Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taking the Tour

Every second Saturday of December, the Bastrop Historical Society organizes a Historic Homes Tour. I've been going for many years now, because I can't resist the opportunity to see inside some of the grand old ladies that grace old town Bastrop. This year they included the old Christian Church, which was the building that our church congregation was using when we first moved to Bastrop in the early 1970s. The building was our Sunday home for 3 or 4 years until the young congregation became financially able to build their own. Today it is once again being used by the Christian Church and has been lovingly restored and expanded.

When I was deciding which of the houses I would tour today, I realized I had no pictures of the interior of the church, so I stopped by there first.

The interior is lovely, full of Victorian woodwork and stained glass windows. Back when we worshipped there, there was no air conditioning and the windows could be opened on a hinge that tilted them outward. The baptistry is hidden beneath the floor of the podium, with large doors that could be lifted up for access. I've never been in another church with these unique features.

The belfry is accessible up a steep and narrow stairway. The little room at the top of the stairs is only about 5 feet square and we were so short of education space back in those days that my Sunday School class met up there for awhile (until we moved across the street to the waiting room of a small pharmacy, which was about half again as large). While we were there, the house next door was purchased to add educational space and the present church has expanded that property into a larger facility and the grounds between the two buildings have been turned into a lovely garden area.

The docent who was manning the front of the church was very interested in my recollections and insisted on taking my picture seated at the piano, a place where I spent a lot of time once upon a time.

I had a really good time re-exploring this old building and then I walked about 5 blocks to visit another old Victorian building that has long intrigued me. When we moved to Bastrop, this house was a tumble down wreck and no one could figure out what was holding it together. It was occupied at the time by a little old lady without the means to repair it. During the real estate boom a few years later, someone bought the property and began the arduous task of bringing it back to life. It is hard to believe this is the same house.

It is now owned by a politician and the interior is crammed full of antiques and items of Texas historical interest. My fingers were itching as I walked through, but the best thing in the whole house was the library upstairs - 3 sides of the room were large windows and every square space of wall had custom cabinetry to hold a huge collection of books. The view was fabulous. I would cheerfully kill for a room like that.

I visited three more houses of the seven on the tour (I skipped one that has been on the tour several times, the old bank building and the museum since I had been there recently), then snaked my way out of downtown. Today was not only the homes tour but the monthly arts fair and the Christmas parade and just about every street downtown was blocked off. I don't know how the visitors figured out how to get around. We locals took off down alleys and side streets to make our escape from the Christmas crowds.

It's funny to talk to the docents at these old buildings. You realize very quickly that most of them are recent imports to Bastrop. They start to tell you about the house you are in and you are tempted to take over and tell them a few things. I guess I've reached the point where I have to admit that I'm a Bastrop old-timer. Hard to believe that I've now lived here more than 60% of my life.

I was already feeling old today. Now I feel as ancient as these old buildings.


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