“Brilliant: Cut Glass from The W.H. Stark House”

“Brilliant: Cut Glass from The W.H. Stark House” features American Brilliant Cut Glass made from 1876 to 1917 that was collected by Miriam Lutcher Stark and is on view on the second floor.

Stark spent years filling her home with items to reflect both her family’s status and her personal style. Her collection of cut-glass pieces remains among the largest in the southern United States. Many of the items on view once adorned the dining room table, others were used at mealtimes by family and friends, some held fresh cut flowers to decorate rooms throughout the house, others provided light for reading in the evening hours. The cut glass pieces are uniquely made with lead oxide, which makes this beautiful artwork “crystal” glass.

Image: T.G. Hawkes & Company (1880 – 1962), “Platter,” c. 1904-1917, cut glass, 1 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches (3.8 x 34.3 cm), The W.H. Stark House, Orange, Texas, Bequest of H.J. Lutcher Stark, 1965, 41.21.3

“Scenes from Stark Family Life”

Frances Ann & Automobiles 

Frances Ann Lutcher was an automotive pioneer. In her 70s, she became one of the first people to travel the country by car. With a caravan of vehicles that flew a large American flag, her journeys became the subject of many newspapers and even a national Pierce-Arrow advertisement campaign. 

She did most of her traveling as a passenger with her trusty chauffeur, Herbert Fiedler, at the helm. But this rare photo from the early 1920s captures her behind the wheel of a Ford Model T. Where this photo was taken remains unclear, and so does whether Frances Ann could actually operate the vehicle by herself. 

Needless to say, cars and travel were a big part of her later life. Her daughter, Miriam Lutcher Stark, often joined her on road trips, annoyed that her mother tended to ride in the front seat beside her chauffeur rather than in the back of the vehicle like a “proper” lady. 

Images from the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas. 

Lutcher Family Candid Photo 

Drawn by the area’s long leaf pine forests, Frances Ann and Henry Jacob Lutcher left Williamsport, Pennsylvania in 1887 to expand their lumber interests in Orange, Texas. In doing so, they left behind a large, extended family network. Miriam Lutcher Stark, 18 years old at the time of her parents’ move, had the opportunity to stay in the north with relatives. Ultimately, she chose to move to Orange and marry William Stark (who spent much of their courtship selling her on the area). Though the couple spent their lives making a home in Orange, Miriam remained close and connected with the Lutcher family. 

This photo was likely taken on a trip to Williamsport around 1900. It provides a rare example of a candid, silly group shot in the early days of photography. In the center of the frame, Frances Ann stares stoically into the distance while her husband, Henry Jacob, stands behind her and directly gazes at the camera. Her grandson, Lutcher Stark, giggles along with his cousins at the bottom of the frame. William and Miriam, positioned to the left of Frances Ann and Henry Jacob, appear rather serious. The rest of the family members surrounding the center make faces at one another, laugh hysterically, or stare (without amusement) at other relatives. 

Images from the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas. 

Lutcher Stark & His Four-Legged Friends 

Historically, pets were a common sight at The W.H. Stark House. With a property situated on a bustling downtown street, William and Miriam had a particular proclivity for taking in strays when their son, Lutcher Stark, was growing up. Some of the family’s earliest letters give the names of family dogs as Orphan Boy and Mrs. Barker, along with Duke, Prince, and Rover.

This love of animals is something Lutcher carried throughout his life. Though the location and date of this photo are unknown, Lutcher Stark is clearly happy to make the acquaintance of a new four-legged friend.  While he owned dogs throughout his life, perhaps the most prominent and infamous of his later animals was a King Charles Spaniel named Trouble-Go-Ferdidand (known simply as “Trubbie”). This furry companion was well-known throughout Orange and had rights and privileges not normally bestowed on animals. He wore decorative collars from Tiffany’s in New York, enjoyed a Coca Cola every afternoon, and sprawled out on the conference room table at the annual Lutcher & Moore Lumber Company Board Meeting.

Images from the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas. 

Nita & Sorority Life

Lutcher Stark attended college at the University of Texas in Austin. While there, he met and fell in love with Nita Hill. Nita’s parents were well known on the UT campus, which meant from a young age she was as well. Her father, Homer Barksdale Hill, served as the university’s primary sports physician and students affectionately called her mother “Granny Hill.” 

During her time as a student at UT, Nita joined the Phi Beta Phi Sorority. In this comical photo, taken around 1910, she stands dressed in a suit and top hat with a pipe in her mouth, posing with her sorority sisters during a costume party. After graduation, she married Lutcher Stark and moved with him to Orange. However, the couple remained close with her family in Austin and stayed financially involved as major donors for the university. For Nita, this included continued support of her Greek life chapter. 

Images from the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas. 

William Stark, doting grandfather

Few things brought Miriam and William Stark greater joy than becoming grandparents. Their son, Lutcher Stark, and his wife, Nita, had struggled through multiple pregnancies. This included numerous miscarriages, a stillbirth, and the death of one child at only a few days old. These were traumatic experiences for both the couple and their families. But in 1925, the family celebrated when Nita and Lutcher Stark finalized the adoption of twin boys from Radford, Virginia.  They named them after their fathers, Homer Barksdale Hill Stark and William Henry Stark II.

In this photo, William holds Homer Stark while riding on horseback. Homer is obviously not enjoying the ride, but William laughs it off in a jovial, grandfatherly way. This is just one of the many moments William spent with his grandsons. He was a steady presence in their lives until he passed away in 1936.

Images from the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas. 

Past Exhibits

Around the Town: Scenes from Historic Orange 

Downtown Orange (1899)

This is a colorized black and white photo, captured (most likely) from the porch of a house around Seventh and Elm Street, looking towards the river. It shows Orange at a time of major growth and development. While the city was becoming much larger and more advanced, this photo was taken at a time when streets were still unpaved and streetlights didn’t exist. Large chunks of what today would be considered downtown were still undeveloped, as seen by the large empty lots and barn-like structures.

The two most recognizable landmarks are The W.H. Stark House and the Green Avenue Baptist Church. The W.H. Stark House would have been around 5 years old when this photo was taken. The large elm tree, which stood in the front corner, is clearly visible, as is the distinctive turret. The House is also clearly bigger than almost anything around it at the time. The Green Avenue Baptist Church featured a distinct steeple at the front of the building. This simpler wood structure was constructed in 1884 and replaced around 1915 with the large dome building you can see there today. The Sanborn maps show how rapidly and quickly the city of Orange developed in a short amount of time, quadrupling in size in the span of 15 years. The W.H. Stark House is the only structure in this photo that remains standing today.

Primary image courtesy of the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas.

Historic Sanborn maps courtesy of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.  

Orange Ice, Light, and Water Company 

Few companies had a bigger impact on the day-to-day lives of people in Orange than the Orange Ice, Light, and Water Company (OILW). Founded in 1892 as the Orange Ice, Light, and Waterworks Company, it was reorganized in 1905, dropping “works” from the name. OILW provided Orange citizens for the first time with power, clean water, and refrigeration. Its main plant was right downtown at Front Street.

As the name might suggest, ice caused the most excitement in the early days. The industrial icemaker at the main plant made daily ice deliveries across Orange possible. This was 30 years before domestic refrigerators were available. As more and more electric appliances and gadgets were invented, customers could see the latest technology at the OILW showroom. It was filled with modern marvels like fans, toasters, and vacuum cleaners. Founded by local businessmen, including the Starks and the Browns, the company operated at a huge loss for most of its existence. Its purpose was to improve the standard of living in Orange, more than to make a profit. In the 1920s, it was sold to larger power companies. Much of Orange still uses the grid layout put in place by OILW over 100 years ago. 

Images courtesy of the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas.

Sunset Grove Golf Course 

After three years of design and construction, the course opened in 1925. Sunset Grove Golf Course was very much a family project for Lutcher Stark. Several stories about its creation involve a feud with his cousin, Edgar Brown Jr., owner of the Pinehurst Country Club. Lutcher, not to be outdone, hired world-renowned golf course designer, Donald Ross to design his new course. Ross happened to be the manager and designer of the famous Pinehurst Golf Course in North Carolina. Of the hundreds of courses Ross designed in North America, Sunset Grove was the first of only three in Texas. Lutcher’s wife, Nita Stark, chose the name.

A massive project costing nearly 750,000 dollars, the course was largely a gift for William Stark, Lutcher’s father. Golf was the perfect, low intensity outdoor activity for the aging patriarch. William, who took up golf in his 70s, continued to play even after he was nearly blind. He used bright, yellow golf balls and his caddy would hold up a bright yellow stick in the direction of the hole. Presumably, William would swing at the yellow blur at his feet, aiming for the yellow blur in the distance. Nearly 100 years old, the course continues to be played today, the lasting legacy of a loving, feuding family. 

Images courtesy of the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas

Henke & Pillot Grocery Store

Henke & Pillot was a local Houston grocery chain, founded in the 1870s. The company grew in size, eventually expanding south to Galveston and west to Orange. At its height, it had almost 30 locations across Southeast Texas. These photos are from 1949, taken of the Orange Henke & Pillot store, which took up most of the block now occupied by Stark Park.

This was probably taken sometime in late March or early April, given the ads for Easter baskets. Evidence of the post-WWII economic boom can be seen in the packed shelves and huge amount of available goods. The store is decorated with aerial photos that today would be historic, but were contemporary shots of downtown at the time. In 1956, the chain was bought by Kroger, but they continued to use the Henke & Pillot brand for several years. The Orange location met a dramatic end, burning down in a major fire in 1961. The store was not replaced and shortly afterwards a new Kroger opened elsewhere in the city. In 1966, Kroger retired the Henke & Pillot name (which was still in use at its 20 remaining locations). The trees and fountains of today’s Stark Park are a far cry from the neon temple of capitalism the block once housed. 

Images courtesy of the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, Orange, Texas

“Merry Christmas to all – and to all who drive by!”

Santa Through the Ages (1880 – 1920)


Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863), author, McLoughlin Brothers (1828 – 1920), publisher, The Night Before Christmas or A Visit of St. Nicholas, 1888, printed text and ink on paper, 12 x 10 inches, The W.H. Stark House, Orange, Texas, OD.2013.81.

Santa Claus is a Christmas classic and a staple in American holiday celebrations. Santa as we know him today is a combination of dozens, if not hundreds, of traditions, legends, and historical figures from around the world. The W.H. Stark House is excited to present Santa Through the Ages. This exterior display features images of Santa from the House collection spanning 40 years, from 1888 – 1918. During these years, the concept and look of the Santa Claus we know today rapidly evolved in America. The first image is from the cover of an 1888, illustrated copy of the classic Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It is now known more commonly as “The Night Before Christmas.” 


Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863), author, McLoughlin Brothers (1828 – 1920), publisher, The Night Before Christmas or A Visit of St. Nicholas, 1888, printed text and ink on paper, 12 x 10 inches, The W.H. Stark House, Orange, Texas, OD.2013.81.

“The Night Before Christmas” is one of the most important poems in American history. It is the foundational document of the American Santa. The story has also been adapted, reinterpreted, and used by people and cultures from around the world. In 1823, it was published in a local paper in the town of Troy, New York by an anonymous author. Years later, poet Clement Clarke Moore eventually took credit but many today believe Henry Livingston Jr. was actually the original author. The poem is largely based off of old Dutch-American legends from the New York area, with reindeer being the most famous element. The poem also introduces new ideas like Santa visiting households on Christmas Eve. It became extremely popular and many artists began making illustrated versions of the story. The W.H. Stark House has three of them. This image is a scene taken from the 1888 version, illustrating the line “down the chimney St. Nicholas came.” The poem created the basic character of Santa Claus, but illustrators told us what he looked like.


E. Lecky, author, Emily J. Harding (1877 – 1902), artist, Raphael Tuck & Sons (1866 – 1959), A Letter from Old Father Christmas, c. 1890, chromolithographs on paper with metal staple binding, 9 7/8 x 6 3/4 x 1/8 inches, The W.H. Stark House, Orange, Texas, OD.2013.79.

The name “Santa Claus” comes from the Dutch traditions of Sinterklaas. But this is not the only source of inspiration for the American Santa. The British Father Christmas is also an influence. This character was originally more associated with Christmas celebrations for adults and was not a gift giver. He appears quite famously as the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. However, in the Victorian Age, he began to develop more associations as a gift giver for children. Depictions range widely, with everything from a fat and happy “Bacchus-like” character to a solemn, slender wizard. This Christmas card from 1890 was sent to Lutcher Stark when he was three or four. It features a dignified, older Father Christmas carrying toys for children.


Frey, Charles D., Holiday Number, Orange Leader, December 18, 1908, Eunice R. Benckenstein Library and Archive, Orange, Texas.

It’s hard to overestimate the impact of marketing and advertising on Santa Claus. In fact, the bright and colorful Santa ads made during the Holidays are now one of the major sources for Santa traditions. This is a full page, color illustration of Santa driving a car full of toys. It was made for a special Christmas edition of the Orange Leader in 1908. It is essentially selling Orange. Santa is racing down the streets toward a prosperous future. It is also a great way for the Orange Leader to sell more papers since festive issues were often collected each year. In custom, local ads such as this, Santa was adapted and embraced by communities across the nation.


Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863), author, Henry Altemus Company (1842 1936), publisher, The Night Before Christmas, 1918, printed text and ink on paper, 5 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 1/4 inches, The W.H. Stark House, Orange, Texas, OD.2013.75.

Technology played a huge role in making Santa available for everyone. Illustrations, especially in color, were very expensive in the 1800s. They were either complicated block prints or hand colored. In the early 1900s, new printing methods made this process much cheaper. One of them was pointillism, making an image out of lots of little dots. This 1918 illustrated edition of “The Night Before Christmas” uses the pointillism technique. Cheaper printing meant that more people could afford books with images. New technology allowed for more posters, more ads, and just more Santas. It’s also clear how much the look of Santa refined between 1888 and 1918. The later Santa looks similar to the ones we see today – a jolly, round figure with a white beard and simple red suit. Over one hundred years later this basic image continues to be used and reused every year. But far from being stagnant, Santa continues to adapt and change in ways that reflect current trends, keeping the magic alive and fresh each Christmas.