Patt and Yves Coeckelenbergh’s home at 410 Mercer St. is more than 100 years old.
In the coming weeks, Patt Coeckelenbergh plans to submit an application to the Texas Historical Commission for a determination of eligibility, which is the first step for a structure to be considered to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Preservation is important,” she said. “Right now, what Port Aransas is going through with the increase in development and the loss of green space, I think it’s even more important to see if we can preserve what we possibly can.”
The Coeckelenberghs bought the house in 2003 and are the third set of owners of the home. The first family to live in the home was Herman Magnus Teller Sr. and his wife Fenella. They moved into the home in 1919 when they came to Port Aransas from Port O’Connor. Herman Teller was an early commander of the U.S. Coast Guard station in Port Aransas.
The Tellers raised their seven children in the home. In 1937, they sold the home to their eldest child, Nellie Studeman, and her husband, Henry Studeman. The Coeckelenberghs bought the home from the estate of Henry Studeman.
Coeckelenbergh is a member of the Old Town Preservation Advisory Board, a group formed by the City Council focused on preserving the oldest area of Port Aransas known as Old Town. (See Sept. 8 edition for more.)
Bringing awareness to residents that they have the option to pursue having their home placed on the National Register of Historic Places is one of the board’s many initiatives. Cathy Fulton, another board member, has been talking with about a dozen homeowners about the register. To be considered, a structure must be at least 50 years old and retain its historic character.
“I think many of the people who … live in these homes that could be recognized, they do appreciate the history, but a lot of people are not aware of the program,” Fulton said.
The fact that the “historic” homes in Port Aransas have survived multiple hurricanes is significant and a testament to their high quality of construction, Fulton said.
Coeckelenbergh’s home was knocked off its foundation by a hurricane in 1945. Nellie and Henry Studeman moved the home closer to a dune and turned it 90 degrees so it would be better protected.
Coeckelenbergh said since the house has gone through several hurricanes, being listed on the National Register, would be like a “medal of honor to the house itself.”
“They built things a lot differently before,” she said. “I mean, the wood that we discovered after Harvey is pretty amazing. We have long-leaf, pine walls and floors in the original building. And for people who like old homes, it’s just like a jewel.”
In the 1940s and 1950s Henry Studeman built onto the home and added a kitchen, a front porch, a second bathroom and two additional bedrooms. The home’s outside walls were completed in 1957.
Today, the 1,960-square-foot home has four bedrooms, an office and a laundry room and two bathrooms.
The National Register
The National Register of Historic Places is a federal program administered in the state by the Texas Historical Commission in coordination with the National Park Service. Listing in the National Register provides national recognition of a property’s historical or architectural significance and denotes that it is worthy of preservation, according to the commission’s website.
The only structure in Port Aransas currently on the National Register is the Tarpon Inn, which was built in 1886, according to Gregory Smith, federal programs coordinator with the Texas Historical Commission.
As well as being at least 50 years old, a structure or property must meet one of the following criteria. It must:
• be associated with important events that have contributed significantly to the broad pattern of history;
• be associated with the lives of significant persons of the past;
• embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction; or represent the work of a master; or possess high artistic values; or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction;
• have yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.
The register is separate from the commissions’ Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks program and imposes no restrictions on property owners. If a structure is part of the state’s historic marker program, property owners planning exterior changes to these buildings must notify the commission 60 days in advance.
If a commercial or nonprofit owned property is listed on the National Register, it could qualify for grants or tax credits for rehabilitating the property. However, owner-occupied properties don’t qualify for these benefits, Smith said.
The National Register process begins with a preliminary determination of eligibility by the commission, based on the review of an application that should include a history of the property, current photos and historic photos. If the property is deemed eligible, the next step would be to prepare a draft nomination.
The commission will review the draft nomination and work with the applicant until a final version is completed. Then, the nomination would go before the State Board of Review at a public meeting. The board determines if the property meets the National Register criteria and makes a recommendation to the State Historic Preservation Officer to approve or reject the nomination.
If the officer approves the nomination, any needed final edits will be made, and the nomination will be submitted to the National Park Service. The agency posts the nomination in the Federal Register and, in most cases, lists the property in the National Register within 45 days.
More detailed information can be found online at www.thc. texas.gov/preserve/nrhp-process.
“That process takes about a year,” Smith said. “So what we try to do is to help out applicants from the very start … (and) come up with a strategy for them for their particular property, based on our experience with similar properties.”
Contact Kathryn Cargo at email@example.com.