Donley County Historical
Address: 507 W. Fifth
Narrative: The Martin-Lowe House is a two-and-a-half-story frame house built of cypress wood in 1904 in the Queen Anne style. It is prominently sided on an attractive city lot in an older residential area of Clarendon, Texas. Numbered among its distinguishing characteristics are the bay areas, the encircling veranda on the north and east sides, the conical roof which has a striking needle-like finial, the exterior cypress clapboard siding on the first story and an elaboration of patterned shingles on the entire upper portion, and the two pedimented dormers on the half story with a projecting overhang. The original lightning rods and weather vanes, as well as the imposing center chimney, make the house stand tall and majestic with a true awareness of its splendid legacy to the town of Clarendon and the Panhandle.
The front elevation, which faces north, features a generously wide, six-step entry to the north side of the wraparound porch. The entry handrails and balusters match the porch rails and balusters, and a newel post complements this in a harmonious fashion. The exterior of the first story is clapboard and the second and half stories are done in various kinds of ornamental shingles: square, cove diamond, and butts. From the front elevation the six porch columns are beautifully displayed and mounted on terra-cotta brick supports which are the same height as the handrail on the balusters. Beneath the overhanging veranda is a wide, 42 inch front door with beveled glass and bead-and-cove sticking. To the left of the front door is a three-sided bay window, while paired directly above this bay is another bay on the second floor. The two ornamentally shingled gables on the half story are very prominent and seem to add much height to the house. Also, from the front elevation one can see the conical roof with the tall, decorative feature and needle-like finial which adds up to a striking visual display. A stationary, almost square window with twelve 8-by- 8-inch panes on the north side is another element that adds to the asymmetrical composition of the facade. Originally, the sidewalks were wooden board walks; concrete was laid later. Since the concrete could not be repaired, a wide, handsome walk has been laid recently, and is made from historic street pavers-a gift from the city of Clarendon. On each side of the walk is a 22-inch flower bed edged in cypress wood and running the entire length to the porch entry.
On the north and east veranda, a rectangular panel with a frieze of spindles has been added at the top between each pair of porch posts, and at its juncture with each post is placed a fan-shaped bracket. This recent frieze should be considered a modest, modern decorative element typical of the period, rather than an actual historic feature. Period paint colors have recently been used on the exterior.
The east elevation is more simply decorated than the front elevation. The main features are a veranda that continues on the east side, with an entry from the east section of the yard. There is also another three-sided bay area off the dining room. A large native persimmon tree, over 60 years old, is on the east side of the house and can be seen directly outside the kitchen window.
The south elevation shows the back of the sun porch, as well as the roof of the kitchen and library on the first level--all of which has a lean-to effect. Also visible are the two windows on the second floor; the south window of one bedroom and a window of an upstairs bath. Restoration work has not yet been done on the lean-to porch. A beautiful hackberry tree grows about thirty feet from the porch, and is a redeeming scenic feature for the south elevation.
The west elevation has a distinctive view because of the threesided bay window on the first floor, which is paired with another three-sided bay on the accord floor; both are directly under the conical roof.
There are no outbuildings around the house except for a single-car garage which was built soon after Sam W. Lowe bought the house in 1926. Earlier stables were removed prior to that time.
Upon entering the front door, one finds a large reception area. On the right is a semicircular bench in the bay window area, and to the left are two 9-foot pocket doors; each door has seven panels. These two doors lead to the parlor, which is highlighted by an ornate fireplace with a mantel that has one rectangular and two oblong beveled mirrors. The mantel also has embossed molding, raised-wood carving, and two columns five inches in diameter with pilaster capitals. The fireplace facing and hearth are laid in 11/2 by 6 inch enameled tile. The fire opening has a summer front polished to look like copper.
Dividing the reception room at midpoint is a lovely cased opening with two large columns. In passing the cased opening, one finds on the right another built-in seating area and, on the left, two more pocket doors identical to the ones already mentioned. They lead to a dining room featuring a built-in china cabinet of stained, beveled, and leaded glass, a bay window seating area, and a fireplace. At the south end of the reception room is a wide main stairway with two handsome newel posts. The dining room and parlor join, and are divided by another set of pocket doors.
A butler's pantry, kitchen, library, large bath, sun porch, and back stairway are also on the ground floor.
The upstairs has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, while the stair landing off the bedrooms is adequate for a small sitting room.
The woodwork in the house is in fine condition and remains in brown stain and clear varnish except for the bathrooms, the kitchen and one bedroom. These rooms were painted years ago.
The Martin-Lowe House was built in 1904 by F. D. Martin. His wife Nellie S. Martin owned a very fine mercantile store and was energetic in civic activities. Also, he and his wife added much to the musical and social life of the community. In 1926 R. H. Muir, Sr., sold the house to S. W. Lowe and wife Lilac, and this was to be the Lowes' home for the next fifty-six years. This Queen Anne structure, with the Lowe family as the occupants, weaves a well-established social and civic fabric in Clarendon's heritage. Many factors add to the elaborate texture of the Martin-Lowe House, and each occupying family (Martins, Calhouns, Muirs, and Lowes) added to the historic significance of the structure.
On April 30, 1904, the Clarendon Chronicle carried an item in its Local and Personal Column stating that "F. D. Martin will begin the erection of a handsome residence in southwest Clarendon in the coming week."1. On July 20, 1904, another news item appeared which stated that "the new residence of F. D. Martin was well under way and would make quite a showing when completed."2 The Martins, natives of Tennessee, owned a very fine mercantile store which advertised tailor-made suits, real Valencia-lace handkerchiefs, and linen and Battenberg material.3. The Martins were most sympathetic to the arts. Clarendon was proud to have an opera house during this era, and "it is said that many times the female singers would dress at the Martin house for the performance."
The Martin House was acquired in 1910 by San Antonio rancher John M. Calhoun and his wife Annie Moss, who used the structure as a summer residence. R. H. Muir, a rancher, cattle buyer and inspector, bought the house four years later, continuing the tie with ranching, the key industry of the region.
S. W. Lowe and his wife Lilac bought the MartinLowe House in 1926, and lived there for fifty-six years. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lowe first lived in south Texas, although after they finished college and were married they came to this area. Mr. Lowe was Dean of Goodnight Baptist College, which was located about 20 miles northwest of Clarendon. Mrs. Lowe served as matron in charge of the girls' dormitory. They then moved to Clarendon where he became the high school principal. In 1919 Mr. Lowe decided to go into the grocery business and did this for twenty years. He served three terms as judge of Donley County. The Lowes were active in the First Baptist Church, where Mr. Lowe served as a deacon, Sunday School Superintendent for twenty years, taught a class for over fifty years, and was an active lay preacher. Mrs. Lowe taught the beginners Sunday School class for over forty years.
During the fifty-six years that the Lowe family lived in the present house, they opened their doors for district and local church affairs, receptions for visiting dignitaries, club meetings, weddings, and funerals. Mr. Lowe died in 1968 and Mrs. Lowe in 1982. Clarendon in 1904 was very much a frontier of American culture and arts. It is hoped that the restoration of this fine historic house will help preserve a feeling of the times for future generations.
1. Clarendon Chronical, Clarendon, Texas, 1904. Microfilm, Panhandle Plains Historical Museum Archives, Canyon, Texas.
4 . Mr. S. W. Lowe, from a taped interview made by Zell R. SoRelle in December 1980.
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