Restored historic house is the new home for ArtCentre of Plano
You may have been browsing a garage sale or thrift shop when you suddenly spied in the furthest corner an object of interest, something that had seen better times and needed some restoration to bring it to life again. You may have purchased it. With some loving care, that newly refurbished treasure may have become a source of pride in your home.
That is much like what the City of Plano is doing with the Saigling House at 902 E. 16th St. For decades, the once stately home stood in obscurity, nestled behind rows and rows of overgrown foliage. Not one to let a treasure slip away, the City of Plano took steps a few years ago to purchase the home and renew it, bringing back its vibrance for Plano residents to enjoy.
The restoration of the home will be complete by late January 2017, and according to Suzy Jones, executive director of the ArtCentre of Plano, the ArtCentre is excited to make the Saigling House its permanent home.
As downtown Plano is experiencing a rebirth as an arts district with art galleries, shopping and entertainment, the Saigling House stands to be the crown jewel of downtown upon completion.
“Frank Turner, who was deputy city manager at the time, took on this project as a personal passion,” Suzy said.
The Saigling House, built in 1906, will provide a new home for the ArtCentre of Plano, as well as an elegant and comfortable site for weddings, receptions and corporate events. The rear lawn opens up to a view of Haggard Park, which was donated by Celestine Pillot Saigling, the original owner of the Saigling House, so patrons can have an outdoor event with a vista of the vibrant downtown Plano park. The house and the park both fall under the auspices of the Plano Parks and Recreation Department.
Celestine and her husband, C.F. Saigling, began construction of their home in 1906, but C.F. died before its completion. Saigling Elementary in Plano is named for him, a prominent property owner who operated one of the first lumberyards, sawmills and flour mills in Plano.
C.F. served in the Plano City Council in 1884-85, the first official PISD school board in 1903, the Fire Department Hose Co. and the board of directors of Farmers and Merchants National Bank. A member of First Christian Church, C.F. was credited with building the first sidewalk in Plano at present-day K Avenue and 15th St. and reportedly owned one of the first automobiles in Plano, a Buick.
Celestine, whose French family settled in the Houston area in 1837, lived in one of the first houses in Houston to have an attached kitchen with running water, closets and gas lighting. Sam Houston, the president of the Republic of Texas, would stay at their home when passing through the area. The Pillot House has been restored and is located in Sam Houston Park in downtown Houston.
The Saigling House in Plano was one of the first brick houses in the city and was the first with a basement. During renovation, workers discovered that hand-made nails were used in the upstairs flooring. An uncommon tile porch on the side of the house also provided something unheard of in Plano.
“I lived down the street, and Ann Carpenter, a life-long friend, took tap dancing lessons with me on that tile porch when we were kids. Dr. [O.T.] Mitchell owned the house then,” recalled Plano resident Sue Rush Tankersley. Dr. Mitchell bought the home from Celestine’s estate in 1935 for $6,000, and it sold three times after that before the city made its purchase.
Two granddaughters of Celestine, Hazel and Ouida Saigling, lived with her on school days during high school so they could walk across the street to school, according to Susan Todd, a great-granddaughter who resides in the Smoot House across 16th St. from the home. The roads were too difficult to maneuver in bad weather when they would drive from the family farm, which is located today near the intersection of Coit Road and Highway 190.
Susan Todd remembers her mother, Ouida, recalling stories of the children, dressed in their finest clothing, sitting quietly in the hallway, waiting for the adults to finish their Christmas dinner so the children could receive their meal. This was customary of the time.
The City of Plano is restoring the home for approximately $3 million with funds from Park bonds, TIF funds and other available resources. The ArtCentre of Plano is charitably kicking in some $300,000 for the project to help establish its permanent home.
“We were looking for a new place. Our board of directors is giving it 100 percent,” Suzy added. “For the first time, the ArtCentre is not paying rent. People will come to see the house and stumble upon the ArtCentre.”
The downstairs area will be available for gallery space and events, and the upstairs space will provide facilities for classes and offices. Naming rights on rooms are being given in exchange for donations.
“The City has had the ArtCentre of Plano in the center of the renovation,” she added, “even with location of plugs, fans and such.”
Suzy said a series of grand openings is being planned in 2017 for specific groups such as city council members, school board members, teachers and specialized groups.
Typically, 9-11 art expeditions are presented by ArtCentre of Plano each year, including at least two from the advanced placement art classes at the three senior high schools. The first exhibit in March will be the artwork of Jean Newman, a local artist who was the founder of Plano Profile magazine.
“The City,” Suzy emphasized, “is bringing life back to this house.”
Contributing writer’s comment: I am the great-grandson of Celestine Saigling, the original owner of the Saigling House, which is currently being restored by the City of Plano. On behalf of my family, I would like to thank the City and all of those involved for including us in this restoration and making us proud of our Plano heritage derived from the founding mothers and fathers of Plano.
Editor’s note: Special thanks to history buffs John Brooks, Candace Fountoulakis and Cheryl Smith for help in locating historic photos.
More photos of the ArtCentre of Plano restoration // click to enlarge:ArtCentre of Plano >