In a nutshell…
The whole story starts with a man named John George Woldert, who emigrated to New York from Saxony (present day Germany) with the goal of making it to Texas. A second-generation woodworker, John George found a fair amount of success in New York before he left for Texas, eventually landing in Galveston. His adventures while in Texas are nothing short of amazing—suffice it to say that John George was a woodsman, an adventurer, an entrepreneur, amassed a surprising amount of land, and hob-nobbed with some of the original founders of Texas like Sam Houston.
After years building his fortune in the south of Texas, John George (married now, with children) moved to Tyler in 1859 to protect his land interests in the newly-minted Smith County. Once here John George became a successful merchant and settled down to—among other things—make wine from native Texas grapes (and whatever else he could get his hands on like tomatoes, peaches, strawberries…)
When the restoration of the Manor was undertaken in the early 1990s it was believed that the Manor was the original house built by John George in 1859. As we researched, we discovered that this almost certainly isn’t the case (that original house was across the road). Instead, the Manor was built in 1884 by John George’s son William Woldert (himself a third-generation woodworker). William’s daughter Alma Mary was born in the house in 1884 and moved back home after the death of her first husband, soon remarrying Robert Spence. Together, they had three children—Robert Spence, Jr., Elizabeth Spence, and Richard McLeroy—and in the 1930s they necessarily built a second story onto the house to make room for everybody. The guest rooms today are named after Alma Mary and her family.
The two carriage houses out back (there used to be three, but one burned in the 1980s) were built as garage apartments after the oil field hit in 1931, Tyler boomed, and rental housing was in short supply.
After Robert Spence passed way in 1965, the Manor and garage apartments became rental housing (we’ve since met almost everybody who lived here) and remained so for two and a half decades before the restoration was started in the early 1990s. By some miracle, the beautiful woodwork and stained glass of William Woldert survived these last 130 years, and today is part of the fully-restored house.