| The attractive house
on the southeast corner of Block 218 in Hempstead was planned and built by
Mr. and Mrs. Graham Graves. Mr. Graves worked for the Southern
Pacific Railroad and was moved about to various places. In one of
the moves, the family lived in a Greenwood house in Houston, a house that
they enjoyed. Through the years, both Mr. and Mrs. Graves wanted to
come back to Hempstead for it was Mr. Graves' birthplace and Mrs. Graves
had come here in her very early years, so it was home to both of
them. Finally, the Railroad Company did send Mr. Graves back to
Hempstead, and for the first five years, the Graves family lived in the
Dr. Levi Mahan house. This was Mrs. Graves’ former home for she was
C.D. Mahan before she married Mr. Graham Graves. All during the five
years after they moved back to Hempstead, however, they were planning to
build their own home, which was to be as nearly as they could make it a
replica of the Greenwood house.|
Mr. Graves was advised by relatives to hire an architect to plan the house and a contractor to build it, but he had always been handy with tools and had done some amateur building at the various places where they had lived, and Mrs. Graves was skilled in planning wood working projects, too, so they both believed that they could plan what they wanted, and could hire local labor in Hempstead to assist them in building their house themselves. In the planning when they came across an engineering problem that baffled them, they went to a friend at Prairie View who was an architect to help them work out the problem.
When the planning was complete they began gathering the building material for the house, carefully choosing and rejecting until they had the quality that they wanted.
When the material was assembled and they were ready to begin the work, Mr. Graves was the depot agent for the Southern Pacific, so he had no time during the working hours of the day to work on the house. They hired Mr. DeCausey Buchanon, a carpenter friend, to do the carpentry with Mrs. Graves supervising during the day, and Mr. Graves going over it all after work in the afternoon, and also doing some of the work himself. Mr. Buchanon said admiringly that Mr. Graves had the most accurate eye for building of anyone he had ever known.
The main part of the house is a cube. There was originally a cellar but that has now been filled in. The cube is two stories high, with a living room extending the length of the east side, an adjoining dining room on the west, opening into the living room with French doors. Just to the south of the dining room there is a kitchen with two pantries, with the kitchen opening on the west to a service porch which was a half bath in its northwest corner. These make up the first floor.
The upper story has four rooms, two on the south and two on the north with a hall running east and west dividing them. On this floor is a full bath in the northeast corner, which can be reached from the lower floor by the stairs or the bedrooms without one having to go through any other bedrooms.
There was one particular feature of the interior with which Mr. Graves was especially careful. This was the stairway for he knew how difficult one can be to ascend and descend, and how dangerous one can be if the steps are not spaced right. On this, then, he spent much time in planning, carefully studying elevations, risers, pitch, width of steps, height of banister rails, and the spacing and size of landings before he began measuring and marking the timber for it. It begins in the southwest corner of the living room with a large landing, with the rail of the banister curving southward for a short distance, then ascending with the stair steps upward along the south wall for some six feet above the living room floor to a second spacious landing with a small south window above the landing to keep the stairway from being dark. On this landing the stairway divides, one part leading upward along the west wall to the second floor hall. Its position gives easy access to any of the bedrooms, and to the bathrooms. In the living room under the stairway there is a concealed closet where Mr. Graves kept his hats and hunting guns, with a rod for guests to hang their coats.
The other division of the stairway leads through a full door in the west wall of the second landing to an extension of this landing into the kitchen, and from this the stairway leads down into the kitchen.
The exterior of the house is as attractive as the interior. The house really appears to face both the east and the south, although the walk leads from a front gate in the yard facing on Ninth Street on the east. A wide porch runs along the entire east side of the main structure and curves around the southeast corner and extends along the south side of the living room. At its west end, the porch opens out into a port-cochere, above which is a solarium that opens into each of the two south bedrooms. The main structure has a moderately sloping built up roof, which gives a graceful upper line to the house, but does not add appreciably to the height of the house. The porch and the porte-cochere are appendages to the main structure, but this is not apparent to the observer because of the exact similarity of their roofs to the roof of the main structure.
By the summer of 1919 the house was finished and the Graves family moved into their new home, and there they planned to stay. In spite of the head shakings of some who had predicted that they could not build such a house just with the local labor the house was a most attractive one. A Houston Chronicle photographer, on the look out for material for the rotogravure section, saw it and asked permission to take a picture. Mr. Graves gave his consent. Soon thereafter, the Graves family who were always great travelers, were in Seattle where they bought a Sunday Chronicle and lo! There was their home in the rotogravure section as one of the beautiful new homes in the Houston area.
After completion of the house, Mr. Graves set out pecan trees in the backyard and crepe myrtle along the front. However, the area was large enough for him to raise chickens and have a vegetable garden so that there were usually both chicken and vegetables on the family table. In the front yard, Mrs. Graves had roses and various other year-round flowers, and the house was often filled with guests and many happy times were spent with their daughters, Celeste and Sess, and later with grandchildren.
Some ten years ago, Mrs. Willie Ogg Tompkins purchased the house from the Graves heirs. The streets that run past it now are much busier than when the house was new, but even though the business area is moving close to it, it stills sits on its spacious corner a place of quiet dignity.
Based on information provided by Celeste Graves.
|"One Hundred One Heritage Homes of Waller County,
A Bicentennial Project of Waller County Historical Commission
Published by Waller County Historical Society
And Waller County Bicentennial Committee 1976
Historical Information for Main House
“The Graham Graves Home”
by Jimmie Rene Ogg