Texas Heritage, Fall 1983

The Bybees found their first restoration project
after World War II when they happened to motor
past a classic Greek-revival mansion built by Mr.
J.M. Brown at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Faith
Bybee recalls: "When Mr. Bybee saw the Brown
place and how delapidated it was, he said, 'Somebody
has to save this house and it might as well be
me.'"
Another lasting benefit of Charles Bybee's
enthusiasm for preservation and restoration was
that it was infectious. Faith Bybee says: "At first,
Mr. Bybees's friends in Houston thought Fayette
County was the back side of the moon. But as
people would come and visit and see what he was
doing, they began to ask him to find old places for
them to restore." Charles Bybee worked closely
with Miss Ima Hogg in her involvement with
restoration, notably with her ambitious project at
Winedale. And his partnership with his wife in
collecting early Texas and American furniture,
textiles, paintings, pottery, tools and other
memorabilia, has resulted in the Charles Lewis
Bybee Memorial Collection, which is a treasure
of heritage unique in Texas.
But Charles Bybee was not just a collector.
He was an actively involved preservationist and
as much as any project he undertook, that of
saving the Neese house appealed to his engineering
instincts. Faith Bybee says, "Mr. Bybee asked a
lot of engineers and architects to look at the
Neese house - particularly the west wall which
was about to crumble away - and they all said he
was going to have to tear that bad wall down.
Well everytime he heard that he'd say, "Lueckemeyer,
have you come up with a way to save that
wall?' Finally we worked out an idea. I said 'I don't
know for sure it'll work.' But he said, 'Let's do it.'
And what you see there today is the original wall
pretty much the way they built it in the first
place."
Charles L. Bybee died only a few years after
the Warrenton mansion's restoration was completed,
with the west wall righted and made
sound, with the timbers and joints strengthened
and with most of the original window panes retained,
along with their wavy lines and bird's eye
impurities. Faith Bybee adds, "That's what he believed
preservation was all about. He didn't just
want to find adaptive uses for things or gussy up
old buildings. More than anything, he felt it was
important to be true to history."J -

Honoring
the
craftsman
(Second in a series of
profiles on THF award
winners.)
"I always did like to take something
that was about gone and
try to fix it up," says Ed
Lueckemeyer of Brenham. "But
you have to put things back to- Ed Lueckemey(
gether just like they were or it's The exterior wa
not preservation." This dedica- inches thick. Ph,
tion to preservation and restoration
of historic buildings and furniture earned
Lueckemeyer the John Ben Shepperd Craftsmanship
award presented in June at the THF annual
meeting. For more than 27 years Lueckemeyer has
restored historic buildings for the Texas Pioneer
Arts Foundation in Round Top, and is currently reproducing
specimens from the Round Top furniture
collections.
At the early age of fourteen, Lueckemeyer
unknowingly committed his life to restoration and
preservation of Texas heritage. Prior to that time
he had learned the craft of blacksmithing from his
father, as working of the iron was a long established
family trade. His father, and his father before
him, were both wheel-wrights, men whose
occupations were to make or repair wheels and
wheeled vehicles. This craft incorporates the skills
of a blacksmith and the use of carpenter's tools.
Young/Ed listened to his grandfather's stories from
the ast relating to the use of old tools, such as the
broad ax, hand planers and joiners. These anecdotes
soon became practical lessons in the use of
these tools, sharpening skills to be used for the
next half-century as a carpenter and restorationist.
Carpentry was still hard, hot work, but it was a
little cooler than forge-welding metal over a glowing
fire. However it was a combination of these
and many other crafts learned through the years
that saved hundreds of historical buildings and
pieces of furniture.
In working with the buildings at Round Top
Lueckemeyer found that some of the original tim

er pauses at a window of the Neese house.
ils of this second story room are sixteen
oto by Kirk Tuck.

ber had to be replaced. "You get in there to replace
a board and find that its an odd-sized piece. So you
have to cut your own lumber. I found an old saw
mill out on the edge of town and restored it. I was
glad to have been a blacksmith to know how to do
it right," Lueckemeyer says proudly. "After we got
that mill going, we went into the logging business
too!"
Matching materials in a restoration job is as
painstaking as the work itself, "but it's harder to
find anybody to teach the trade to," says
Lueckemeyer. "By the time you teach them something
they move on to greener pastures."
Restoration of a building requires not only talent
as a craftsman but often demands an equal degree
of common sense and ingenuity. The Neese house
in Warrenton is a stately and elegant structure, but
like many of the early Texas homes, it was built
without sophisticated tools or engineering. The
west wall of the two-story stone house was built
without any supporting footings or foundation and
was in danger of collapsing. "It was just sitting on
the ground," says Lueckemeyer. "And you know
how black dirt is, it just heaves and shoves. We
had to straighten that wall before we could do anything
to the rest of the house." Several engineers
and architects agreed the best approach was to tear
down the wall and start from scratch. But Mr.
Bybee did not want to rebuild it that way. "We
used to go to the Neese house and just sit there and
look at that wall, and talk about the ways to fix
(continued on page 9)

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Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Fall 1983. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45449/. Accessed August 4, 2015.