The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 454
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Southwestern IHzstorzcal Quarterly
Houston's Forgotten Heritage: Landscape, Houses, Interzors, 1824- 1914. By Dorothy
Knox Howe Houghton, Barrie M. Scardino, Sadie Gwin Blackburn, and
Katherine S. Howe. (Houston: Rice University Press, 1991. Pp. vii+ 387.
Foreword, preface, black-and-white photographs, notes, index. $49.95.)
Soon after historian William Seale published The TasteJul Interlude: American
Interiors Through the Camera's Eye, 186o-197, a collection of over 250 period
photographs of American domestic interiors, Melinda Young Frye wrote in the
Wznterthur Portfolio that "it should inspire local historians to look deeply in their
own communities for similar visual records that may be applied to specific re-
gional projects." Houston is one of the few communities that has taken the
challenge to heart. In Houston's Forgotten Heritage, the authors, all members of
the Junior League of Houston, have collected not only photographs of' house
interiors, but also of landscapes, architecture, and social life.
It is fitting that William Seale has written the foreword and Margaret Swett
Henson the introduction, a concise history of Harris County. These precede
the four illustrated essays on gardening, houses, furnishings, and domestic life.
Sadie Gwin Blackburn provides readers with a glimpse of the Houston land-
scape in the early nineteenth century and tracks the terrain into the early twen-
tieth century when landscape design became a discipline and a profession. Her
contribution on the Houston environment addresses topics that need attention:
Texas gardens, parks, and cemeteries.
Writing about domestic architecture, Barrie M. Scardino focuses on con-
struction techniques and building materials of early Texas houses, while not
neglecting the manner in which Houston houses fit within the mainstream of
American architectural styles. Scardino demonstrates her familiarity with wide-
ranging secondary sources and effectively uses the Sanborn fire-insurance
maps to interpret Houston's built environment.
Katherine S. Howe's essay focuses on the furnishings of Houston's early
homes. Drawing on the trend-setting middle and upper middle classes, Howe
places the taste of Houstonians clearly within the styles of house interiors that
were popular nationwide. She uses probate records, especially inventories, city
directories, and family papers, and includes over fifty interior photographs to
illustrate her subject.
In the final entry, Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton places the material cul-
ture within the context of social history. Perhaps better placed at the beginning
of the book, this essay ably covers myriad topics: transportation, foodways, cus-
toms and social rituals, health, and public institutions.
In any subsequent edition, authors might consider supplying the dates that
each photograph was taken (even approximate ones) and providing readers
with a conclusion to their original essays. Neither of these suggestions, how-
ever, mars the usefulness of the League's present work.
The book represents only a part of the Junior League's ambitious efforts. In
conducting the research, project members created a large archival collection
now housed at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston
Public Library. This book, as well as the collection that awaits the further work
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/m1/512/?rotate=270: accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.