HOME | DESIGN
If the walls of your home could whisper images from the past, what would they say? What sights would they show you? A groom carrying his new bride across the threshold? Or how about the pitter-patter of little feet walking around, as the aroma of a homemade meal permeates through the windows? Did these walls hear laughter and see heartbreak? Perhaps some walls were removed to make renovations as time passed. What treasures are marked on these walls? Maybe a growth chart marking the height of children as they grew up. Homes are filled with many memories. Older homes are filled with even more, and there are plenty in Tyler waiting to be seen.
Ginger Haberle with Historic Tyler Inc. will tell you that the homes, in the vicinity of Downtown Tyler, have seen a 326 acreage farm grow into a sprawling neighborhood, encompassing Chilton all the way to Old Jacksonville Highway. These homes have history and carry memories.
Every year, Historic Tyler, Inc. puts on a tour of several homes, open to the public. It is an opportunity for the community to discover what Tyler was and has become. In addition, the home tours raise funds for this nonprofit organization that preserves and protects historical sites, such as these homes with walls that we wish could talk. And you know who is most interested in these homes, not just to look but to own? Young couples!
A trend is taking place and adding new life to this historic area that has raised many families of Tyler. Young couples are renovating and beginning their own stories in historic Tyler, a movement we like to call “Hip”storic Tyler. We were curious to know about these couples and wanted to know why they decided to make their home in such a historic district.
Clay and Marisa Nordyke’s home is in the Azalea District of Tyler, on Hilltop Drive, and will be featured in the Historic Homes of Tyler Tour in April. Built in 1936, their home is more than just a house. The neighborhood itself is reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. Several young couples purchased their historic homes about the same time as the Nordykes. They have quickly become a community of close friends who borrow sugar from their neighbors, and offer a helping hand with home improvement. “Kids still sell lemonade on the street corner in the summer, and during Christmas time we line the street with luminaries and sing carols. In fact, our street and our house are so special to us that we decided to get married here last fall! It was important for us to share the place we've made our home, and this wonderful neighborhood with our friends and family from out-of-town. Seeing all of our guests gathered in the front yard, waiting for us to be announced, was such a wonderful moment,” Marisa exclaimed!
While revamping older homes is the latest home improvement trend, thanks to design and renovation gurus Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame, home buyers are now looking for something different when purchasing houses. “Homes in the Azalea District are full of character. None of our neighbors' homes looks just like ours. Although we're often frustrated by the lack of closets, and would love a shiny new kitchen with more counter space (and must contend with past owners' ideas of updating), we could never imagine living in a new build. We'll settle for cozy living and the charm, character and community that comes with it -- and we encourage other young couples to as well,” Marisa shared.
Clay and Marisa attended art school in college and look for design and aesthetics when complementing their self-proclaimed “eclectic” style. "There is a sense of beauty in the details (from decorative doorknobs and moldings, to hardwood floors that have seen generations of traffic, but with a little love can still gleam). The fabric of the house itself feels warmer and richer, in both character and quality. As a homeowner, you become a sort of custodian of history, and of a place … a community,” Marisa added. “One of our most cherished features of our home is actually the towering Southern Red Oak in our front yard. We’ve been told it’s one of the biggest in Tyler. While we appreciate them somewhat less during the fall when we're endlessly raking, the Azalea District's tree-lined streets offer a charm you can't find in newer neighborhoods.”
Close neighbors to the Nordyke’s are Casey and Monica Cook, also on Hilltop Drive. The Cooks similarly find that older homes have a story to tell. “Each house has its own unique features and tells its own story, truly beautiful and almost poetic,” Monica said. The curb appeal and large windows allow for natural light, and are just a few of the features that the Cooks love about their historic home. “[It] gives an appeal that isn’t available in new neighborhoods. We were also impressed by the quality of the home itself. It would probably be prohibitively expensive to build a home of that quality today,” Monica shared, while thinking of how the home was built in 1942.
Others are looking for a nostalgic feel in the home they grew up in. Clay and Kimberly Emge chose to restore the historic home Clay grew up in, built in 1937. The Emge home is nestled among their neighbors on Hilltop Drive. “There were wonderful memories made in that house, so it has been nice to keep it in the family,” Kimberly shared.
Matthew Young and Betty Shu purchased a home, built around the 1940’s, on 6th. “It has wonderful character, beauty and a community aspect that is rivaled by none,” Betty claimed. “Old homes and fine wine all have something in common. Everything gets better with age. The stories that have been created and the history of this house, and the neighborhood, is something to cherish.”
Also living on Rowland Place, Waythan and Mary Foreman, and their 3 children, chose to make a 1940 house their home. “We love our home primarily because of the location. It’s a great feeling being connected to the city in a way that I think gets missed in ‘the burbs.’ We can walk to the coffee shop Downtown, or Bergfeld Park for an event or a playdate. Speaking of parks, being across from the Children’s Park is also great. It provides a beautiful setting, and we love watching weddings and special events from our balcony,” Mary said, about their decision to live in an older home.
Brent and Vanessa McKellar, along with their two boys, moved to their 1957 mid-century style home, on McMillan Drive, after living in a subdivision in Flint. “It’s a dream come true for us to live in a mid-mod house, and we love it more each day. We finally feel like our house reflects our own style. We especially love the walls of windows that let in the beautiful natural light, the warm and interesting brick fireplace and the myriad of mature plants and trees that add so much interest and privacy,” Vanessa shared.
Matt and Katie Marshall live on Rowland Place with their two young children. Their home was built in 1937, in an area that was once part of a 23 acre plot in the 1880’s. “In 1882, Benjamin W. Rowland purchased a 23 acre plot of land which extended from the southside of Charnwood Street to Dobbs Street, as far east as South Fannin, and as far west as South Broadway. In 1925, Carrie Rowland Swann, daughter of B.W. Rowland, subdivided the property into the subdivision, legally known as 'The Rowland Place.' Carrie and her husband, Thomas Elam Swann, built 141 Rowland Place in 1937. They hired John A. Williams, contractor and builder, to construct the home, along with two other homes in the neighborhood. Construction was completed on December 1, 1937, and the home was rented out until 1942 when it was sold to T.A. Bradshaw. The original cost to build the home was $6,000! At the time it was built, the area was known as 'Honeymoon Row, as many newlyweds were moving in and raising their families in the neighborhood,” Katie explained. This trend is continuing today as the “Hip”storic home owners once again bring new life into older homes.
Each new family breathes its own life into these homes that have seen decades of memories within its walls. If walls could talk, I am sure they would tell of the love they have for each person that has cared for the home built within its borders. Every home has a story to tell. Visit the Historic Homes of Tyler Tour to see if you can hear echoes of the past, or perhaps new stories as they come to life. For more information, check out www.historictyler.org.
Photos Courtesy Of: Couples Featured