Justin: In the Feast of Being Able to. Amen.

I live in a museum

Tilles House

My new place! The Tilles House, c1840. The Rogers-Tilles house is, by my understanding, the 2nd oldest house in Fort Smith. And man, does it ever show.

It is the Federalist style of architecture, which is pre-Victorian. It has many similarities to the homes of the founding fathers, though this one is a bit more simple. I don’t know if there is one just like anywhere in the U.S., though I have been searching the web diligently to find one. Perhaps the most similar building to it is at Fort Smith’s own National Historic Site – the former officers’ barracks.

Its history is uncertain, and there a couple of theories about its origin. One popular theory dates it to the late date of 1868, due to the late-in-life account told by a son who said that when his father, Louis Tilles, moved the family to Fort Smith after the Civil War, he built this home.

I don’t quite buy that, but I don’t have any of the real evidence just yet.

I am more inclined to agree with Former Arkansas State Representative Carolyn Pollan, who made the Tilles house her office during most of her twelve consecutive two-year terms in the state house (1975 – 1999). That is, the architecture… everything about the house seems to indicate an earlier construction. Surely it was build around 1840, when the Federal barracks were built, then renovated by Tilles in 1868. There is a photo of the Tilles home shortly after the family moved to it in 1868. Careful inspection of the photo reveals that the back porch is closed in to make another room. A more modern siding can be seen on that small wall. I believe Louis Tilles bought the old home, redid the downstairs hardwood floors, but not the upstairs, and converted the back porch into another room, maybe a kitchen. At some point over the years, the back porch converted back. You think the old wood floors might be original until you ascend the narrow staircase and see the rougher, wider wood floor boards upstairs.

The 2nd fort at Fort Smith was constructed in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. The man who laid out Fort Smith, John Rogers (Rogers Ave.), owned the land. He was a sutler in the U.S. Army, stationed at the fort. Here’s a old post card photo of the officers’ barracks, build about 1840. The photo is post-war, when the building was used at the Federal Jail, prior the construction of the jail currently attached to this one at the historic site.

I’m not buying the home just yet. I made a short lease/first option contract to get the feel. It would be my first home purchase, and while I can’t think of anything more perfect for me, I want to be very careful. It is the most unconventional home to… make a home. No kitchen, tiny bathroom, sloped floors… just what you’d expect for a home 168 years old. So, no major renovations for now, just minor ones, and a ton of fun.

I put a few photos in my gallery. I’ll add more as I get moved in.