Roving Reporter | "A 140-Year-Old Dream Home: The Fulton Mansion" by Jeanette Larson

The Fultons Dream Home
Just about 140 years ago after three years of construction, George and Harriet Fulton's dream home was completed! After living in a small, ranch-style home nearby, the Fultons moved into their 6,200 square foot "mansion." At the time, the Fultons were considered middle or upper-middle class. Having made some money in the cattle industry, George promised Harriet a big home where they could enjoy life along the coast. And for the time it was a dream home. Among some of the innovative features were central heating and ventilation system, indoor plumbing, and gas lighting. It also featured a basement, a rarity in coastal areas where the water table creates dampness issues. They called their home Oakhurst for the majestic windswept oaks that surrounded the property.

But what if a family were to live in the home today? Would it still be a dream home? That is the question site manager, Dr. Marsha Hendrix and store manager, Melanie Hunt set out to answer in a new exhibit currently at the Fulton Mansion. With the assistance of local architect James Larson, each of the public rooms was re-imagined for today's lifestyle. An exhibit panel compares "required features" in an 1870s dream home with one today.

Dining Room 1870s

While the house has the size required for today's dream house, it has many issues that make it a fixer-upper for any family moving in today. On the plus side it has magnificent views and is hurricane proof. But it has to be painted every five years and would require a lot of renovation for a modern family. One easy change would be the furniture; Victorian homes had a lot of it crowded into rooms. Photo-realistic drawings show how the rooms would look with contemporary furniture. Of course, the home buyers would need to have deep pockets. Building the house new would cost between $775,000 and $1.4 million just based on square footage. Renovations to make the house have an open concept kitchen and modern bathrooms and modern finishes could easily cost $500,000 (mechanical systems were upgraded during restorations or that would be added to the cost). So dream away!

Today's Dining Room
The Fultons lived in their dream home for almost twenty years. Harriet remained in her beloved home until 1896, three years after George's death. The style of home was no longer popular and the mansion sat vacant for ten years. Finally, the home was sold as a "vacation home" that was then rented and sold several times. It served as a restaurant and the ground were used for RV rental spaces. Owner, Mrs. Davidson, gave tours and told ghost stories, leading to the idea that the Mansion was haunted. Finally, in 1976 the State of Texas bought the Mansion to preserve the historic site. It opened to the public in 1983 and enjoys about 30,000 visitors a year.

Parlor 1870

The exhibit is running through mid-October. A reception for members of the Friends of the Fulton Mansion is planned for September 18th to celebrate the anniversary of the Mansion. Contact the Fulton Mansion to find out about how to join the Friends.

Parlor for today's family
San Antonio visitors said they'd love the house if it
came with a maid and a handyman

Master Bedroom


Jeanette Larson is a retired librarian and author. She and her husband, retired architect and artist Jim Larson, moved to Rockport several years ago for the birds, the beach, and the coastal community.

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