The Ahern Home of Texarkana

978-1-64843-198-2 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
272 pp. 56 b&w photos. 2 line art. Appendix. Bib. Index.
Pub Date: 06/12/2024
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Focused on an early twentieth-century home in Texarkana, Arkansas, Doris Douglas Davis’s The Ahern Home of Texarkana offers not only a discussion of the architecture of a Classical Revival dwelling but also provides a closely observed account of the material culture and social structures of a particular time and place in the American South.

Built in 1905–1906 by Patrick Ahern, who immigrated to the United States from Dungarvan, Ireland, in 1881, the house at 403 Laurel Street was home to Ahern, his wife Mary, their six children, and a variety of descendants for over a century before its acquisition by the Texarkana Museums System in 2011. Today, the house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, serves as a writing retreat, music center, and venue for historical presentations and educational activities.

Based on archival materials, interviews with members of the family and those who knew them, and other research, Davis’s examination of the home and its inhabitants also includes a discussion of the complex relationship between persons of privilege such as the Aherns and the domestic servants, predominantly African American, whose often-arduous work made possible the smooth functioning of the household within its social context in the Jim Crow South. Describing the “fraught” relationships in the South between Black domestic servants and their white employers, Davis presents evidence of “the inevitable despair wrought by inequality and the tremendous capacity of the human heart to love.”

This detailed tour of the home, its construction and furnishings, and the socio-historical context of its day-to-day activities provides readers a window of understanding and appreciation that will inform students and scholars of material culture as well as those interested in historical preservation.

Red River Books, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Texarkana

Published by Texas A&M University Press