Whitehall: Behind the Name

23 April 2012

So why the name Whitehall, you ask?

Well, the name Whitehall comes from the name of a house.  A house that I am in love with, even though I have only been there once.  I am fascinated with genealogy and the story of my family's history.  This house looms large in that tale.

The home belonged to my family 6 generations ago, and is still standing, but barely. 

It was the home of Joseph Henry Polley and his wife Mary Augusta Bailey (my great great great great grandparents).  Joseph was one of the "Old 300" of Stephen F. Austin's colony of the first settler's in Texas.  He was the first sheriff of Austin's Colony and later a cattle rancher with the second largest holdings in Texas, behind only the King Ranch.

Joseph was born in Whitehall, New York, and he named his mansion after his hometown.  The home was designed by his brother, Jonathan, an architect. 

It was once a grand home that hosted many famous names, including Robert E. Lee and John Bell Hood.  It was a once shining example of of mid-19th Century Antebellum Greek Revival Inspired Texas architecture.  It is now owned by someone who has decided to let the property fall into disrepair, and I will spare you the negativity and utter disdain that I feel toward that man and the situation.

I prefer to think of the high times that the home hosted during its heyday.  It was furnished with fine pieces from New York that were shipped to the rough and tumble Texas landscape.  It has two very large porches and a breezeway down the center of the home to keep cool in the heat of the Texas summer.  It was refinement and western grit mixed together in a wonderful collaboration that gives me a sense of roots and also fills my daydreams.

I visited the home as a child, and am itching to get back over that way in the near future.  Even though the home is not being cared for, the home calls me, as I know it does to the literally hundreds of descendants of Joseph and Mary Polly.

The photographs are part of the Library of Congress' Historic American Buildings Survey, and more photos of the property and architectural drawings can be found at, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/tx0235/.

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