1. What was happening in the rest of the country when the house was built in 1874?
Stephen Decatur Lawrence, son of John P. Lawrence of Maryland and Fannie Coats Lawrence of Tennessee, began building the Mesquite landmark Lawrence house in 1874, when he completed three rooms. In 1882, contractor Charley Florrer built an additional 14 rooms. Between 1886-1900, the kitchen and tower (belvedere) were added.
The House The home, which is considered Texas prairie vernacular styling, is basically in the same condition as it was originally built, with few modifications over the years. Outbuildings include a smokehouse, brick-lined root cellar, a wash house, large livestock barn (also built by Mr. Florrer in 1887) and mule barn. Assorted chicken coops also still are intact. The farmstead complex is representative of the evolution of domestic buildings from the 1870s to the late 20th century on the North Texas plains and blackland prairie. Lawrence family members continually resided at the home until November 1995.
The Family S.D. Lawrence was first married to Louisa Porter of Mesquite. They had three surviving children, including a son, John Lawrence, who served as mayor of Mesquite for three terms - 1917-1923, 1925-1928 and 1949-1953. His siblings were Ida Bell and Charley. As a widower, S.D. married his second wife, Louisa Hill Walker of Missouri. They had five daughters, Ruby, Pearl, Opal, Garnet and Onyx, and three sons, Eddie, Hugh and Hill.
S.D. Lawrence was no stranger to public life. He served on the committee to begin Mesquite ISD and helped to raise funds for the first Mesquite school buildings.
Opal, Onyx and Garnet lived on the family farm their entire lives. They raised cattle and hens and sold eggs to regular customers. Opal and Garnet never married; Onyx married Fowler Summers, who joined Onyx and her sisters on the farm. Fowler passed away August 11, 1981, and Garnet passed away August 31, 1981. Opal and Onyx continued to take care of the farm until 1995, when Opal passed away September 4, and Onyx November 21.
Opal Lawrence’s last will and testament gave the City of Mesquite the house and two acres. The City then purchased an additional 11 acres to include the barn and outbuildings.
“Opal Lawrence Historical Park.” Mesquite Texas Real. Texas. Flavor, www.cityofmesquite.com/201/Opal-Lawrence-Historical-Park.