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Newsletter of the Houston Heights Association
Volume Thirty-Six, Number One, January 2010
Special Report
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Lowry Family Visit to Houston, Texas — November, 2009 

Houston and Houston Heights received some very special visitors in mid-November, 2009, when Jerry Rardin and his wife, Sue (Lowry) Rardin, from Concord, Massachusetts; Judy Lowry from Princeton Junction, New Jersey; and Dr. Temp Lowry from Cornelius, North Carolina came to visit the many sites associated with their forebears. They were warmly welcomed by Randy Pace, local Heights historian and author, Houston's Historic Preservation Officer, and former Houston Heights Association Board member and Chair of the Historical Committee. They came to experience the prominent places associated with their great-grandfather, Rev. Benjamin Andrew Rogers (1823-1904), who had come from Liberty Hill in Williamson County, Texas in 1892 to live in Houston. Rogers was an eminent Episcopal rector who established St. Stephen's Mission, which held Houston Heights’ first non-denominational religious services that were open to all. Services and Sunday school were held either in Cooley School or the Houston Heights Hotel.

Rogers eventually moved to Houston Heights in 1895 when he purchased the mansion located at 1316 Heights Boulevard (demolished) from Houston Heights’ founder, O. M. Carter. This mansion and 16 others were built by the Omaha and South Texas Land Company (OSTL) for their new community, Houston Heights. These homes were variations of original plans in a book by George F. Barber, a Knoxville, Tennessee architect. The OSTL built them to demonstrate the prominence and status desired for its grand thoroughfare, Heights Boulevard, with its 60-foot-wide green esplanade modeled after Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, home to several of the investors in Houston Heights. Rev. Rogers lived there with his wife, Susan Pusey Rogers, his daughter, Susan Rogers Tempest, and his son-in-law, Joseph Arthur Tempest, a prominent Houston architect.  Susan Tempest (1873-1943) was a founding member of the Lady Washington Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1899, the Houston Heights Literary Club (HHLC) in 1900, and the Houston Heights Woman's Club (HHWC) in 1911 (successor to HHLC). She served on the Charity Committee, Houston Heights High School Library committee, and Mother's Club of Cooley School and, of course, she sang and played the piano and presented papers about poets, composers, and history. She also was founding 2nd Vice President of the HHWC and was the one who first made the motion that it should become a department club in 1911. She also chaired many social events and helped to raise funds for the construction of their clubhouse which was built by the women in 1912 on land donated by Mrs. D. D. Cooley. Today it is the only building in Houston still operating that has been used continuously as a clubhouse for women.

There were several city and nationally designated historic must-see sites during their visit, the first being the Houston Heights Woman's Club building located at 1846 Harvard, where Anne Sloan, the club President and local author, joyfully shared the history of the club with them. They were able to purchase Anne's newest book, Images of America: Houston Heights, published by Arcadia Press in 2009. Sloan also gave them a copy of her earlier book, Murder on the Boulevard.

Then the descendants attended Sunday Holy Communion Services at Christ Church Cathedral located at 1117 Texas Avenue, where Rev. Rogers had been rector pro-tem from August to December 1892. It was in the choir here that Susan Rogers met her future husband, Joseph Arthur Tempest (1865-1903). Tempest, a native of Ontario Province, Canada, had come to Houston in 1891, where he joined Christ Church in 1892, supervised the construction of the church (designed by Silas McBee), and also designed the adjacent parish hall and church rectory (demolished). In fact, Joseph Arthur Tempest was the architect of several buildings for the early Episcopal missions throughout Houston. He also was a founding member of the Houston Philharmonic Society and the Houston Oratorio Society. During the Sunday service at Christ Church Cathedral, the Lowry family was seated in a pew adjacent to the exquisite Tiffany stained glass window which is the only installation of its kind in Houston. After being personally greeted by Dean Joe Reynolds, the descendants participated in a special tour of Christ Church Cathedral and grounds, arranged by Mary Ann Boyd, a church member, and enthusiastically conducted by Judy Mood.

Then the Lowry family was whisked back again to Houston Heights where they toured 1435 Heights Boulevard, now owned by Dave Vandiver, who with his mother, Mildred, hosted their visit. Pace and his partner, Neil Sackheim, had initially purchased the home in 1984 and restored it. That was the year Pace began intensively researching not only the history of the home but also Rev. Rogers, who in 1903 had built this home and its neighbor, 1437 Heights, known as “the Twins”, to provide rental income for his widowed daughter, Susan Rogers Tempest. Susan Tempest owned the homes for almost 40 years even though she left Houston Heights in 1913 and moved to West Chester, Pennsylvania to be near her mother’s relatives. By that time her son, Benjamin Tempest, had graduated from Houston Heights High School, and Susan had lost her mother, Susan Pusey Rogers (1839-1912). But before leaving Texas, she donated lots to the new Episcopal mission at 1404 Allston in Houston Heights, which built a sanctuary shortly thereafter. The congregation honored Rev. Benjamin Andrew Rogers when they named their congregation St. Andrew's Episcopal Mission. Today, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church now occupies its third historic building located at Heights Boulevard and 19th Avenue, another site on the tour. The original Episcopal church building on Allston is owned by Bart Truxillo, who uses the building as an office.

Then Rev. Rogers's descendants paused briefly to take pictures at 2009 Harvard Street, the former home of Fayette C. and Myrtle Cooke Lowry, their paternal grandparents, and where their own father, Dr. Roswell Lowry, had spent his early youth.  Roswell later married his Cooley School childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth Tempest, daughter of J. A. and Susan Rogers Tempest, in New York City. Myrtle Cooke Lowry, a dear friend of Susan Rogers Tempest, was a member of the Houston Heights Musical and Social Club, and she created several musical events to raise funds for the club’s activities and projects, including construction of the women’s clubhouse. Unfortunately, the current owner of 2009 Harvard, Earl Smith, was out-of-town and unable to greet them personally. However, the visitors were absolutely thrilled to tour the historic home of Jackie and Ed Wray located at 1348 Heights, where their mother, Elizabeth Tempest, had lived as a child. This home, located originally at 1323 Heights next to Heights Funeral Home, was saved from demolition by Ross Dinyari and his son and daughter-in-law, John and Glenda Dinyari, in December, 1990 and moved across Heights Boulevard.  Interestingly, the home now stands on the same block where Rev. Rogers’s mansion, The Pines, once stood at 1316 Heights Boulevard.

It was scarcely a year ago that Pace finally found and "adopted" the descendants of Rev. Rogers, whose biography he has been researching for 25 years. What a thrill for all of them to travel to Houston Heights, once the home of their ancestors, for the family gathering.  Pace personally guided their tour and shared his research at his historic home located at 1407 Heights Boulevard, where they in turn shared with him many wonderful family stories, pictures, and the 1853 Texas diary of Rev. Rogers. They also met Randy's mom and sister, Lola Pace and Cheryl Pace Frame, who was the "official" photographer during their visit. Cheryl and her husband, Dave Frame, were visiting from Red Lion, Pennsylvania. They also celebrated Pace's birthday that weekend when the entourage went to Mia Bella restaurant for a special dinner on the first floor of the historic Kiam Building, located at 320 Main at Congress. The Kiam Building, built in 1893, was where their grandfather, J. Arthur Tempest, had once partnered with George A. Dickey, architect, in an office located in the front corner of the fifth floor.

Another special place they visited was Allen's Landing, located at the juncture of Buffalo and White Oak Bayous at Main Street.  This is where Rev. Rogers had first come to Texas in 1853 from Sanbornton, New Hampshire via the Gulf of Mexico on his way northwest by stagecoach and horseback to look for Texas farmland to which he would later relocate for his health. Rogers eventually settled permanently in Texas in 1866. He established his farm, known as Oaklands Farm, and he also served as the Episcopal rector at St. David’s in Austin, Grace Episcopal in Georgetown, and St. Paul’s in Waco, during which time he conducted services in Brazoria County, Bastrop, and Taylor, Texas. He also conducted services at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Hempstead, Texas, before settling in Houston Heights, an independent municipality which was later annexed by the City of Houston.

Perhaps the most special place the family visited during their time in Houston was Hollywood Cemetery on North Main, established in 1895, the place where the Rogers and Tempest family members rest in the shadow of a huge, granite-chiseled rugged cross also bearing their last names. While visiting the site, they were touched when Pace handed each of them a pine cone that had fallen to the ground from the two huge pine trees that shade the peaceful and beautiful site and which were gratefully accepted as a small memento of their visit there. After their comfortable stay at Sara's Inn on the Boulevard, Jerry, Sue, Temp, and Judy reluctantly had to return home after their very short but wonderful family "reunion" weekend, that Pace as well as his special guests will remember always.

Randy Pace
Houston Heights, Texas
December, 2009