Dozens of people over the holiday weekend went inside the saved-from-demolition Santa House and wrote all over its downstairs walls and floors.
It wasn’t vandalism or graffiti. The writings are Biblical scriptures left at the invitation of owners Denise Duncan and Steve Cooper Sr. The words and messages will stay and be part of the home forever – covered over soon by sheetrock and new flooring but left to always speak to Duncan and Cooper, much like God spoke to them to save and restore the iconic two-story home on North Oak Avenue.
Tommy and Barbara Pophin were among those who stopped by Monday to receive a tour and leave their scripture, Proverbs 3:5-6, penned in felt marker on a living room wall.
“They have been trusting in the Lord with this house,” Barbara Pophin said when asked why they chose that passage. “They have given it to the Lord. They have apparently laid it at His feet and He has told them, ‘This is your house.’ They have gone wholeheartedly with pretty much rebuilding it from the top to the bottom, or the bottom to the top. It’s amazing.”
Tommy Pophin explained the verses state, “Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t trust anything else. Lean not on your own understanding, that there may be all kinds of ideas and all kinds of directions, don’t trust in that. In all your ways acknowledge Him, so you acknowledge God in what you are doing, so there is a reward and He will make your path straight. That’s the reason for the verse.”
Barbara Pophin noted the new owners’ plans to share the house with the community.
“He is leading them on the path to redo the house and they are sharing it,” she said. “They are not keeping it to themselves. This is for their family, this is for their friends.”
Across the walls and floors Bible verses are penned and signed. Duncan said she will write down each verse and create a map of their locations, kept in her Bible, so that in the future she can go that spot and recite the scripture hidden beneath.
Cooper is doing most of the remodeling work himself, save some of the major electrical and plumbing work. He said Duncan wants them moved in and living in the home by late fall. He says that might be a little ambitious for the couple which is still driving 90 minutes one way from their current home in North Richland Hills and doing what they can, when they can.
Placing Biblical scriptures on walls and floors is something the couple has done for previous home restoration projects. They made this a community event, since the house is treasured by many locally. Duncan plans on hosting a number of community events and gatherings there in the future.
She said as many as 30 people showed up Saturday to leave scripture, followed by another 30-35 on Sunday. By midday Monday another 10 people visited the house.
“It all stands out,” said Duncan when asked the weekend’s writings. “This is the best day of construction for me because this is when the house comes to life. Forever and always God will be embedded in this house. Sixty years from now, when somebody decides to redo the house and they tear it all up, they are going to come upon God’s word and know who helped.”
The couple late last year purchased the 90-year-old white three-story Antebellum-style home with its big white columns and large second-story balcony. After submitting architect-approved plans, construction timetable and financial information, the city’s Board of Adjustment and Buildings and Standards Commission in January reversed a previous demolition order to let Duncan and Cooper preserve and restore it.
“God saved this house,” said Duncan. “Cooper and I didn’t save this house. All of that glory goes to Him. This is just our way of making sure we honor that.”
She said letting the public come and write scripture inside the home is special.
“It’s a blessing to have others write it for us,” she said. “Each and every time somebody writes a scripture in here that is a blessing to us.”
Duncan owns Lighting Etc. in North Richland Hills. Cooper owns Steve’s Tile, a mid-cities tile company specializing in ceramic and porcelain tile installation.
Through previous owners Lloyd and Betty Allen, the home became known as “The Santa House,” where Santa and Mrs. Claus would wave to cars passing along the city’s main north-south thoroughfare and kids would run up and sit on Santa’s lap in an oversized white rocking chair with Santa’s name painted in red letters on the head rest – the same Santa rocking chair used in recent years for Santa visits, in parades and at Merry Wells.
The home is structurally sound, said Cooper. Once living on the first floor, they will continue working on their project over the next five years to complete. Other than removing a two-room addition on the rear, Duncan and Cooper plan to maintain the home’s original exterior and interior design with its original moldings, bay windows, high ceilings and the dental molding that wraps around the top of its exterior. They plan to keep the transom doors found throughout the house – used for ventilation in older homes – and interior doors from that period.