Did you notice the activity in the new LCRA park along Highway 190 last week? If so, you might have seen an old house moving east along 190 and wondered why anyone would want to move that old building?
The House was built by E.E. Risien in 1879. A cabinet maker by trade and significant contributor to the pecan history of San Saba, Mr. Risien built the home shortly after he married Elizabeth Lyne on property located along what was then called McAnnelly’s Creek. Approximately 40 acres of property was given to Mr. Risien by Dr. J.C. Rogan in exchange for water for the Dr.’s home. Mr. Risien lived in the home long enough to construct a waterworks system, bathhouse and a mill along the creek. He and his wife also had 4 of their 5 children while living in the home. One of his daughters, Norma got married and gave birth to a girl named Elsie. Elsie Millican has been a lifelong San Saba resident, is the 2010 recipient of the San Saba Heritage award, is the grand daughter to E.E. Risien.
Moving the house became Ms. Elsie’s idea and desire when the LCRA was unable to assume the responsibility to restore and maintain the home where it sat on the new park property. Katherine Gonzalez Sr. Project Manager with the LCRA and project manager for the building of our new park explained "the LCRA found that it just didn’t fit within our scope of expertise in the park business. As much as we would love to keep the home on park property, the LCRA is just not well equipped to manage the kind of challenges that restoring and maintaining a vintage home require."
Ms. Elsie felt it was necessary to try to preserve it and got a lot of wheels rolling with her vision. Folks like her grandson Winston Millican owner of Millican Pecan Company, Inc., Tony Guidroz, The Director of Economic Development and Tourism for San Saba, Stan Weik, City Manager for San Saba, and David Whatley, Manager of Parks for the LCRA. As others in the San Saba area heard of the effort to move the house, the list of interested groups grew. Ms. Elsie’s desire and vision now had feet so to speak, and her vision began to move forward. (pun intended) Plans were made to save the house and relocate it.
Mr. Whatley with the LCRA has been a strong advocate of saving the Risien Home as part of San Saba’s local history and has worked tirelessly to make sure the LCRA could provide its significant support to get the home relocated. "As we have built the LCRA park system throughout the Colorado River region of Texas, we frequently encounter buildings with historical significance that might be good to restore, but the LCRA is not equipped to do that. Fortunately there are interested local community leaders and organizations that often make it possible for a building to be moved and renovated. We are very pleased that the San Saba community and specifically Elsie Millican and her family have chosen to provide the land and resources necessary to make this a significant historical site for San Saba. As we build out the park here over the next few months we look forward to watching the restoration progress, and are proud the LCRA could provide its support."
Matt Kappmeyer the owner of "Come and Take it, LLc Structural Movers, was contracted to manage the relocation. Matt described some of the many challenges he faced with the home. "The obvious concern is that the home is over 110 years old, has been previously renovated with additions and is somewhat fragile. It also sits among many stately pecan trees which may have to be trimmed. Also, the exit point is uneven which could easily twist the home as we leave the property with it." Matt and his crew did an extraordinary job of raising the house, working it through the trees and across the ditch, and then finally getting the house in place on the Millican Property.
The Millican family views the move and restoration of the home as a long term project with a specific vision. The vision includes several distinct goals and will include the needed assistance from many San Saba community groups and organizations. The first project is the actual restoration of the Risien Home. The San Saba County Historical Commission and the San Saba County Historic Museum Foundation are being asked to provide their expertise to help accurately renovate the home. The city and the local garden club will be invited to provide guidance about the planned landscaping and indigenous plants necessary to produce a park like setting around the home. Leigh Ann Glaze Superintendent of Schools for the SSISD has agreed to consider the Risien Home as a project of interest for various groups within the Middle and High Schools.
Once completed, the Risien Home setting will be open to the public for tours, available for small meetings and catered events, as well as a showcase for weddings and other special events. Winston Millican owner of the Risien Home’s new location explains "we feel an obligation to our community to help maintain the historical significance represented by The Risien Home. As more people visit San Saba, we see the Risien Home as a nice addition to the inventory of historic San Saba sites. Couple that with the proximity to the new LCRA park system being constructed, and The Risien Home will fit right in. This community wide project is expected to draw upon many talented and energetic people within San Saba, and even though it will be a labor of love and a long term project, we believe that E.E. will be pleased with our efforts."