One of Denton's most uniquely beautiful houses, located at 616 W. Oak St. and currently owned by Maya and Pete Leptuch, is difficult to see from the street because it's surrounded by shrubs. Only three families have owned it, and it's also one of the houses in the Oak-Hickory Historic District that still exists the way it was built.
The house's owners distinguished themselves in good and bad ways; one owner was accused of taking money from the community, and another gave generously.
The tile-roofed, Italianate-style house was built in 1916-1917 by George Harris, a prolific builder of public buildings and fine homes, for H.F. and Annie Schweer. The house was commonly known as the scene of opulent, wild parties during the Roaring Twenties. It will be one of the houses shown during the 2017 Historic Denton Home Tour on Saturday.
Denton's Chamber of Commerce elected Schweer one of its' directors in 1915. Schweer and his partner, Mrs. John Hann, were the financing partners in Denton's six oldest businesses. He became president of First National Bank, a building that still stands on the southeast corner of the Square in downtown Denton.
Schweer's good fortune ended April 1, 1927, with his arrest for embezzlement. Involuntary bankruptcy proceedings followed. The Great Depression, which began 18 months later, may have factored into the charge against Schweer, since the bank was apparently failing. No newspaper reports indicated the final outcome of the embezzlement case. In 1930, wife Annie opened a lady's clothing shop in the house in an attempt to obtain cash. The Schweers sold the house later that year and moved to Los Angeles. H.F. Schweer died the following year at age 81.
Jasper Wells bought the house in 1930, just months after purchasing the house next door at 610 W. Oak St., which was formerly owned by the late Judge Joseph A. Carroll. Wells, whose parents died when he was 10, enlisted in Company G of the 11th Cavalry of the Confederate States when he was 16. He fought a number of Civil War battles, including Murphreesboro, Tennessee, and Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. While defending Raleigh, North Carolina, the war ended, and Wells departed for Texas with a broken leg and a bullet hole in his hand. Along the way, he met and married his wife, Sue Gillum. Wells prospered in Texas, owning almost 5,300 acres at the time of his death.
One of the Wells' three daughters, Cecil, married Alonzo Jamison Sr. in 1917. Their son, Alonzo Jamison Jr., was born in Prosper in 1918. Alonzo grew up at 610 W. Oak St., but his family inherited the house at 616 W. Oak St. and moved next door.
Jamison attended North Texas State Teachers College, now the University of North Texas. Campus involvement, including editing the Campus Chat newspaper, earned him a spot in "Who's Who" in 1938. He enlisted in the U.S. Army when World War II began, rising to the rank of 1st lieutenant. Jamison was on the front lines in the Battle of the Bulge, earning the Bronze Star for meritorious service. He continued in the U.S. Army reserves after the war, retiring as a colonel in 1974.
Jamison married Elisabeth McCullar at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in 1947. Denton County voters elected him to the Texas House of Representatives for seven consecutive terms from 1955-1969. A faculty position in the History Department of his wife's alma mater, Texas Woman's University, allowed him to use his knowledge of government. He retired as department chairman in 1984.
Jamison died in 2011. His gifts to community groups included $1.5 million to his alma mater, the University of North Texas.
Annetta Ramsay has lived and worked in Denton for many years. She's an OpEd Thought Voices Fellow.
If You Go
Historic Denton's holiday home tour is from from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $20 for adults, $5 for students. For more information or tickets, visit http://bit.ly/2A9D8Wn.
Seven downtown homes will open their doors for the tour:
- The home of Michelle Lynn, 1401 Egan St.
The home of Emily and Hayden Mooney, 1019 Egan St.
The home of Annetta Ramsay and Randy Hunt, 722 W. Oak St.
The home of Lynde and Jamie Oswold, 612 Pearl St.
The home of Maya and Pete Leptuch, 616 W. Oak St.
The home of Erika and Jeff Wegenka, 619 W. Oak St.
The home of Paul Meltzer, 1914 W. Oak St.
FEATURED PHOTO: The house at 616 W. Oak St. is currently owned by Maya and Pete Leptuch, but its previous owners distinguished themselves in good and bad ways — one owner was accused of taking money from the community, and another gave generously. Courtesy photo/Randy Hunt