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Fort House displays Waco history

April 24, 1997

Kevin Johnson / The Baylor Lariat

The Fort House, formerly owned by Alabama planter and Confederate soldier William Aldridge Fort, is part of Waco's historic homes tour.

By Alison Hovanec

Lariat Reporter

Despite the problems and hardships associated with Reconstruction in the South, several families in Waco prospered during that time. One of them, the William Aldridge Fort family, moved west from Alabama because of deteriorating soil conditions in the Black Belt and a chance to start anew.

The Alabama planter and former Confederate soldier decided to put down roots near the Brazos River in Waco.

According to the Discover Historic Waco pamphlet, Fort purchased six acres of land and brought five families, their children, relatives and slaves to live in Waco.

On a parcel of that land, he built his Greek Revival home in 1868. That particular style uses proportion and symmetry as its primary architectural style.

The large columns in the front of the house are made from cypress wood and the bricks were made in Waco.

Fort used his six acres of nutrient rich land to grow gardens, orchards and raise animals.

After establishing residency, he became a prominent figure in Waco as a banker and owner of the Suspension Bridge Company.

Inside Fort House is a collection of Empire and Victorian furniture donated by other old homes and families in Waco.

High ceilings were used to catch cool breezes in the summertime, since there was no air conditioning.

The kitchen was built separate from the main house because it was a fire hazard.

Fort was able to conduct business by creating a double parlor. The double parlor provided him with privacy by pulling a curtain across the room.

A picture of Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee is hung above the fire place as a reminder of the men who fought for the Confederate Army.

Fort House also displays a collection of antique glass, Pickard china and evening gowns designed by Travis Branton.

Branton, born in Waco in 1894, was one of Hollywood's most talented fashion designers.

Claire Mastors, curator and the Heritage Collection Exhibit coordinator, has displayed four authentic reproductions of the Travis Branton originals.

Copyright © 1997 The Lariat

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