History, by H. Neal Parker
Preface: a History of this History
My acquaintance with the Brunner addition began in August 1977, when I purchased for $16,500 a lot (actually 1 1/2 lots) at the corner of Roy and Floyd. The house on that property had been damaged by fire. Several weeks previously I had seen a classified ad for an "antique house" to be moved, located at 415 Edgewood, just off Harrisburg in the East End. I liked the house and as I returned to look at it, I liked it more and more, so I told Larry Jollisant, the house mover, that I wanted it. The package deal --- the house, moving it, levelled on new blocks, new roof --- would cost $9250. But I did not have a place to put it. I looked all over the Heights for a vacant lot but couldn't find one for sale, and was almost at the point of having to tell the house mover that I couldn't buy the house because I didn't have a lot. At the last minute a real estate broker told me that she thought another broker that she knew owned a lot in the West End that was for sale. I contacted him and bought the lot. At that time the West End was a "dead" area from the point of view of real estate activity. On the Saturday before Labor Day, 1977, I began to tear down the burned house. One of the neighbors, Royce Nichols, came over and helped me. The house mover's crew finished the demolition and moved the house, through downtown Houston on Franklin, out Washington Avenue to Roy.
I consulted old city directories to find out about the history of both the house and my specific property, but I did not know much about the history of the neighborhood. In June of 1999, shortly after I retired, I decided to remedy this deficiency and I spent several weeks in the Office of the County Clerk researching the deed records concerning this area. Part of the stimulus for this was a visit with Anne Sloan, who owns the Western Appliance store at the corner of Shepherd and Rose. She had written an article on the history of Washington Avenue and knew a lot about the neighborhood. Her father established the store there in 1947. She kindly lent me the abstract of title to her property.
I was primarily interested in the Brunner Addition because I live there, but I was also interested in the neighborhoods to the west. I discovered that Reinerman Street has always been a major boundary and that the history of the land to the east is very different from that of land to the west. The Brunner Addition is well organized and I was able to finish my research to my satisfaction. The area immediately west of Reinerman is much more complicated and certain details remained mysterious. I was not able to finish the map that is presented here in the appendix, and I was not able to establish exactly where today's streets are relative to the properties indicated there. West of Reinerman in what I will call the Caffey and Dupree tracts the streets were added after the land was sold in small parcels. On the map of the Caffey tract I indicate the approximate position of the streets east of Reinerman. I emphasize that that map is not perfect. My investigation encompassed the Brunner subdivision between Patterson and Reinerman, the Rice Military subdivision between Westcott and 100 feet east of Asbury, and the land between them, which I will refer to as the Caffey tract (Reinerman to Detering) and the Dupree tract (Detering to 100 feet east of Asbury). Brunner and Rice Military are well organized, and I was satisfied with my description of them. The Caffey tract is close to where I live and I investigated it thoroughly, although some interesting issues remain, as for example, where the streets are and how and when they were put in. I was less interested in the Dupree tract, and I did not investigate in any detail how it was split into parcels. I will leave that to someone else. I also wanted to investigate the large property just west of the intersection of Dickson and Reinerman, which is still undeveloped and which belongs to the Holmes family whose best known member is probably Johnny Holmes, former Harris County district attorney. I also wanted to describe in detail the relationship of William Fuchs to the neighborhood. Before I finished my investigations, I was called back to work and then became involved in other projects. I had had the presence of mind to write up a summary of what I had done so far, but my history project was definitely not finished, and I was stymied by the fact there were a few details that I could not figure out. It was an example of the maxim that the pursuit of perfection makes it impossible to achieve the satisfactory.
I am now abandoning perfection in order to present what I have done in order that it can be of use to others who want to know what was here before they arrived. Even though much of the neighborhood has been destroyed, a significant part remains. Anyone with a normal degree of intellectual curiosity will probably want to know the history of his property. That is not hard to do. It is much easier to work backwards through the Deed Records than to go forwards, and it should generally be possible to go backwards from the present to connect to the general history that I present here. The collection of old city directories in the Julia B. Idason building of the Houston Public Library are also very helpful. Also there is a "vertical file" on the West End which contains newspaper clippings and some personal accounts from people who lived here long ago. It may be useful to consult census records. They are available in the Clayton Genealogical Library, a branch of the Houston Public Library.
The following account is what I wrote up in 1999, with a few corrections, and with the addition of what I know about the Holmes tract and about William Fuchs. The books cited are in the Julia B. Idason building. The references in parentheses, e.g., (256/548), refer to the Deed Records (volume/page).
H. Neal Parker