Chambers House, in the Oaks Historic District in Beaumont, Texas, is open for public tours. Filled with original furnishings and decorative items, the home is conserved and operated as a time capsule by the Beaumont Heritage Society.
Backstory and Context
Built in 1906 by a local lumberman to reflect both Beaux-Arts Colonial and Southern Greek Revival styles of architecture, this house on Calder Avenue in Beaumont, Texas, was sold to the Chambers family in 1914. C. Homer and Edith Fuller Chambers moved into the home with their two young daughters, Edith and Ruth. The family cherished the home for the rest of their lives. While the Chambers daughters did go off to college, a fairly unusual occurrence in those days, both returned home after graduation with teaching degrees, never married, and stayed in the house until their deaths. By chance and by choice, few changes occurred to the house or its furnishings in nearly ninety years of Chambers family occupancy.
The collection inside contains nearly all of the original family furniture and artifacts, most dating to a 1924 remodel. Very little was ever thrown away and the family rarely purchased anything new. The present house tour, therefore, was fairly easily designed by the Beaumont Heritage Society as a time-capsule experience, illustrating life for one Beaumont family from 1920 through the end of World War II. Tours of the house emphasize its architecture but also highlight the vast collection of artifacts it contains: Florence's paintings, Edith's and Ruth's needlepoint samplers, lace and linen textiles from the family's sideboards are just three of the temporary (rotating) exhibits created by the society in the last year.
Most historic house museums reflect the life-styles of upper-class families. The Chambers House is unique in its reflection of the lives of an upper-middle-class family. Edith and Ruth Chambers did receive a small inheritance upon their father's death in the 1950s, but they managed to grow that money into a sizable fortune by wisely investing in the stock market. Although neither sister ever worked outside the home, both were well versed in business tactics (through self-education and college experiences) and were able to make savvy stock selections. Making it their mission to leave their dividends (and their family home) as a legacy for all to enjoy and as a local history teaching tool, the sisters lived well below their means and established the C. Homer and Edith Fuller Chambers Foundation to maintain the home and preserve it as a museum after their deaths (Ruth in 1989 and Edith in 2004).
The Beaumont Heritage Society was left in charge of conserving the house and its artifacts. To highlight the uniqueness of a middle-class historic house time-capsule experience, the society encourages visitors to contrast their visit to the Chambers house with a visit to the McFaddin-Ward house on the same street. That lavish home, also curated by the Beaumont Heritage Society as a time-capsule display, details the life-style of an upper-class Beaumont family made wealthy by agriculture and oil discovery.
"Women's History Month: The Chambers Sisters," Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau, accessed August 29, 2016, http://www.beaumontcvb.com/blog/post/womens-history-month-the-chambers-sisters/.