Opal Lawrence Historical Park
Opal Lawrence Historical Park
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark
History of the Lawrence House and Family
Stephen Decatur Lawrence, son of John P. Lawrence of Maryland and Fannie Coats Lawrence of Tennessee, began building the Mesquite landmark Lawrence house in 1874, when he completed three rooms. In 1882, contractor Charley Florrer built an additional 14 rooms. Between 1886-1900, the kitchen and tower (belvedere) were added.
The home, which is considered Texas prairie vernacular styling, is basically in the same condition as it was originally built, with few modifications over the years. Outbuildings include a smokehouse, brick-lined root cellar, a wash house, large livestock barn (also built by Mr. Florrer in 1887) and mule barn. Assorted chicken coops also still are intact. The farmstead complex is representative of the evolution of domestic buildings from the 1870s to the late 20th century on the North Texas plains and blackland prairie. Lawrence family members continually resided at the home until November 1995.
S.D. Lawrence was first married to Louisa Porter of Mesquite. They had three surviving children, including a son, John Lawrence, who served as mayor of Mesquite for three terms - 1917-1923, 1925-1928 and 1949-1953. His siblings were Ida Bell and Charley. As a widower, S.D. married his second wife, Louisa Hill Walker of Missouri. They had five daughters, Ruby, Pearl, Opal, Garnet and Onyx, and three sons, Eddie, Hugh and Hill.
S.D. Lawrence was no stranger to public life. He served on the committee to begin Mesquite ISD and helped to raise funds for the first Mesquite school buildings.
Opal, Onyx and Garnet lived on the family farm their entire lives. They raised cattle and hens and sold eggs to regular customers. Opal and Garnet never married; Onyx married Fowler Summers, who joined Onyx and her sisters on the farm. Fowler passed away August 11, 1981, and Garnet passed away August 31, 1981. Opal and Onyx continued to take care of the farm until 1995, when Opal passed away September 4, and Onyx November 21.
Opal Lawrence’s last will and testament gave the City of Mesquite the house and two acres. The City then purchased an additional 11 acres to include the barn and outbuildings.
A Texas Historical Marker dedication ceremony was held November 23, 1998, and the property was Officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places September 9, 1999.
Historic Mesquite, Inc. is currently raising funds for the restoration of the property for a historical museum and learning center. A large and successful event is held on the property every year - Dinner Under the Cedars, scheduled in the month of October. Proceeds from the events go directly to the restoration efforts and to a sustaining trust fund for the property.
Other projects for support include a Restore-A-Room program, where sponsors may "adopt" a room and, upon completion, a plaque will be installed with the sponsor’s name. Donations are also accepted for event expenses, the barn and outbuildings, and for the historic homes that will be moved onto the property. A historic 1850s cabin was donated to the property and donations are being accepted for its restoration.