Progress slow on historical Longview home

The 147-year-old Rucker-Campbell House in Longview has a new roof, subflooring, updated water connections and a fresh coat of paint, but volunteers say it will take much more work and fundraising to open the historical structure by the city's sesquicentennial celebration in 2020.

Preservation Longview Vice Chairwoman Ellen Gordon said donations have decreased for most Longview nonprofit causes, and state historical restoration funds are being diverted almost exclusively to the Hurricane Harvey-ravaged Gulf Coast.

"We need to get this done by 2020," Gordon said. "That's a very good goal."

Gordon and board Treasurer Ron Hefley led an informal tour of the house this week on South Center Street.

"All of the downstairs subfloor got done," Hefley said. "Part of the roof had to be repainted from the inside. The backstairs were rebuilt."

Contractors painted the Rucker-Campbell House earlier this year using a yellow-and-green palate that Hefley and volunteer Kerry Martin discovered while unearthing the structure's gable and dancing porch.

"Kerry accredited it to the same time period as the House of Seasons in Jefferson," Hefley said, "and it's almost the same color palate."

Volunteers found sliding doors and the original rollers for those doors that Campbell also likely installed in 1881.

Preservation Longview wants to reinstall the sliding doors as a partition between the front parlor and what will be a dining room.

In 1871, Asa Rucker began building the house one year after Longview's first town lots were sold.

Judge J.N. Campbell, whose brother was among the earliest governors of Texas, assumed ownership of the home within a decade of its construction. Campbell entertained distinguished judiciary and clergy guests for decades, and after his death, the home was used for a short time as apartment housing in the post-World War II era.

The nearly 4,100-square-foot house became a Texas Historic Landmark in 1965.

Preservation Longview has worked with the city for about a decade to slowly restore the structure into a community meeting place and events center.

After the death of Rucker's first wife, his second wife expanded the home in the 1870s, Hefley said. That expansion included what became the kitchen, but it covered a water well that archaeological stewards will unearth before Preservation Longview covers it in Plexiglass and allows visiting schoolchildren to safely view the well, Gordon said.

A portion of the upstairs area will be converted into a powder room and a sleeping porch for use during weddings or other similar events, Gordon said. There also are plans for what is being called "The Room of a Thousand Letters."

"During World War II, my mother, who was (Campbell's) niece, and my father, who was gone to war for three years wrote a letter every day," Gordon said, "and if you add up three years and one letter a day, that adds up to 1,000 letters.

"In this day and time, when people don't write letters anymore, especially since this may become a venue for weddings, family gatherings and so forth, the board really liked that idea of designating that room 'The Room of a Thousand Letters.'"

Preservation Longview is restoring the Victorian-styled home as the centerpiece of the city's South Main Historic District. Grants and funding remain big obstacles, Gordon said, as the group hoped plumbing already would be in place.

Several causes undertaken in the last decade, including Longview Arboretum, The Green and the Longview World of Wonders children's museum, have strained local philanthropists and donors, and state resources are scarce, Gordon said.

"I looked at the Preservation Trust Fund, and it looks like all of their funds are going to Hurricane Harvey restoration of properties down on the coast," she said.

Preservation Longview has owned the home since March 2008.