TEXAS VIEW: Historic house faces grim future

By Beaumont Enterprise

Ed Touchet is trying to save the historic Caroline Gilbert Hinchee House in Beaumont, but the outlook is not promising. The grand old home has declined over the years, possibly past the point of no return. The effects of time, water and vandals are all too obvious. Ominously, the city has tagged the venerable building for demolition.

Clearly, it would be a shame if the Hinchee House disappeared, as have so many historic structures in Southeast Texas. Even though all of them can’t be saved, more of them should be. That will only happen if the people, organizations and businesses of this region want it to happen.

It can be done.

The Chambers House at 2240 Calder was built in the same year as the Hinchee House — 1906. Not only has it survived, it’s in pretty good shape.

Yet it had some advantages the Hinchee House didn’t. It wasn’t too run down, and it had a trust fund for donors to support its renovation.

Another point in this familiar dilemma is the name we have come to regard as almost a cuss word — Harvey. It was an equal opportunity destroyer, and you can bet that plenty of historical buildings were soaked by its waters along with countless modern ones. That impact will undoubtedly become more evident in future years, making a difficult challenge even harder.

It’s worth remembering the on-again, off-again plans to preserve the historic Pig Stand restaurant at Calder and MLK in Beaumont. The issue was discussed over the years, but rather aimlessly. The iconic building was eventually torn down, and a boxy convenience store is now being constructed over its memory.

Touchet, a realist as well as a romantic, acknowledges he doesn’t have the money or organizational support he needs for the Hinchee House — for now at least.

He doesn’t even plan to live in the building and wants it used as a community resource or museum to serve more people.

That may be an unconventional plan, but it’s not far-fetched. If Southeast Texas has a person or group that can join him in this quest, they should step forward. History will thank them.