Holman-Allen House

Matagorda County National Register Site


Holman-Allen House

William Shields Holman lived from 1870 to 1942. An attorney and judge, he was active in many civic organizations and was one of Bay City and Matagorda County’s more prominent residents. William Holman was born in Fayette County, Texas on September 16, 1870. In the 1880 population census he is listed as a nine year old in Fayette County. He was in school at the time. His father Natt (listed in some records as Mat) was a 37 year old farmer, and his mother was 32. The 1890 census was lost to fire, so records are not available from that year. William married Louise H. Kaulbach, daughter of a prominent LaGrange family, in 1897. In the 1900 census William Holman was listed as a lawyer in LaGrange, Texas in Fayette County. He was 29 years old, and lived with his wife Louise, age 28, son Jonathan, age 2 and son William, age 7 months. The family moved to Bay City in 1902. In 1903 William acquired lots on Avenue K from Louise’s father H. B. Kaulbach. They moved in to a small five-room house that was present on the lot and lived there until 1908 when construction began on their new house. A telephone directory from 1906 lists William Holman as having both a residence and an office. The 1910 census records show him as a 39-year old attorney in Bay City. Louise was 31, and they had five children: Jonathan, William S. Jr., Louise, Berkely, and Thomas.

Bay City was incorporated in 1902, and the first election was held in November of that year. By November 22nd, the first City Council meeting was held, and Mayor W.M. Holland appointed William S. Holman as City Attorney. On November 12, 1908 William became the county judge, and served until November 11, 1914. In 1909 Judge Holman spoke at the first meeting of the Bay City Civic Club, which was organized by local women, his wife Louise among them. In 1913 and 1915 William Holman helped form the Colorado River Association, then the Colorado River Improvement Association, in an effort to begin river improvements and curb its frequent floods. These organizations were the first steps toward progress that was made several years later. William’s father Natt Holman died on July 18, 1913 in LaGrange with William at his bedside. He had recently undergone surgery for appendicitis but “on account of his age, 71 years, the strain was too great and death ensued”. William’s mother died in LaGrange in 1915. William Holman remained active in Bay City and Matagorda County civic life. As Louise Holman Miller, daughter of William and Louise, wrote in an unpublished narrative, her father served with organizations such as:

[. . .] the School Board, President of the Mid-Coast Industrial Congress, Vice President of the National Rivers and Harbors Congress, on the Executive Committee of the Interstate Inland Waterway League, as Director of the Colorado River Improvement Association and helped sponsor the Intra-Coastal Canal as well as encouraged oil exploration and new residents to the community. In later years he was elected to the Vestry of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Bay City. In 1917, at the outbreak of World War I, Judge Holman was commissioned a Major and served with the troops at Camp Bowie, Texas and subsequently as a Lieutenant Colonel recruiting in Texas.

William deeded the house to his wife in 1926. In the late 1920 Judge Holman’s health began to fail, and he discontinued his law practice and lived in San Antonio for five years. By 1941, the Bay City telephone directory shows William and Louise living in their house in Bay City again, and their son Thomas Andrew Holman, a farmer, was living across the street at 2501 Avenue K. However, William died on July 2, 1942. By 1953 his son Thomas was living with his mother in the house. He lived there with her for several years until she died, then beginning in 1961 lived there alone. After Louise’s death in 1960 the house was inherited by her five children, but Thomas Andrew purchased two of his sibling’s shares in 1961. His sister Louise later acquired an additional share after her brother Jonathan passed away. Thomas Andrew Holman lived in the house until his health failed 1973, after which it was vacant for several years. He and his sister Louise sold the property to James M. and Judith Allen on January 9, 1978.

The story of the Holman-Allen House itself begins before it was constructed, when the Holman family acquired the lots. Deed records chronicle the ownership of the property. On July 1, 1897, Lots 7, 8, and 9 of Block 143, among other properties, were deeded by Bay City founder David Swickheimer to N.M. Vogelsang, one of the partners in the Bay City Town Company. A year later Vogelsang deeded the lots to M.E. Gipson. In March 1903, M.E. Gipson and his wife Dora deeded them to H.B. Kaulbach, who immediately deeded them to William S. Holman. Henry Berkely Kaulbach and his wife Julia Fred Kaulbach, a wealthy couple living on a large estate in LaGrange, Texas, were the parents of William Holman’s wife Louise. The five-room house that was present on the lots served as the Holman family’s residence until it was moved across the street before the construction of William and Louise’s large new house.

Construction of the house at 2504 Avenue K began in 1908 and was completed in 1909. The architect was J. E. Large, with Hugo W. Speckles as contractor. The wallpaper contractor was Mr. Miller and the concrete contractor was Mr. Leopard. The two and a half-story Victorian house was one of the largest in Bay City, and was solidly built with cypress framing and siding. Its brick foundation piers are anchored to concrete blocks to thwart the region’s frequent flooding and hurricanes. At the time of construction, it was reported that the house was the first in Bay City to be built with all electric lighting. The living room fireplace had a heating system with ducts directing heated air into the sitting room, parlor and two upstairs bedrooms. The system is no longer connected. Water for bathing was heated in the cookstove flue. Originally the house had only bathtubs and lavatories; commodes were added later. In 1908 when the house was constructed, it was one of the rare houses in Bay City to contain bathrooms. Only the very expensive homes had them, and it was common practice for men to pay a fee for a hot bath at the barber shop, or visit a rooming house with a lavatory and pay for hot water and a room to bathe in. William Holman designed the dining room fireplace and chose the north wall for its placement since that was the direction he faced while dining. Mrs. Holman chose the latticed spandrel and stained glass window in the dining room bay for her view while dining.

The east bedroom with balcony that adjoins the large master bedroom was originally William Holman’s daughter’s room.

Architect J. E. Large appears in the 1900 census records as a 31 year old carpenter living in Matagorda County. He was born in Iowa, to a father from Indiana and a mother from England. He was married to M. P. Large and had a two year old son named Luther. J.E. owned his own home. He moved to Bay City by at least 1906, since he was listed in the 1906 telephone directory he is listed with a telephone number of a planing mill. In 1915 he was listed at his residence only. In the 1910 census J. E.’s father Isaac D. from Indiana and his mother Hanna from England are listed as living in Matagorda County. They were aged 79 and 64 respectively.

He was not listed in the 1910 census but reappears in the 1920 census as a 50 year old architect living in Bay City. He does not appear in subsequent years in any Texas county. His wife Mrs. Large signed a women’s suffrage petition in the May 16, 1916 issue of the Matagorda County Tribune urging voters to vote yes on the suffrage amendment on May 24 of that year. By July 15, 1918 Matagorda County had 997 registered voters, among them Mrs. J. E. Large.

His son Luther W. Large is listed in the 1930 census as a 32 year old bookkeeper in a utilities office. Luther lived in San Angelo in Tom Green County. Luther’s wife was named Lorene, and they had two sons, Robert and Ray.

Contractor Hugo W. Speckles was born in Warrenton in 1879 and moved to LaGrange in 1889 where he attended school. He served in the Spanish-American War, then moved to Bay City and worked as an architect. He married Selma Willenberg in 1904. Hugo W. Speckles does not appear in census records until 1910, when he is listed as a carpenter living in Matagorda County. He was 30 years old and married to Selma, aged 28. His father was from Germany and his mother from Texas. He rented a house. They moved to Cleveland, Texas in 1921, where he joined the Presbyterian Church. In Cleveland Hugo initially worked as a contractor and Selma as a “sales lady.” They did not have children. In about 1928 Hugo began working as a bookkeeper for E. R. Goodwin in Cleveland, Texas. He died in May of 1935.36

During the late 1920s or early 1930s when the Holman family was temporarily living in San Antonio, the house was converted into several apartments in order to make it revenue-producing. The exterior of the house was not altered. In her 1977 unpublished narrative, Louise Holman Miller wrote:

The library was used as a dining room and the dining room as a bedroom, the adjoining butler’s pantry was made into a bathroom. The parlor, too, was used for a bedroom with a portion of the west side partitioned off for a bathroom and clothes closet. Upstairs, a partition was erected in the front hall to form two suites. The north balcony, enclosed to make a bathroom and the north bedroom used as a kitchen-dinette, with the master bedroom and the tower bedroom, formed one suite, while the two south bedrooms, hallway, and bath, also larger cedar closet, with kitchenette made of the large bedroom, formed another suite.

When James and Judith Allen purchased the house in 1978, they restored it to its original configuration as a single family house. Aided by the original drawings by J. E. Large, they worked with architect Arthur J. Wilrodt of Columbus to remove all nonhistoric interior partition walls and to restore all of the house’s original architectural elements. The house was repainted in its historic shade of yellow ocher. All woodwork and siding was stripped, filled, sanded, and varnished. The north side porch was deteriorated and was rebuilt to match its historic appearance. Sheetrock was installed where necessary to repair walls. Termite damage in the dining room required replacement of wood wall paneling. The chair rail in the upstairs hall was damaged, and the Allens installed custom-made replacement sections with the same profile.

Limited changes were made to the house to modernize it. Plumbing and wiring were upgraded house-wide. The kitchen originally consisted of a butler’s pantry with ice box, linen cabinets, and flatware storage; a small kitchen with wood-burning cookstove, and a latticed, screened back porch. The Allen family removed the butler’s pantry and enclosed the rear porch to enlarge the kitchen, and added the half-bath under the servant’s stair just outside the kitchen door. The half bath near the kitchen under the servant’s stairs was originally a door to the kitchen. One of the upstairs bedrooms was used as a guest bedroom and contained a lavatory. The Allens chose to keep that feature but replaced it with a circa 1940s pedestal sink. Originally a small bathroom was located in the southwest corner of the second floor but it was converted it to a utility room. When the Allens acquired the house, the small balcony off the large northeast bedroom had already been enclosed and converted to a bathroom. They altered it slightly to contain a large bathtub accessed from the new master bathroom. The large second-floor bathroom on the north side of the hall had been converted to an apartment kitchen, but the Allens restored it to its original use. The clawfoot bathtub is original to the house, but the tiled floor is not. A closet in the bathroom was originally a doorway to a small bedroom; however, this small bedroom was converted to the master bathroom and the doorway became a closet. No original light fixtures remained when the Allens purchased the house, but period-appropriate fixtures were installed.


Copyright 2010 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
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Dec. 20, 2010
Dec. 20, 2010