Jefferson, Texas is one of the most historically preserved towns in the state of Texas. It is truly astonishing that a town of just over 2,000 people has a 47 block area that contains 56 homes and buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are also over 10 other structures in Jefferson that have been placed on the National Register. The structures in Jefferson represent many historic architecture styles including Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Victorian Eclectic and Gothic.
One of the most common architectural styles seen in Jefferson is Greek Revival. Greek Revival was a popular style in North America from the late 1700’s to the Civil War. One theory holds that the Greek Revival Style was so popular in America because a young democracy was in search of its identity. Greek Revival structures are easily identified by their square or white pillars, square head openings for doors and windows and their symmetrical construction. Two examples of Greek Revival homes in Jefferson are the Guarding Oak (at 301 S. Friou) and the Homestead (at 410 Delta).
Italianate Architecture became popular in the late 1800’s. It is recognized by its tall narrow windows with arches at the top, cupolas at the top of the house, low pitched roofs, overhanging eaves, wraparound porches and decorative elements under the cornice.
The House of the Seasons (at 409 S. Alley) is an example of home that shows the transition from Greek Revival to Italianate. Built in 1872, it contains the columns and symmetry of Greek Revival, along with the square windows on the first floor. The Italianate influence is seen in the long windows, rounded at the top, the cupola, the decorative elements at the home’s carriage house and the low pitched roof of the house.
The Queen Anne style of architecture became popular at the turn of the century (1900). The most dominant, recognizable feature of a Queen Anne home is the round or square tower. They are also recognized by their asymmetrical construction, roofs that are steeply pitched and irregularly shaped, decorative elements and bold, rich paint colors. One of the best examples, of the Queen Anne style, in Jefferson is the Benefield House (at 1009 S. Line Street).
Victorian Eclectic homes became popular, in Texas, from 1900 to 1910. Victorian Eclectic is not necessarily a distinctive style but a reflection of an era. Victorian Eclectic contains a mixture of many styles that may include Greek Revival, Italianate, Eastlake, Gothic and Queen Anne. White Oak Manor (at 502 Benners) is an example of Victorian Eclectic; with elements of Greek Revival, Italianate, Eastlake and Queen Anne.
Gothic architecture became popular in the mid 1800’s. Gothic architecture is recognized by pointed arch windows, stained glass windows, steeply pitched roofs, gothic arches and a gothic window located above the entrance. Cumberland Presbyterian Church (at 501 Jefferson Street) is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the state of Texas.
Jefferson was unfortunately left out of the great post Word War II economic boom in the United States. However the good fortune of this is that Jefferson did not fall victim to the “Urban Renewal” of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Many cities lost their historic homes and buildings to subdivisions, strip malls and bad architecture, while Jefferson held on to her architectural treasures.