Welcome to the Munson House that stands at 1127 West Morton Street in Denison. “This is the house built by my great-grandfather,” says John Munson. “That house,” he says as he points across the alley, “was built by my grandfather.”
John Munson has called the W.B. and Ella Munson House his home since he purchased it and started renovations in 1976. Some of the wonderful, old trees still surround the two-story, neo-classical home, and the Carriage House still stands in the back east corner of the lot. One large, old oak tree has been carefully shaped so that its huge branches bend away from the house. Two of the old magnolia trees have been trimmed back so that the house is more visible and safer from strong Texas winds.
Perhaps the best view comes from the front driveway at an angle that stresses the majesty of the second-floor balcony and portico, both supported by tall, ionic columns enhancing the feel of height. The broad, seven-step flared approach to the main door beckons visitors to enter. The front porch is bordered by cement balustrades and continues to wrap around to the side entrance which is covered by the “graceful porte-cochere.”
John Munson opens the side door, the first of the many stained and beveled glass doors and windows throughout the home. The first view of the interior includes the living room, large entry area and dining room. Thanks to sturdy construction using three I-beams, there are large openings between the rooms. The beautiful wood floors have been uncovered and restored as part of the renovation.
Each room is full of period appropriate furniture and décor. Of special interest in the dining room is the original fabric wall-covering with a green and rust leaf motif.
“This furniture came from my mother’s home in Atlanta, Georgia,” explains John as he points to the unusual loveseat and settee in two of the corners in the dining room.
Each of several chandeliers is unique in design, striking and original. They each have been converted from gas to electric, yet still create warm, ambient light throughout the area. The huge grandfather clock demands attention as it performs its hourly duty. Over the years, John has collected numerous brass pieces to go with the old brass scales on the entry table, which dates back as far as he can remember. The brass duck stencil from the old cotton mill has been carefully framed and hangs on the living room wall.
Undoubtedly, one of the most outstanding assets inside the entire Munson House is the large wood-burning stove, which was made in St. Louis. Four of the eight burners have been converted to gas and a modern wall oven has been added. Otherwise (and other than barbequing), John finds the stove quite adequate for his cooking needs. One minor adaptation is the use of a rail spike to lift a plate on the wood-burning side. The stove sits on the uncovered and cleaned, original white ceramic-tiled floor.
The home, and especially the stove, have been important to other family members over the years. In a telephone interview, Richard Munson recalls with fondness family meals at the Munson House.
“Usually 20 to 25 people would gather for Christmas or Easter. Eloise Munson and her sister-in-law, who lived in the house across the
alley, traded holidays hosting family dinners for the whole group. Eloise, the youngest of great-grandfather Munson’s offspring, cooked holiday meals on the original stove. Although it has been converted to gas from wood-burning, the stove still stands center stage in the current kitchen.”
Adjacent to the dining room is a well-lit day room, complete with wall-mounted brass plates used for holding plants. At the end of the room is a still-operational, wood-paneled elevator, one of the first in Denison. According to John, this convenience allowed Ella Munson the freedom to continue the card-playing she loved until she was 99.
In between the dining room and the kitchen is the butler’s pantry, which houses the china collection. Access to the pantry is a door made with large, beveled panes of glass.
The wood paneling of the downstairs carries through with the broad, wooden staircase, leading to the second floor. There are four bedrooms, of which one has been converted to an exercise room. On one side of a bedroom the windows and doors open up to the balcony with an amazing view of the yard and property.
Another staircase leads to a third floor, which is largely used for storage and not available for viewing. From outside the house the beautiful red clay of the Ludowici roof is visible. It is also noted that the walls of the Munson estate are of double brick construction with air in between for insulation. The landscaping was done by Lambert’s of Shreveport (the same Lambert’s with a Dallas location). Outside brick damage from storms was repaired by Juan Murillo. Together, Louis Pollaro and Murillo have been able to replace balustrades on the porch as well as copper trim under the eaves.
The old pecan tree to the east of the house was grafted to produce hard-shell pecans as well as the soft-shell variety. The long limb has been cabled so that it continues to accommodate a low hanging swing.
It is obvious that the renovation of this stately home has been a labor of love for John DeGolian Munson. The W.B. and Ella Munson House was granted a Historical Marker by the Texas Historical Commission in 2013.