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