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Glimpse of history

Profile image for By Dianna Hunt / Staff Writer
By Dianna Hunt / Staff Writer

Open house to unveil Evers home restoration

For decades, it was a stately grande dame on Denton’s Silk Stocking Row.

Built in 1903 for the Evers family, the Italian-style villa towered among the other homes on West Oak Street with its Corinthian columns and elaborate detailing.

It had 12 rooms, three floors, multiple porches and a widow’s walk around the top that offered a panoramic view of a Denton County poised for growth. It even featured a third-floor skating rink and gymnasium for the Evers’ five children.

By 2010, however, when interior designer Lisa Adams spotted it for sale, the historic home was nearly in shambles.

A devastating fire in 1977 had heavily damaged the roof and upper floors, and although the exterior had been restored, renovations had never been fully completed inside.

“It looked like it was going to fall down,” Adams recalled last week. “I wanted to save this house — that’s how it all started.”

Now, four years later, the restoration is finally complete and Adams is opening the home’s tall front doors for the community to get a peek inside.

An open house is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. each day for the community to tour the 6,600-square-foot, nine-bedroom, six-bath home, with a modern kitchen and newly added wine cellar in what had been the home’s state-of-the-art storm cellar. The home is on the market now for $1.775 million.

“I really wanted to give the community an opportunity to look around,” Adams said. “I’ve updated it in so many ways but tried to keep the character.”

The restorations are cheered by the Denton historical community, who had feared the home eventually might fall down or be destroyed.

Beth Stribling, chairwoman of the Denton County Historical Commission, said the home has a Denton Historic Landmark designation and could be eligible for a Texas historical marker.

“We’re excited about it,” she said. “The Evers house has been a house that’s very much a part of the history of Denton. It certainly has the architectural significance, which is weighed when you look at historical significance, and the family was very significant.”

Kim Cupit, curator of collections for the Denton County Office of History and Culture, has files filled with details about the old home.

“The Evers home is one of those iconic homes in Denton,” Cupit said. “Everybody knows the big white house on the corner of Oak and Welch. It’s a very easily recognized home, and it’s great to see that it’s getting the love that it needed and deserved rather than being torn down to make way for apartments.”


Early grandeur

The home was built by J.H. Evers for Robert and Mary Evers.

It cost $8,000 to build and included $800 in lumber, according to early records. Cypress was used for the exterior wood.

Frank Craft of Denton, who built many of the Oak Street homes, was the building contractor. The design was done by an architect described in historical documents only as Mr. Page from Austin.

The Evers family was prominent in Denton. Members opened Evers Hardware on the Square in 1885 and were active in the community. Evers Hardware continued operating until 2000, and the building is now home to County Seat Antiques.

Denton architect Isabel Mount Miller, who helped restore the exterior of the house after the fire, described the home as neo-classical in style.

“The Evers house is one of the most important of the Oak Street houses,” Miller told the Denton Record-Chronicle in 1979. “It’s not the oldest, but it is one of the most grandiose.”

Mary Evers apparently was quite particular about the home. Smoking was not allowed inside except on the third floor. Visitors who arrived on foot could go in the West Oak entrance, while visitors who arrived by carriage or car would enter from Welch Street after driving through the grounds’ peach orchard, according to a brochure about the so-called Silk Stocking Row published by the Denton County Historical Commission in 2004.

The home housed members of the Evers family for nearly 75 years. Dolph Evers, the last living child of the builder, lived alone in the home in the 1970s while he ran the hardware store.


Devastating fire

The third-floor skating rink nearly led to the home’s destruction.

Two teenage boys, apparently determined to catch a glimpse of the upstairs playroom, snuck into the house on Dec. 1, 1977, while Dolph Evers was at work.

They made their way to the top floor but apparently couldn’t see well enough in the attic, so they set some paper on fire, according to fire officials at the time. The paper fell and the fire spread rapidly.

Firefighters, some in tears, battled the blaze as neighbors stood watching in shock, according to reports. Photos of the blaze showed water pouring down the steps onto Oak Street as firefighters tried to stop the home from being a total loss.

The fire ravaged the roof, severely damaged the upper two floors and the back stairwell, and caused extensive damage on the first floor.

Dolph Evers, then 82, was matter-of-fact about the loss.

“There are more important things than a house ... like your health,” he told the Record-Chronicle at the time.

The home remained vacant for more than a year until he agreed to restore the exterior of the home with Miller’s help.

The interior wasn’t restored, however, until the mid-1980s, when the Denton County Historical Museum worked out a deal to be housed in the first floor of the home.

By then, Bob Tripp, Dolph Evers’ nephew, owned the home and agreed to do basic reconstruction on the interior, including heating and air conditioning, plumbing and electrical work. The historical commission provided the other restoration. The rooms on the second and third floors were not completed.

A series of tenants followed the historical museum, including several college students, until eventually the home was left largely vacant and deteriorating.


Restoration at last

Adams was looking to buy a cottage for her daughter, a University of North Texas student, when she spotted the Evers home for sale online.

“We came and looked at it and just fell in love with it,” she said.

Today, giving a visitor a tour of the home, she points out the original details remaining in the home as well as the carefully selected items that have been used to make the home appealing to a modern family.

Remnants of the fire remained and the floors could not be salvaged, she said. Two tall pocket doors, still charred from the blaze, were retained and sealed, offering a glimpse into the home’s fiery past.

“We cleaned them up and preserved the historical record of the fire,” she said.

The first floor now features two living areas, a large dining area with original woodwork, a mother-in-law suite and a modern kitchen. Downstairs, a wine cellar and large laundry room were built into an area that mostly had been filled in with dirt.

The second floor features the master bedroom suite, which includes a large bathroom, walk-in closet and a sitting area that could be another bedroom. Three other bedrooms are on the second floor.

The third floor, nestled under the eaves of the massive roof, features three more bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen and a central living area.

Each floor offers access to wraparound porches, and a ladder offers access to the widow’s walk at the top.

Adams is hoping to sell the home to a family that will cherish its history.

“I really want a family that is wealthy enough to maintain the home for another 100 years,” she said.

DIANNA HUNT can be reached at 940-566-6884 and via Twitter at @DiannaHunt.