She is tall, stately and proud, full of history and, as any grand matron who has witnessed the passing of 124 seasons, she needs some makeup, even a facelift.
According to an official historic plaque on the eight-bay wrap-around porch, in 1845 Ed Lott – who made his fortune in cattle – purchased the land there that was part of the Mission Rosario.
Thirty years later, he built an i-house there. The name is derived from the popularity of the style in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana that features two rooms either side of the entrance door, one room deep and two stories. More than a dozen years after that, Lott built the current Queen Anne house popular nationwide then – characterized by the wraparound porches – the eastern porch downstairs is screened – and rooms with high, high ceilings.
When it was built, the farm-to- market road that seems to lead to the front porch (before making an abrupt left turn) wasn’t there.
An old road from Goliad west was behind the house, as is the San Antonio River.
Houses can’t talk, but the people who live in them can, and the W.J. “Ed” and Mary Elizabeth Lott house has been occupied by six generations.
It was recorded as a Texas historic landmark in 1996 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Annie Mae Carrington, who grew up there but now lives in San Antonio, says the house was remodeled 15 years ago, including the installation of limited air conditioning and the removal of wallpaper – which required sheetrock to cover up “100,000 wallpaper tacks.”
The Rev. Gina Frnke, who is Annie Mae’s daughter and an Episcopal priest, lives in Goliad and is overseeing some further maintenance.
A local legend says the house was constructed of cypress wood, which refuses to hold a paint job.
“That’s only partially true,” Frnke says. “It’s cypress wood, all right, but my stepfather, who was an architect, thought the house would be cheaper to maintain by letting the paint just flake off and just painting the trim. That didn’t work.”
Today, standing on the upper porch, Frnke says the wood on the west side of the building has suffered from the lack of paint. “We’re changing my stepfather’s plan.”
It has a modern security system combined with one that is organic.
“Watch out for these plants,” Frnke warns. “They’re poison ivy. It’s our five-day delayed burglar alarm.”
“In remodeling, we haven’t changed the home,” Carrington says. “But it was a major undertaking.”
To go inside is to walk into a living museum. Portraits of elderly family members decorate the dining room, which is separated from the living room by a sliding door.
“It still works,” Carrington boasts. “It was made with well-aged lumber – not the green stuff they use now.”
The center of the house is dominated by a split-level staircase.
“My grandmother remembers the house filled with children many years ago,” Frnke recalls. “It takes a lot of people to make this place not so lonely.
“It’s been decades since Christmas was celebrated here,” Frnke says.
“But it was fun to go there in winter. There are six fireplaces.”
And there are many places perfect for a Christmas tree.
But,” Annie Mae adds, “my grandfather and grandmother never had a Christmas tree. It just wasn’t the custom then.”
For the last decade or more, the family has used the home only for weekends and holidays.
The house has an attic, accessible only by a vertical ladder.
“But there’s nothing up there except some lumber,” Carrington says. “My mother was a demon housecleaner. If something wasn’t used, out it went,” she laughs.
“So, there’s no steamer trunks up there with old letters.”
The rooms stay mostly empty now, but that appeals to Frnke. “I love the solitude of the house.”
Sitting in rocking chairs on the side porch, Frnke the priest and Frnke the overseer combine to handle a crisis.
A hummingbird flies into the screened porch and struggles to find its way out. It hovers high up, beyond the reach of a gentle nudge from a straw broom, catching its beak again and again into the screen.
Frnke opens the doors at either end of the porch. “If I could find something red to attract it…”
When she returns from the kitchen, the hummingbird is gone.
“I can remember sitting here with my sisters when I was a child, listening to my parents talk about Goliad.”
The only conversation now was the gossip of mockingbirds.
In San Antonio, Carrington rarely goes to the home anymore, but she is dedicated to maintaining it.
“It is such a treasure. I hope always to keep it for my grandchildren.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Beeville Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.