The Carriage House behind the W.H. Stark House houses a new exhibit called Living Legacy to commemorate the Stark family’s contributions to the community and how contemporary attendees can help their communities as well. Also, the Stark Museum of Art is being expanded and the W.H. Stark House is undergoing some general maintenance to serve the public better. RECORD PHOTOS: Lawrence Trimm

David Ball – For The Record

The Stark Foundation is quietly and steadily making some changes to their facilities to better serve the public.

Ellen Welker, communications manager, said renovations are occurring at The Carriage House, the W.H Stark House and the Stark Museum of Art through expansion and revamping some exhibits.

The Carriage House at the W.H. Stark House houses the newest exhibit- the Living Legacy.

Curator Jeff Harris said The Carriage House is centered around mini-exhibits based on family research of the Starks and Lutchers and what they were, and still are, about.

“They were incredibly generous to the community,” he said. “There was so much that there were dozens of things we had to eliminate. It was too much.”

There will now be more changes to the collection for the public to see. Harris said they are “wonderful changes” in an ongoing process.

The museum guides also engage the tourists in conversations about the exhibits.

On September 12, specialty tours can be arranged on the second Saturday of each month.

One of the themes is why did the Starks choose Orange, Texas to live.

The exhibits gives the family background, early photos, memorabilia, etc.

Welker said an inside joke for the staff at The Carriage House is what particular Stark or Lutcher someone is referring to since everyone in the lineage were named Stark or Lutcher.

The Living Legacy exhibit opened six months ago to connect the people and the objects together.

For instance, there’s information about the Stark Reading Contest, started in 1904 by Miriam Stark and still continues to this day as part of their legacy.

Miriam’s mother, Frances, served in the American Red Cross and she was made an honorary life chair for her service. She was also involved in hurricane relief efforts in 1886.

Lutcher Stark was an International Rotary officer for his involvement in that organization.

Frances would greet wounded World War I veterans at the train station and give them orchids. She became known as the orchid lady.

She was also instrumental in getting a hospital built in Orange. Before that, residents had to travel to Galveston for medical care.

Frances also built the First Presbyterian Church in Orange. Miriam taught Sunday school there. Her class enabled a blind girl to learn Braille, play the piano and the cornet because of their generosity, Harris said.

There are newspaper clippings at the exhibits about the family such as W.H. saving a boy from drowning in the Sabine River in 1896.

W.H. was an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin and he served on board of regents.

Miriam donated books and the Starks would pledge aid to the poor. In fact, they pledged $125 per month for relief in 1936 during the Great Depression.

“They were compassionate and very caring people,” Harris said.

One theme of the exhibit is called What Concerns You? which connects the family’s concerns of their day and how they gave back to the community to the present day and wha attendees can do.

W.H., for instance, was an honorary volunteer firefighter who put out fires. Likewise, attendees may grab a token and drop it into a cannister with different categories of contemporary concerns. There is also a book marker with spaces to fill in to create one’s own checklist of way they can lend a helping hand.

There will be an announcing period to make known how the voting is going for the different categories.

“Take a pledge and do something in your community,” Harris said. “Post it to the site (padlet.com/whstarkhouse/livinglegacy). It connected the dots for the needs in the community. We hope the people will be inspired.”

Different charitable organizations also have pamphlets on display on how people can get involved in the community.

The exhibit wants attendees to ask themselves what are you doing for their community and are you involved.

Drew Whatley, education assistant and site manager at The Carriage House, explained the concept of the Samantha Hoag Collection exhibit and the Curator’s Corner that invites you to be a curator.

The Curator’s Corner works with photo reproductions and labels to help in making a display. There’s also a white dry erase board for naming the exhibit.

“It’s about how objects relate to each other,” Whatley said. “We brainstorm on how this would impact people. They can get the big picture and a visual of what they want.”

The Carriage House is located just south of The W.H. Stark House at 610 West Main Avenue.  The Carriage House reopened on February 9, 2010 after being closed for eighteen-months to repair damages from Hurricane Ike.  Highlighted in the Carriage House are over 1,500 decorative arts for the W.H. Stark family collection.  On display are American Brilliant Period cut glass, early American glass, art pottery, porcelains, bronzes, silver, paintings and an extensive European and Oriental decorative arts collection.

The Stark Foundation will be constructing a major addition to the Stark Museum of Art, it was reported at the July 14 Orange City Council meeting.

To allow construction access, they request the temporary closure of Sixth Street between Green Avenue and Elm Street. Construction is projected to start in October, 2015. They estimate a completion date 18 months later.

Welker said the closure will create a safer and more efficient work area. The former First Baptist Church of Orange Life Center will be used as a lay down yard during the construction period.

The Foundation will assume liability of the street during the closure and make any needed repairs to the street after construction is complete.

The church built a new facility on MLK Drive. The Foundation felt since downtown Orange is a cultural and educational area they didn’t want a structure such as a filling station being built on the site that wouldn’t fit.

The Foundation’s goal is to renovate the sanctuary and use it as a lecture center or as a small performing arts center.

“It would be a more intimate space,” Welker said.

The nameplates from the church pews will be made into plaques so the people can be recognized.

Welker added the Foundation is being respectful of the church’s legacy and treating it so in a dignified manner.

The remainder of the site could be used to build classroom spaces, a workshop and parking in the future.

The museum will be expanded on the east side of the building for additional classroom and workshop space.

The Stark Foundation offers free field trips and the transportation for Region 5 Educational Service Center schools and those in Calcasieu Parish. Welker said to contact each Stark Foundation venue for more information.

The classrooms are benchmarked to TEKS standards that may fulfill school standards.

“Our mission is lifelong learning. It’s the greatest gift. We’re education-focused and we want to offer opportunities to everyone for youngsters and the young at heart,” she said.

“We’re changing our incredible art with new things from the collection along with old favorites,” she said.

The W.H. Stark House is being repainted. The house is painted every six years, according to Welker for standard maintenance.

The home, however, is still open for tours.

“We’re very serious about the maintenance so tourists may have a superb visit,” she said.

New air conditioning is also being installed.