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76-year-old home burns to ground, Thursday

By JR Ortega
March 25, 2011 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated March 24, 2011 at 10:25 p.m.

The entryway arch to Janice Graves' home is surrounded by rubble after a Thursday night fire that still smoldered Friday. Firefighters worked  until past midnight to  put out the fire that began at approximately 8:30 p.m.

HOCHEIM - When Janice Graves' English Tudor style home burned to the ground Thursday night, she had no idea she wasn't the only one who lost something valuable - so did the community.

Graves' home, at the corner of Steen Road and U.S. Highway 183, burned to the ground after sitting at the location about a mile or two north of Hocheim since the 1930s, said Graves, who lived in the home for about 10 years.

Graves and others considered it somewhat of a landmark.

"The house doesn't fit the area," she said. "It has always stuck out."

The house was once owned by Arthur Steen, who also owned a cotton gin and general store across the highway, she said.

Graves stumbled upon it on the Internet when she and her late husband decided to move from Brazoria County.

"The day I saw the house, I fell in love with it," Graves reflected, her voice filled with emotion.

The house was empty on the inside with neither cabinetry nor paneling because of a flood in 1998.

Still, she managed to see its potential.

The inside was modernized yet the outside of the house remained unchanged - a landmark for the community.

But Thursday night, when Graves was on her way to visit her grandchildren in Brazoria County, she received a call from a neighbor about the fire.

She turned around from Van Vleck back to her home and, after driving 65 miles per hour for about half an hour, received another call.

"There is nothing here now and there will be nothing here when you get here," Graves said her neighbor said.

The Yoakum, Cuero and Gonzales Fire Departments were on the scene as well as the DeWitt Sheriff's Office, said Capt. Jeff Ruppert with the Yoakum Fire Department.

The departments were on the scene from about 8 p.m. to just before midnight, Ruppert said.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

Ruppert, who has lived in the area for 23 years, did not know much about the home's history but did know it existed.

"It's something you notice when you drive by. There are not a lot of houses in the area," he said.

The house was the only two-story house between Cuero and Gonzales, Graves said.

Now, Graves is staying with a neighbor until her insurance company investigates what's left of the home.

Graves may rebuild, move a mobile home onto the property or relocate, but keep the property.

"There are lot of options, but no hardcore decisions," she said. "In my heart, I felt it being close to being recognized."



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