East Texas horticulturist using Southern Living exposure to restore Arcadia's past
SHELBY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - An East Texas horticulturist is making a big name for himself in "Southern Living Magazine." The Stephen F. Austin State University gardens professor was recently featured in the magazine for his gardening work, but it's not only his green thumb that's getting noticed.
It's also his restoration of 19th-century homes in Arcadia, Texas, that's all the buzz.
"I've always been into saving things - plants, animals, buildings, whatever. I like history, and I like fixing something and making it good again," Greg Grant said.
In old town Arcadia, which is in Shelby County, historical roots run deep for Grant.
"My grandparents lived here, so I spent all my happy days as a child - weekends, holidays, summer vacation days - here. It was a scrappy looking place because they were as poor as they could be," Grant said. "I didn't know they were poor because I just thought it was the coolest place on Earth."
For years, Grant has been dreaming of restoring several of his family homes.
"I would daydream my whole life and in college, I'm doodling on a piece of paper of what I wanted it to look like so it took me a long time to save the money," Grant said.
Grant said he first started on his paternal grandparents' house, and then worked on his maternal grandparents' house down the street. He used old family photos as guides to recreate the old-style dogtrot house design.
He says the dogtrot house was used during pre-electricity days. While he has electricity, he does try to stay away from modernized technology.
"I don't have television. I don't have Internet. I don't have a phone in the house. I like it quiet. I like to hear the birds singing, the butterflies singing," Grant said.
Grant said he spends every dime he owns on the restoration projects, and when his homes started getting showcased in magazines, that's when his idea for restoration in Arcadia began to blossom.
"Most of the plan involved trying to instill that vision to other people; let someone else get the idea of not just saving the buildings but saving your family histories, saving local roots and local history," Grant said.
He said he only comes up with the ideas and does not do any of the contracting work. He relies on a contracting friend in Nacogdoches to do that work, he said. Right now, he is working on a third house in Arcadia and hopes to have a couple more completed in the next few years.
SFA's Center for Regional Heritage Research has created a project called "Voices from Small Places." Grant said they are focusing on Arcadia. He said right now they are gathering as much information as they can to save the history that can hopefully be used for more restoration work in the future.
Copyright 2014 KTRE. All rights reserved.