Texas Time Machine

I love stepping back in time. Through the pages of a book, the visual delight of a period movie or television series, looking at old pictures, digging into research, or even working on a craft that has been practiced for hundreds of years. There is something about the past that is just so romantic and enticing to me.

It probably comes as no surprise, then, that when my daughter and I met up in Waco for a girl’s weekend a few months ago, we spent our time stepping through as many time portals as we could. In a previous post I shared about the Waco Suspension Bridge that was built to allow cattle to be driven over the Brazos (you can find that post here), but today, I’d like to share some photos from my favorite visit of the the day – The East Terrace House Museum.

The house was built in 1872 on the east bank of the Brazos River. J.W. Mann built the house for his wife Cemira in the style of an Italianate Villa to please her eastern sensibilities.

The tour started off in perfect style when the door was opened by our docent who was dressed in period costume. She is a history student from Baylor working on her master’s degree, and she was the perfect hostess.

This was Mr. Mann’s study/library and was situated immediately to the left of the front door.

The first room we toured was the library, which of course became one of my favorites. Reading by a fire with plenty of natural light in what was probably the quietest room of the house.

Passing through the doorway with our guide, we came to the ladies sitting room. A larger space with more furniture to allow one to sit with friends and family while plying a needle or writing some letters. It is hard to tell from this photograph, but the desk and chair in the corner that belonged to Mrs. Mann seemed better suited to a child. She was such a tiny woman, that even with the full skirts of her day, her chairs were more comparable to those for children than adults.

Next we came to the elaborate dining room. The table is set with the family china, and each place setting has its own salt cellar. They preserved so many family heirlooms in this marvelous home.

The next set of rooms we came to were large, open double parlors that could be used for all manner of entertaining. These were matched on the second story with a long ballroom. But on the main floor, the highlight was the nook on the far end that created a music room with Cemira’s harp and piano.

I mentioned earlier how small Mrs. Mann was. Do you see the open window in this picture? She was small enough to use these openings as doors and would simply walk through them whenever she chose to go outside.

At the back of the house was the kitchen. When the home was originally built, the kitchen would have been detached from the house, but as time passed and things were modernized, it joined with the main house.

At the back of the kitchen were a set of stairs, and at the top of these stairs was the bathroom that would serve the family whose bedrooms were situated on this second floor. The Mann home was the first to have running water in Waco, although initially, the water only ran one direction–out. Water would still have to be heated on the kitchen stove and carted upstairs, but when the bath was over, the water would drain out. Not too much longer, the Waco Waterworks were built right across the street from East Terrace, allowing full-service plumbing.

This bedroom was a guest suite situated off of the ballroom. Ladies could use it as a retiring room to rest or repair their hair or dress. Or if the party lasted long into the night, it could serve as an overnight respite. It is not visible in this photo, but there was also a Murphey bed along the wall on the left. When put up, it looked like a fancy wood panel with a full-length mirror attached. But if called upon, it could be lowered to allow more space for guests to sleep.

There was another bedroom through the doorway.

I saved my favorite place in the house for last. This staircase let up to the tower room that offered magnificent views of the Brazos and surrounding areas. But it is this nook tucked beneath the staircase that captured my heart. A small little sewing nook with natural lighting and trunk to hold supplies. I would love to convert this into a cozy reading nook with shelves full of my favorite historical novels close at hand. I think I’ll keep the sewing machine, though, for ambiance.

Do you enjoy touring historic homes or perhaps collecting antiques?
Which room shown above would you choose to incorporate into your own home?

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For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.

42 thoughts on “Texas Time Machine”

  1. I was a history and English major, so I have toured many historical sites and love it. I’m planning to visit my son in Tennessee in a couple of weeks, and I asked him if we could visit a nearby 1800’s plantation house.

  2. I like to sew and read, so maybe the nook. However, I also really enjoy all my books and a place all my own with some space to do things, so perhaps the library.

  3. What a stunning, well-appointed home! So cool they had so many of the original family’s things! I love going through old buildings – got to do that a bunch when we took a Mississippi river cruise (highly recommend).

  4. Anything historical is my favorite place to go or thing to do! I would love to see this place!

  5. I love to tour older homes! Which is one of the things I did when I visited Savannah. I also like old churches, too. I’ve seen outside older homes in Georgia and Florida, as they were still being lived in and you couldn’t go through them. I love to see how things are different from way back to now. My favorite room would be the library!

    • I inherited a few antiques from my grandmother, which I love. I don’t have the time or patience to shop for them myself, and I have no talent when it comes to restoration, but I sure love seeing the work that others do to bring historic items back to life.

  6. oh what a wonderful place. I love to go through old homes like this. I went through Montecello once. Fabulous. And near us is Cantigny. Both places have the most gorgeous gardens as well. This is one reason I love to quilt. It is a time honored craft that I love to pass on to others as well as remember what it was done like many years ago. The history is fascinating to me.
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    • You would have loved this tour, Lori. several of the beds had antique quilts on them. One even had a quilt where the ladies who contributed blocks stitched their names into the fabric. That was my favorite. Women embroidered in history. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Karen, these old homes were so lovely and built to last for centuries. I just love seeing how those people lived back then. Next time I’m in Waco, I’m going to have to visit this home. Thanks for the tour.

  8. I loved this post about The East Terrace Museum! It is so much fun to see your photos and hear about your tour. What a beautiful home Mr. Mann built for his family. Thank you for sharing!

  9. I love touring old homes especially ones with the original owners possessions displayed. They give you a feeling for the lifestyle of the time period depicted. I love the nook under the stairs.

  10. Karen, great post. I love touring old houses and really seeing how people lived, the furnishings, the cooking utensils, and the “modern” amenities they used.

    • There is always some creative device to discover that I wouldn’t have imagined people used. In this house, there was a high chair in the nursery that could be switched around to become a child’s rocking chair. Ingenious! And not terribly safe.

  11. I love touring historical houses! This one is so pretty, I love the style of the house. I think my favorite room is the library though, it looks so cozy.

  12. Wow, what a lovely house, thank you so much for sharing your photos, I think my favorite room would have to be the library. Have a great rest of the week and stay safe. I love going to museums . When my daughter was at Baylor in Waco, she took me to the Armstrong Browning Library and Museum, I loved it.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your tour of this house. It is lovely. Interestingly, there are are a few pieces that a much like ones we own, The roll top desk is identical to ours, as is the old trunk under the stairs and the chair next to it. There are many other pieces very similar to some we have. I have not seen a tub like this one and love it. Ours is just an old claw footed style. This one would be much easier to clean around. I would keep the nook under the stairs as a sewing spot for my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine and trunk. I would put our pump organ in the music room, but the nook where the harp is would be my reading corner.
    Visiting houses and other historic places is something we have always done on our trips. It is enjoyable stepping back in time to see how people lived, what has changed, and what has stayed the same. We spent 24 years in the military furnishing our house at flea markets, shops and auctions. We got some wonderful buys at auctions and junk stores. We were furnishing the house we hoped to have some day with furniture of the same period. We now have that house, an 1898 victorian farm house. It isn’t fancy, but has the ginger breading and some nice woodwork. We looked at some much nicer ones (a couple similar to this one) when we were still in the military, but were never in a position to settle where they were. We love our spot in the country, on a hill with a beautiful view of the mountains.

    • Patricia! Your house and all your antique pieces sound amazing!!! What a wonderful life-long collection you’ve put together. I bet each piece has a special memory to go with it with all the places you’ve lived. Fabulous!

  14. Fabulous pictures. Thank you so much for sharing. I loved to explore old homes when I could walk. I would love to incorporate all the rooms into my home. God bless you.

  15. Wow, I am a Baylor Bear and I never visited this house! I missed out big time! Did you go to the Armstrong Browning Library on Baylor campus while you were there? We love that museum/library.

    I wish I had gone here, it reminds me of the Moody Mansion and Bishop’s Palace on Galveston Island. Have you toured those? I love imagining living there. Everything is always so small– clothes, furniture… I love the instruments in old houses, so my favorite here would be the room with the piano and harp. I play the piano.

    Thanks for all the photos, I really want to go back to Waco and tour this now! And maybe visit the Dr. Pepper museum while we’re there…

  16. Wow, I am a Baylor Bear and I never visited this house! I missed out! Did you visit the Armstrong Browning Library while in Waco? That’s one of our favorites.

    This reminds me of the Moody Mansion and Bishop’s Palace in Galveston Island. Have you toured those? I love old houses, everything is so small– clothes, furniture…

    I play piano, so my favorite room here would have to be the one with the harp and piano.

    I want to go back to Waco now and see this house! And maybe visit the Dr Pepper Museum while we’re there…

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