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Whitehall — a house constructed with care

 
Whitehall — a house constructed with care
Whitehall also is known to many locals as the Polley Mansion. It’s located on F.M. 539, a little east of Sutherland Springs.

By Barbara Wood

We invite you to take a little jaunt down Memory Lane as we go “Just down the road with Barbara,” the first of an occasional column by retired journalist and local historian Barbara J. Wood.

Enjoy stories about bygone times and olden days? I do and have ever since I was a little girl. I was blessed to be born and raised in the Sutherland Springs/La Vernia area, joining generations before and generations after.

Being a Texas country gal, I share Texans’ passion for our history and am pleased to have this opportunity to introduce you to some unique historical characters through our visits. My new column will take us through our rural area, stopping at historic resources. You, the reader, will learn how their importance plays in our rich Texas heritage.

Our drive begins “just down the road” on F.M. 539 east of the Cibolo Creek near Sutherland Springs to Whitehall. However, Whitehall is known by old-timers and introduced to new locals as the Polley Mansion.

Whitehall stands on private property and the public is not allowed beyond the state property line. You are asked to show respect to the owners.

Here’s a bit of history about Whitehall. Col. Joseph H. Polley designed and began construction in 1836 on the substantial limestone house, designed after his childhood home in Whitehall, New York.

The 18-inch thick stones were quarried less than 3 miles away by slaves. Mussel shells from the Cibolo were also burned to make mortar. Supporting beams are made from cypress wood that was hauled from Bandera to the home site. The beams are fastened together by wooden pegs. (I am blessed to have seen the floor beams during one of several tours by Mrs. Collins, owner. As well, my grandparents lived in an authentic log cabin built with the same method.)

Additional lumber, ceiling designed material, and floor material were freighted down the Atlantic Coast across the Gulf to Indianola and then ox carted to the Cibolo. The doors and frames, windows, sashes, and cabinetwork were crafted in New York state and sent along with the window glass and tin solder from the New York harbor to Matagorda Bay.

The eight rooms in the two-story house were constructed four upstairs and four downstairs and warmed by five fireplaces. The room dimensions averaged 16 feet by 17 feet, connected by two halls -- 12 feet wide by 30 feet long -- running the length of the house.

Each room was named a color, except for the “Star Room” and “ Bridal Chamber.”

To keep the heat from the kitchen out of the main house, a post oak log kitchen was connected to the back by a covered roof porch. A large stone-chimneyed open fireplace serviced the kitchen. The porch was closed off on the sides with latticework to serve as an extra dining area when needed, which was frequently.

A simple cistern was underground in an area nearby and was used to catch and hold rainwater.

Whitehall was the 1848 dream home of Col. Polley and took seven to eight years from start to finish. She was an expensive house, lavished with great care with each constructed detail. The striking front was awe-inspiring with the two-full-story veranda, supported by six impressive columns.

In 1944, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Linne purchased the house and took loving care of it until July 1993, due to health issues. New ownership began with a new life for Whitehall.

Whitehall was among the first sites in Wilson County to wear a Texas State Historical Medallion and to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Let’s remember this once majestic lady as she was, wearing her medallion with such grace, not as she is now.

On our next trip just down the road, we will learn how Whitehall bears history’s trademark.

Barbara J. Wood is a retired journalist, freelance writer, local historian, and granny of four boys. Email her at BusyBoJo@gmail.com.

 
 
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