Tour of homes spotlights Calvert

Bronwyn McGlothlin shows from where the design for her house came.


The Home Tour portion of Calvert’s marvelous May weekend featured more homes and other historic structures than any similar event in recent history.  On Saturday, visitors packed Calvert’s downtown and east side, getting looks at Victorian and Edwardian homes that are completely renovated, in the midst of renovation, or a gleam in its owner/renovator’s eyes.

Bronwyn McGlothlin’s Queen Anne style cottage is a Calvert classic—poster perfect and unique.  From its gracious and comfy front porches, unique chimney—a brick masterpiece that defines the façade—McGlothlin’s Queen Anne has been featured in several publications (including MIT’s coverage of historic structures) as THE example of a Queen Anne cottage.  Though it achieves over twice the height of what one would think of as a “cottage” and has a cellar to boot, it was probably a little too narrow (only 3 bedrooms and a sitting room on the second floor) to put it in the “house” or “mansion” category.

McGlothlin’s favorite interior feature is the original woodwork, lots of it, uncovered after hours of removing paint—“all 14 layers of it!”  Outside, she loves the porches that embrace the façade.  The shingles are pretty amazing too.

This Queen Anne was constructed from a kit manufactured in Knoxville, TN that arrived in Calvert on flatbed railcars in 1894.  Today, it’s a bed and breakfast (the Parish House) that takes visitors right back to the Edwardian period—with modern amenities for comfort, of course.

On the other end of the spectrum is John O’Donnell’s Greek revival house (potentially a mansion) on Texas Street—a brilliant gleam in O’Donnell’s eye.  Since O’Donnell bought the Foster home a few years ago, he’s been preparing to renovate—first making the little cottage beside it livable, then building the carriage house/barn (O’Donnell’s not sure which) in back.  In a couple of months, the renovation that lots of folks in Calvert have waited for with baited breath will begin.  “Realistically,” said O’Donnell, “I’m looking at five years.”

The Foster/O’Donnell house is undoubtedly one of the most impressive in Calvert but it has fallen into disrepair over the years.  The 1878 Greek Revival began as a Gothic structure in the 1800s but the 1900 hurricane that almost wiped out Galveston and damaged towns all the way up to Chicago, destroyed its gingerbread exterior.  It returned as a Greek Revival—at least in the front—with a portico-like upstairs balcony.  Very cool.

Since O’Donnell’s purchase, he has been acquiring parts—woodwork, pocket doors, windows, etc.—and even the wrought iron fence which the previous owner had sold.  He bought the fence back.

O’Donnell plans to start with the exterior—improving the foundation first.  He wants to extend the Greek Revival features, get rid of the Victorian ones, and add a colonnaded back porch.  “I want to simplify the roofline,” he added.  Then, all those items piling up in the house will help transform the interior.

How does O’Donnell work as a Houston attorney all week and renovate all weekend?  “It’s a labor of love,” he says.  “I always wanted to be an architect.”


Melissa Freeman /

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