Another Peterson Prize

A&M’s domination of national historic
preservation award continues with
survey of Margaret Houston home

The historic documentation of the home of Sam Houston’s wife, Margaret, in Independence, Texas, led by Samer Al-Ratrout, a doctoral candidate in architecture at Texas A&M University, earned second place honors in the 2004 Charles E. Peterson Prize competition.

The “Mrs. Sam Houston House” project was the 15th historical documentation by an A&M student to be honored in the Peterson Prize competition, which annually recognizes the best set of measured drawings prepared by students to Historic American Building Survey (HABS) standards.

HABS began in 1933, as one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives. It was devised by a young National Park Service employee, Charles E. Peterson, as a way to employ one thousand architects who had lost their jobs as a result of the Great Depression. They were charged with documenting what Peterson called, “America’s antique buildings.” Today, HABS is the only Works Progress Administration program still in operation.

The Peterson Prize was established to honor the HABS founder and to increase awareness and knowledge of historic American buildings while adding to the permanent HABS collection of measured drawing in the Library of Congress. Throughout its 19-year history, historic preservation students from Texas A&M have dominated the Peterson competition, earning nine awards and nine honorable mentions — more than any other competing institution — since joining the competition in 1984.

As part of the 2004 Peterson Prize Award, Al-Ratrout was invited to participate, as the A&M documentation team’s representative, in the AIA Historic Resources Committee’s “Dialogue on Historic Preservation and Architectural Education” held last November in Washington, D.C.

The award also included $2000, which the project team donated to Texas A&M’s Historic Resources Imaging Laboratory in support of preservation education initiatives.

In addition to the Peterson Prize, the “Mrs. Sam Houston House” project received the Kenneth Anderson Award, presented annually to the best set of HABS drawings submitted from Texas. The award honors former HABS chief and Texas Tech graduate Kenneth Anderson. The project team contributed funds earned from the Anderson Award to HRIL Fellows Scholarships.

According to an entry in the Handbook of Texas Online, after Sam Houston’s death in 1863, Margaret was in serious financial straits. She moved to Independence to be once again near her mother, who had emerged from the Civil War with some money.

Mrs. Houston rented the house and labored to hold her family together. Her condition eventually eased when the state legislature voted to pay her the unpaid balance of Houston’s salary as governor of Texas.

In the fall of 1867, while preparing to move with her youngest children to Georgetown, to live with her married daughter, Nannie, she contracted yellow fever. She died at Independence on December 3, 1867.

Aggie Peterson Prize honors:

1984 Cavitt House and Log Cabin, Wheelock , Texas Second Place
1984 Schmid Brothers Building , Brenham , Texas

Third Place

1986 Hammond House, Calvert , Texas Honorable Mention
1988 Gay-McGregor-Allen House, Brazos County , Texas Honorable Mention
1988 Harrington-Upham House, Millican, Texas Honorable Mention
1990 Grimes County Courthouse, Anderson , Texas

First Place

1991 Giddings-Wilkin House, Brenham, Texas

First Place

1992 Coulter House and Carriage House, Bryan , Texas Honorable Mention
1993 John Moore House, Richmond , Texas Honorable Mention
1994 Rowell-Ware Dependency, Jefferson , Texas Fourth Place
1996 Union Trading Company Complex, Fort Davis , Texas First Place
1996 Harris-Martin House, Anderson , Texas Fourth Place
1999 Seward Plantation , Independence , Texas

Third Place

2004 Mrs. Sam Houston House, Independence , Texas Second Place

— The End —

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