Four Years of Hard Work Resulting in a Masterpiece!
After four years of hard work renovating the stately historic home on West Sabine that they purchased in 2013, Carthage residents Kevin and Ginger Cook can finally relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors in their exquisitely restored house.
Built in 1870 by Thomas Hull, the stately home has been a Carthage landmark for generations. The John C. Brown family purchased the home in the early 1900s and lived there for many years, adding on to it several times. The Cooks believe that some of the additions were made in the early 1900s and some in the 1960s.
Kevin and Ginger worked on the house “solid, every day and every night,” according to Ginger, for the first two years after the purchase before moving in. Then they spent the next two years finishing the project. Kevin says that there will probably always be something more to do, but he adds, “The workers have REALLY slowed down!”
The Cooks had been wanting a larger house that was good for entertaining for quite a while before they found this one, and they were also interested in finding one that needed refurbishing, partly because of the very high cost of a large move-in ready home and partly because they just liked the idea of seeing a beautiful old home restored. When they saw this home, they knew it was a perfect match for them. Ginger says she was a little uncertain at first that Kevin could really do most of the work himself as he planned to. “He had never done much serious carpentry, just basic home repairs,” she says, “and this place was going to require everything! But he learned ‘on the job’ how to do it all!”
Before beginning, the Cooks had the house leveled, re-roofed, and properly vented. During nearly all of the first year of the renovation, Kevin was working under the house. There were moisture problems, and much of the house required replumbing. He also did considerable dirt work to be able to install some additional pipes to re-route water away from the house, sprayed everything with fungicide, and installed humidity fans. Then he began work on the inside. Every room had to be redone. Water-damaged ceilings had to be replaced, the kitchen and bathrooms updated, sheetrock hung, every surface sanded, primed, and painted or stained. The couple saved and refinished as many doors and trims as they could. Some of the door facings could be saved, but the majority were too badly damaged. Because the facings could not be purchased already made, the Cooks had replacements milled to match them. All the hardwood floors in the house also had to be refinished; the floors were not alike in every room because they had been installed during different additions, and the small den off the main entry appeared to have the only original 1870 floors remaining in the home.
When the Cooks purchased the home, the owners had hot rod cars, and the master bedroom was being used as a garage. The floors had been removed, so it had a dirt floor, and a garage door had been installed on one wall. Kevin says, “The only good thing about that was that it made it easier during the renovation for me to get under the house while I was working in that area!”
Originally, the kitchen had not been inside the house; it was located in a separate shed in the back. It had been indoors since probably the 1920s or 30s and had been reconfigured several times over the years. The Cooks did not make any structural changes; they just made cosmetic changes to update and modernize it.
Kevin and Ginger say that their goal was never to restore the home to its original state or follow the many rules required to put a home into a historic registry. They just wanted it to be remain true to the style of the house and reminiscent of the time it was created. Both of these goals have been achieved to perfection.
The Cooks have lived in Carthage since January 1, 1999. Kevin was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and raised all over the nation, having moved 11 times to seven different states by the time he was 17. “I wasn’t from Texas,” he says, “but I got here as quickly as I could!” He enrolled as a music major at Baylor University in 1980.
Ginger was born in Russellville, Arkansas but raised in Alexandria, Louisiana. She also came to Texas to attend Baylor as a music major, just a year after Kevin. By that time, Kevin was serving part time as the music minister at a Waco church, and he hired her to be the organist. Because she didn’t have a car, he drove her to church for every service, and their romance began to blossom. They were married right after Kevin graduated from Baylor in 1984.
After his graduation from Baylor, the couple moved to Fort Worth for Kevin to begin graduate work at Southwestern Seminary, where he earned both a masters degree in music and also a Master of Divinity degree. Ginger still had another year to finish her degree, so she finished at T.C.U. After two years of living in Fort Worth, Kevin began working as the Music and Youth Minister at a church in Lipan, about 50 miles from Fort Worth, in addition to continuing his seminary studies. The church had a parsonage for them to live in, so he commuted to Fort Worth for classes. They stayed in Lipan through 1993 and then moved to Big Spring in West Texas, where Kevin served as Music and Education Minister at College Baptist Church through 1998, when they moved to Carthage. He served as Music Minister at Southside Baptist Church for 16 years and now serves as Education and Children’s Minister at First Baptist Church.
Daughter Katy was born in 1990. A special needs child, Katy attended Carthage schools, graduating from CHS in 2012. She now lives during the week with five other ladies in a group home for special needs adults in Kilgore, part of Evergreen Life Ministries. She attends DayHab in Longview, where she attends life skills classes and enjoys other activities, then comes home to Carthage on the weekends to be with her family. Son Paul was born in 1998. Active in Scouting and his church youth group, he attained his Eagle Scout goal and was also active as a cellist with Project String Power and the First Baptist Church orchestra. He graduated from CHS in 2016 and is now a sophomore at Baylor. planning to major in communications. Kevin says that Paul was also quite instrumental during two of his high school years in helping with the home renovations, providing invaluable assistance in the huge project.
Ginger did not work outside the home while raising her children, but taught private piano lessons at home and played organ and piano at their various churches, also working with children’s choirs, Vacation Bible School, and other activities. She still teaches private piano lessons at home and also teaches group and private piano lessons at Panola College, as well as serving as the accompanist for the college’s Chorale, Chamber Singers, and vocal and instrumental soloists in their recitals.
This multi-talented, very musical couple and their beautiful historic home are quite a treasure for Carthage, and fortunately, they consider being here a treasure as well. “We really love it here in Carthage,” says Ginger. “This is the longest we have ever stayed in one place, and we don’t have any plans to leave!” That is very good news for the community!