There once was this magnificent house in Florien, Louisiana (southern part of Sabine Parish). A beautiful, stately home… Once practically considered a mansion in the tiny village. The home became known, quite aptly, as The Dover House.
The Dover house was built just prior to 1920 for businessman Joe Dover and his wife, Elizabeth. It was constructed soon after the Armistace was signed declaring an end to World War I, in which Mr. Dover had served his Country.
The house was built entirely of “heart” lumber from the Peavy Wilson Lumber Company located south of Florien in Peason (which got its name from Peavy Wilson). Many of the other materials for the house had to be shipped to Florien pursuant to special orders, such as the outside columns, the beveled oval glass doors, kitchen sink, electric light fixtures and bathroom fixtures.
The three bedroom, one bath house features a nice size living room, dining room, kitchen and pantry.
A number of features of the home were unique to Florien in the 1920s… The columns indeed were but so too were a covered two-car garage at the side entrance, a wrap around exterior porch which wrapped around three sides of the home, a wood shed containing a wash bench and covered clothesline, an outdoor privy, and a chicken coop and large henhouse. There was a one room wood frame house adjoining the back “pasture” behind the home which was built for Willie Ed Porter, a handyman employed by the Dovers.
Originally, the plans for the family home included a provision for adding a second floor to the one story building. To accomodate these plans, there is a high beamed ceiling and a completely floored attic.
In 1997, Mr. Marion Dover donated his family home to the Village of Florien. The Dover’s son, Marion, was close friends with the father of then-Florien Mayor Rodney Jordan, and he worked with Jordan to have the village accept the home and utilize it as a sort of museum. And it was, for a few years anyway.
I was a newspaper reporter when Marion Dover donated his beloved home to the Village, and covered the “Open House” ceremony held at the home and hosted by Jordan and the Village. The home was absolutely immaculate… A true step back in time, the liking and extent of which I had not seen before nor since.
I remember it so well… This beautiful house in all its glory on that day the Open House welcomed it as a public fixture for the village. The Dover house had personality. It had an aura about it. Happiness, spirited, vintage, grandparents’ like aroma (for me, a good thing), a place in which you could feel that so many memories had been created.
Each room was fully furnished as it had been when the Dovers lived there. There were dated telephone books from the 50s or 60s I believe sitting right next to the antique phone with a rotary dial and a horn speaker (or is it speaker horn?). The phone sat on a stand tucked in the corner of the living room with a fold down writing desk and nifty notepad next for it for messages to be scribed on.
The kitchen had patterned (checkered and dual colored) vinyl flooring which was in tip top shape even though it was probably installed in the 60s or earlier. Super duper neato was that the kitchen was equipped with all appliances… All really old and really vintage (I’m not good with my appliance dating, but perhaps the 1940s or maybe the 1950s). The dishwasher… Wow… It had to be the first electric dishwasher ever made. With a flat glass top and all the buttons on the top, I’m pretty sure I would have gotten mixed up if I had this appliance, and would have at least once accidentally put my clothes inside of it to wash rather than my dishes. There was a walk in pantry that had perfectly intact canned goods from, I don’t know but perhaps the 50s?, and cleaning supplies and all kind of relics of the not-so-long-ago in reality past.
The bedrooms had the original post beds… Two full size beds were side by side in the Dovers’ bedroom. Mrs. Dover’s sweet, grandmotherly-like robes were in the closet of the master bedroom. Boxes of letters Mr. And Mrs. Dover wrote each other while he was serving in World War I were on a shelf in the closet of one of the bedrooms. The bathroom featured an iron claw foot bathtub and free-standing sink, and a mirrored medicine cabinet built into the wall. A bathroom closet had pastel colored towels and wash cloths crisply and neatly folded in stacks on its shelves.
The electronics in the house were probably state of the art for their time. There was a large almost oval screened box Zenith television set from which I could just picture the Dovers watching “I Love Lucy” on it. And there was a huge gigantic radio… Or “stereo” as the case may have been… That probably played some fabulous Big Band tunes of the day… And who knows, maybe even a little rock and roll. And when I say huge gigantic, for a bit of clarification, I mean tall as in up to my waist (I’m 5’7″) and wide as in if I took tiny steps walking it would be two steps’ worth.
Photos of the Dovers and their family neatly graced the walls of the living and dining rooms, as well as some photos of days gone (for instance, black and whites of people riding in a car that looked like it was probably from the 20s).
Beautiful lights lit up the place… A chandelier and other neat old fixtures. And did I mention the house was immaculate? Not a bit of dust to be seen.
I visited the house again a few years ago… It had declined a bit … It just didn’t have that whole magical spirit to it any more. Not for me anyway. But it was still neat… I brought my kids and they loved it and had plenty of questions about items in the house… Questions in the nature of What? Why? And How?
I’d say all in all, mainly the house was just absent of some TLC. I noticed no structural damage. The furniture had been moved around or into other rooms… Not quite sure, it was just different from the way I remembered it. The pictures were removed from the walls. There were a few years worth of dust in surfaces and on the floors. It wasn’t awful, just a bit sad.
Last week, I visited again. It was a tough visit to say the least. If I had any personal connection to the house, I’m pretty sure I would have cried. I tried to keep myself busy taking photos rather than to take a breath and take it all in… For I did not want to take in the sad mess of it all. Now, as I write this, I am taking it in. And it hits me like a ton of bricks… I do indirectly have a personal connection to this house… For Rodney Jordan and his family are great friends of mine and have become like family to me and to my family. And what has happened to this house must hit them a bit hard with Rodney’s sentimental connection… And so at this very moment, as I type this and think, I feel a different type of sadness over the condition of this house. And I wish even more that things could be different.
The Village of Florien still owns the house. It just no longer cares for it to the degree it once did. Whether it be on account of different times, different priorities, different financial situations… Or a combination of the three… They clearly just don’t. No one told me this or suggested anything like it, but I imagine at this point, the Village considers the house a sort of burden. The City Clerk said she thinks I was the last person to enter the house, which means no one had entered it since 2011. I realize that the Village, as is just about any and every other rural town in Louisiana, is financially strapped and does not have the economic resources to keep the house up as an old house needs to be kept up. So I don’t altogether blame the Village. But I can’t help but to wish some groups or individuals would offer to help restore this house so it is not eventually forever lost.
At this point, it would be a tremendous undertaking to fix the Dover House up. It has just fallen so very far. The city clerk mentioned that the State used to offer grant monies to projects such as a community museum but those funds have dried up. As has the State’s general contributions to anything cultural. I some degree, I empathize with the Village at the predicament it is now in… Because I imagine they don’t want to appear to be a villain under whose custody the Dover House has deteriorated so, but by the same token they are between a rock and a hard place in that they simply don’t have the money or resources required to repair the house. If only the house wouldn’t have been allowed to get so bad…
According to the Clerk, the Village would truly like to fix the house up. They just can’t right now. She did indicate they are willing to do what they can to at least try to spare the house of catastrophic deterioration, and those efforts could include giving it a good cleaning and scrubbing. That just may not be enough. The clerk seemed genuinely fond of the house and the history in it. I think she is like so many and wishes for solutions but knows of no solid, practical answers.
It is an age-old problem… What to do with an age-old house and how to keep it alive and well in some form of glory?
When Mayor Jordan accepted the house from his family friend on behalf of the Village, he ensured the home’s maintenance and upkeep was handled in the manner needed. The Dover House was a treasure for the village and was indeed treated as a treasure. Different administrations have different priorities. That’s just the way it is. For better or for worse. And every one has their own reasons, and they each have their own merits.
Certainly, there are things worth preserving. I believe that more than many do… That worth doesn’t always spell out preservation. I get that, too. It’s got to be a tough call for any one having to make it.
In the meantime, and sooner rather than later, hopefully some answers will some how or another present themselves to this age-old question about this particular age-old house.
And it will not be forever lost.
Following are some photos taken last week of The Dover House.
And some photos taken back in 2012… Along with a video slide show of the same photos.