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Mesquite, TX – September 21, 2021 – Preservation Texas, the statewide non-profit historic preservation advocacy and education organization, recognized Historic Mesquite, Inc.’s restoration of the outbuildings at Opal Lawrence Historical Park as one of only nine projects to receive the 2021 Preservation Texas Honor Award. The award presentation was made at the September 20 Mesquite City Council Meeting.
Evan Thompson, the Executive Director of Preservation Texas, said, “This preservation effort in Mesquite is exemplary, and it is a project that will serve to educate and inspire Texans for many years to come.”
The Lawrence Outbuildings Restoration project included the wash house, root cellar, curing shed, and other workspaces that supported daily life on the farmstead located at Opal Lawrence Historical Park, 711 E. Kearney Street. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark, and is recognized as a Century Family Farm.
The project was completed in 2018, under the stewardship of previous Historic Mesquite Inc. Executive Director, Charlene Orr, who is also a current Preservation Texas Board Member. Susan Cumby, Chairperson of Historic Mesquite, Inc. said, “Prestigious awards like the Preservation Texas Honor Award help Historic Mesquite, Inc. raise awareness of the need to continue preserving our historic buildings and the rich history of our community.”
Preservation contractor Ron Siebler was selected to complete a full restoration of the outbuildings. He said, “Over half of the work in shaping and connecting these materials was performed with traditional hand tools. The result is an environment of palpable historic authenticity, where visitors feel the presence of people doing daily work about 1900.” He shared that the farmstead represents the evolution of domestic buildings from the 1870s - 1920s in North Texas.
In addition to Siebler, many specialists contributed to the project in the areas of masonry, timber framing, and paper conservation. Birnbaum Productions fully documented the project which resulted in the film Past Preserved: Restoration of the Lawrence Outbuildings. And volunteers helped carefully remove and document artifacts from the outbuildings and raised funds to support the restoration of these buildings. Benjamin Moore Paints donated materials for the project.
Historic Mesquite, Inc. Executive Director Toyia Pointer said, “This project is a true restoration of historic life. Visitors to the historical park, including each Mesquite ISD third grader, can now safely experience these structures and imagine the space behind the home as the hub of activity as it once was. The restoration of the wash house, root cellar and curing shed reinvigorate interpretation of the site and offer a fuller, more complex view of daily life of the historic family.”
Stephen Decatur Lawrence, son of John P. Lawrence from Maryland and Fannie Coats Lawrence from 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, a kitchen and a tower (belvedere) were added.
Historic Mesquite, Inc.is organized for the charitable and educational purposes of identifying and preserving historic structures, identifying and securing historic designations for properties, and providing the public with the tools to navigate Mesquite history and culture. Tours of Opal Lawrence Historical Park are available Tuesday - Friday 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and on Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Drop-in visits are welcome, however reservations for group tours are encouraged. There is free admission on the fourth Saturday of each month. For more information, please call Historic Mesquite Inc. at 972-216-6468.