Story by Denise Barbier; Photos by Rachel Greaser
In the heart of the city of Bryan is Downtown Bryan, a vibrant place to dine, shop, conduct business, and a burgeoning place to live. Some of the dwellings are new, but there are also several existing homes with enough charm, character, and history to entice a person to take a leap into “vintage” homeownership. One of these historic homes, The Milton Parker Home on 200 South Congress in the upper west end of Downtown Bryan, has been transformed into a luxury bed and breakfast.
The Parker Home was built in 1885 by Milton and Molly Parker, wealthy Brazos River bottomland owners, as their “town” house. Molly designed the home for their large family of eight children and hired German carpenters from Dallas to build the 5,000-square foot home for $6,000. Each bedroom was equipped with a closet, which was an extravagance in those days as taxes were levied based on the number of rooms in a home.
Two different stories cite the reasoning they built the home by the railroad tracks. According to one source, Molly and her girlfriends would ride the train from her home to and from Houston to shop. Who else can boast of door-to-door service to big city shopping via a large locomotive? The other version of the story is that Milton loved to watch his cotton bales pass by on the railroad cars to the Galveston market. In either case, both stories indicate that this family was part of the affluent Bryan movers and shakers in the late 1800s.
The home has been designated on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987. It is an Eastlake Victorian design with two large parlors, a huge dining room and five spacious bedrooms. The home is noted for having the first indoor bathroom in Bryan with water supplied by a cistern in the attic. The bathroom walls were encased in one-inch thick concrete as it was unknown how an indoor bathroom would affect the indoor environment.
Parker family members owned the home from 1885 until 1992. During that time, the home was used as a boarding house during the Depression, as a social club known as “The Oaks” where many a young gent met his future wife, and finally as a home again in the 1950s. Bob and Kate (Parker) Bernath made some minor changes to the interior in the late 1950s. Upon the death of Mrs. Bernath, the home was donated to Texas A&M University and became a fraternity house for about seven years. In 1999, Van Walker purchased the home with the vision to reclaim the home’s historical prominence. Under his care the home was renovated into an event center and a bed and breakfast. He purchased many of the original Parker family Eastlake antique furniture pieces including a rare Prisoner’s chest. Made by Huntsville State Prison inmates, the hefty cedar-lined hope chest is hand carved in deep relief and includes the initials “FPT” for Fanny Parker Tilson, one of Milton and Molly’s daughters.
A mere five blocks from downtown Bryan, the home and acreage are a rare combination of vintage grandeur and tranquil spaciousness. Working with Martin and Sims Development Ltd. during the summer months of 2016, the home has been transformed once again into a luxury bed and breakfast with five overly large bedrooms, each with an updated private bath. The 12-foot ceilings and 9-foot doors and windows evoke a lofty, bright roominess. Lindsey Herod of Lindsey Herod Interiors in Houston brought freshness into the interior spaces, especially the dining room, with the grand crystal chandelier and the 8-by-10-foot paned window with views to the south.
The grounds immediately surrounding the home are currently undergoing a face-lift with guidance from landscape architect Sally Godfrey and will include a bocce ball court, fire pit, outside dining, flower garden, and vegetable garden, all with an eye toward earth-kind practices. Overall, the vision is to create a feeling of nostalgia and relaxation with a fresh interpretation and much fun. The home and grounds will enchant all who come as guests to return again and again.
At its core, the Milton Parker Home has always been a place of gatherings for family, friends, and Aggies. The home is available for small events such as reunions, parties, or showers, or for overnight guests. Enjoy luxury accommodations in an authentic vintage home.
Bob and Denise Barbier are the new homeowners of the historic Milton Parker Home in Downtown Bryan. Both are graduates of Texas A&M University who have returned to the area after living out of state for the last 25 years.