Sunday, February 24, 2013


"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. 

Through the years I've driven past Orange a number of times on I-10, but I've never stopped to enjoy the historical sites. Recently I drove into the town named for wild orange groves on the banks of the Sabine River. Intending to make an overdue visit to the historical attractions of Orange, I stopped first at the magnificent First Presbyterian Church. 

The Orange Presbyterian congregation organized in 1878. By the first decade of the 20th century, Mrs. Henry Jacob Lutcher decided to erect a new sanctuary - the Lutcher Memorial Building - as a memorial to her family. Frances Ann Lutcher never divulged the cost, but no expense was spared, and a maintenance fund was established. Mrs. Lutcher secured an architect from Kansas City. Pink granite came from Llano, while marble was imported from Italy. Construction began in 1908, and the church was dedicated in January 1912. The foyer features three prize-winning stained-glass windows from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. Mrs. Lutcher purchased and stored these windows for future use in her church, and other windows also were ordered from the same New York City artist. There is a grand glass dome and striking columns and a pipe organ that boasts 2,435 pipes. It is one of the most superb examples of church architecture in Texas. 
Looking up at the glass dome

The oldest daughter of Frances and Henry Jacob Lutcher, Miriam, married William Henry Stark in 1881. The Lutcher and Stark families created a fortune through timber, and in 1894 Miriam and William Henry Stark built a splendid Victorian residence. There are regular tours, and entry is through the large carriage house, which exhibits an excellent museum. The Stark Mansion is only a block east of the First Presbyterian Church. 

Across the street from the Stark Mansion is the Stark Museum of Art. The museum showcases an outstanding collection of Western Art, featuring paintings and bronzes by Charles Russell, Frederic Remington, N.C. Wyeth, and other classic Western artists. A fine assembly of Native American objects also is of interest to historians.

The Heritage House Museum is a rambling frame two-story residence built in 1902. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a Recorded Texas Landmark. Inside are period furnishings and changing historical exhibits. I took a long walk and enjoyed a number of other Victorian residences. A visit to the venerable Farmer's Market Mercantile is a step back into the commercial past. While not a historical destination, the Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center is an exceptional tourist attraction, and so is the Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts. The traveler who stops at Orange in the southeastern corner of Texas will be richly rewarded.

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