Carroll Tharp helped design the Hyatt Hotel and other mainstays of the downtown Houston skyline. But the primary love of the 84-year-old retired architect and his wife, Mae, was preservation of historic cabins deep in the Piney Woods of Montgomery County.
They spent years developing a 45-acre tract, called Fernland, which contains five historic structures - including a cabin that Sam Houston used as a hunting lodge.
Tharp ... and his wife recently donated the acreage and structures to Sam Houston State University.
"We are delighted that the university will continue the work we started and preserve this segment of Texas history for many people to enjoy," Tharp said.
The park, in an area rapidly becoming residential, is filled with towering trees and a creek bubbling with pure water. It originally was named Fernland because of two fern bogs on the property.
Patrick Nolan, director of the Sam Houston Museum said the university's first priority is to preserve and protect the valuable historic resource. "Our second priority is to develop a minimal amount of infrastructure to accommodate visitors.... We want to put in water, lights, restroom facilities and parking.... After those two goals are met, they plan to begin permitting visitors to the park."
The land and buildings are valued at $355,000 and the contents at $92,947, but the Tharps' visitors often describe it as "priceless."
Structures at the site include:
- The Crane cabin, which was moved from Angelina County.
- The Bear Bend hunting lodge, originally located on a bend of Atkins Creek, now under Lake Conroe.
- The Hulon House, a typical Texas Greek revival farmhouse.
- The Jordan cabin, considered to be the oldest house in Walker County, which was originally a part of Montgomery County.
- A blacksmith shop, which started its life in 1919 as a corn crib.