Still owned by a member of the family that built it back in the day, the last remaining original home fronting Pinemont Drive east of Ella Boulevard will be observing its 75th anniversary in December. Quietly, however.
What with all the roadway and drainage work (still) underway in front of the singular property, it’s unlikely a banner will fly to mark the occasion. But the home’s milestone is notable nonetheless for the neighborhood, the family that owns it – and the long-term tenant who appreciates the well-maintained home’s vintage vibe.
The Back Story
Homeowner Diane Buchanan Payne, now of Spring, says her late parents sought to move into the country when they purchased the land previously occupied by Connor Dairy Farm. At the time, the two-block street off Shepherd Drive was called Pierson Road and it was a dead-end – with no bus service.
“People thought they’d lost their minds,” she says.
The young couple had been renting a room with a kitchen and bathroom privileges in Houston’s West End. Their landlady apparently found them charming; she lent them the $500 for the purchase of a place of their own, one fitted with indoor plumbing, electricity and a 1.5 acre lot.
Shingle-sided and set back from the street on a deep lot, the home came with two bedrooms, a bathroom, living and dining rooms and a kitchen with breakfast nook. Its wide front porch has been catching breezes, conversations and the friendly waves of passersby for decades.
Timing Proved Historic
James and Mildred Buchanan were ages 28 and 21 when they signed the final paperwork and took possession – the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As family lore has it, Payne’s mother was worried the war would take her husband, leaving her to make the monthly $27 payment herself.
That didn’t happen, however. Payne’s father, previously a school teacher at George Washington Junior High School on Shepherd Drive (which closed in 1980 and became the High School for Law and Justice), joined IBM and worked downtown. He spent the war years in armament support from the burgeoning Port of Houston.
Once settled into their country home, the couple never lived anywhere else, Payne says. They eventually acquired adjacent properties, amassing about five acres, later parceled off and sold.
James Buchanan was a handyman homeowner. One of his projects was to build a breezeway between the one-car garage and home. He also converted the sunroom into a sewing haven for his wife. The custom cabinetry remains, as do a few other vestiges of the home’s origins.
The kitchen, for example, sports the original flooring, iron H-hinges, appliances and a fair amount of honeycomb style tile countertops. Similar tile choices in the bathroom are a testament to a design choice so vintage it is once again in style. The tilework’s survival and excellent condition owe a lot to the years when inexpensive, rubber backed carpet was the go-to design trend. It emerged flawless when uncovered as part of prepping the property for tenants after Payne’s mother passed away a decade ago. Other updates upgraded the HVAC from what had been an effective attic fan cooling system later boosted with window units.
Tweaks Over Time
Payne recalls how it took until the early ‘60s for the property’s infrastructure to upgrade from the era of septic tanks and pump water. Ditto adding curb-and-gutter finishes to the streetscape, which included a ditch and sidewalk closer to the two-lane road.
Sue Marie Lane brought the area its first concrete roadway, Payne recalls. As such, it was ripe for roller skating, a popular pursuit for the youths raised in adjacent subdivisions that came along as suburbia formed: Shepherd Park Plaza and Candlelight Estates.
“We played endlessly outside,” she says. And youngsters cut south though nearby yards to ride to Garden Oaks Elementary School.
Payne’s family had no phone and one car, an old 1936 Chevrolet her father took to work. A neighbor shared her phone and later a party line. “I got into real trouble with my Mom over my listening in,” says Payne.
She also learned to call the operator, who “would actually talk to us kids. Remember, there was no television in those days. We listened to drama and comedy on the radio sitting right in front of it. We did not have a TV until I was in third grade…”
Payne has no plans to sell her childhood home and continues to attend church in the neighborhood. She believes she and her sister, Patsy Buchanan Diehl of Mangum Manor, experienced “an ideal childhood” in what was considered the “far northwest.” Today, the same address is considered city living.
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