Preservationists Fight To Save 155-Year-Old Collinwood House In Plano

For several years, the city of Plano has been trying to figure out what to do with the Collinwood House.

By Stephanie KuoMarch 22, 2016 9:30 am| , ,

This story originally appeared on KERA News

Most folks drive right by the Collinwood House without even knowing.

It started as a humble log cabin built before the Civil War. But like many North Texas homes, it’s gone through numerous renovations and has seen its surroundings transform over generations. The house today sits on 124 untouched acres of land between Preston Road and the Dallas North Tollway.

‘It’s pretty amazing’

Candace Fountoulakis, with the Plano Conservancy for Historic Preservation, knows a lot about the history of the house, and is an advocate for its preservation. She said the original Collinwood structure still survives.

“It’s still underneath the modern finishes that we see. The shingles hide all the cypress boards on the side of the house, the wooden pegs between the hand-hewn logs, and the timbers underneath the house and the roof,” she said. “It’s pretty amazing when you walk in there. There’s nothing like it in Plano left.”

Beneath those modern finishes, you’ll also find some original floorboards and stones from the fireplace. You’ll also see original window frames and doors.

On the endangered list  

Last month, the Collinwood House was placed on Preservation Texas’ Most Endangered Places list. Even with its growing public interest, preservationists are still trying to uncover more of the house’s history — attempting to close a knowledge gap that could ultimately save the house.

For instance, they know it has passed through many hands over the years — like Plano’s prominent Haggard family.

At one time, other families even used it as their summer home, escaping Dallas to vacation in what was then considered the countryside.

Historians have also discovered that the house possesses rare pre-Railroad architecture, and serves as a window into farming and business life during Plano’s earliest days.

“It has ties to all the early frontier families as well as to previous cultures: Native American, African-American, early Eastern settlers that came through to Texas from Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois,” Fountoulakis said.

The city owns the house now; in 2009, it bought the surrounding 124 acres, which are slated to become Windhaven Meadows Park. Back then, a city preservation official claimed the Collinwood House had little to no historical value after so many renovations and because nothing historically significant is believed to have happened at the house.

The hunt for a buyer  

In 2014, the city began calling on private citizens to take the house off city hands.

Plano Parks Director Amy Fortenberry said there were just a few requirements: “The house would be restored. It needed to be a use that served a recreational need,” she said. “They needed to have a plan to secure the house and to protect it and to renovate it at their cost. And they needed a method to keep the house from coming back to the city in the future.”

The city received some offers, but they didn’t quite cut it.

Now the city wants someone to physically move the Collinwood House off the land all together.

Fortenberry said if no one claims it by Sept. 1, the house will be demolished. She said, with an estimated restoration budget of at least $2 million, there just isn’t the budget to keep it.

“Keeping a structure there that would be staffed and manned, having to protect it and secure it from vandalism — those things all added cost that were never planned on by the city,” Fortenberry said. “So it’s not that we don’t like heritage preservation, not that we don’t value it. I think there is a significant investment that occurs every year from the city of Plano in that effort.”

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