arnold's house

An old Victorian-style house at 259 North Main in La Grange, Texas, is holding its breath. Since it was built in 1908, two prominent families have called this impressive residence home. In decidedly different eras, the Kruschels and Rombergs have shaped the civic and charitable affairs of this city of approximately 5,500. Now the Kruschel-Romberg house is for sale.

Built by the Kruschel Family

A local contractor built the Kruschel home for a widow, Mrs. Emma Kruschel, and her daughters. This gorgeous old home features long-leaf pine floors and large airy rooms with tall ceilings. It has intricate hand-carved fretwork, transom windows, pocket doors and a dramatic oak staircase.

Other features include glorious first and second-floor wrap-around porches, a walk-in cedar closet and a cistern with a hand pump on the kitchen porch. The library’s rolling ladder spans the room, so books on the top shelves are never out of reach.

The house has a partial basement, which was – and is – unusual for La Grange because of the high water table. Perhaps the dwelling’s most unusual feature is an elevator.

Only half a block from the Fayette County Courthouse in the heart of La Grange, the fine old structure (pictured in 1971) sits next to the railroad tracks.
In the background of this 1935 photo of downtown La Grange, the Colorado River is at flood stage. High and dry, the Kruschel house is the large residence behind the businesses in the foreground.

The building and the inviting grounds are a credit to Mrs. Kruschel. After the death of her husband, Charles, in 1899, she invested her family’s money wisely. In fact, her four surviving spinster daughters never had to seek employment.

The late Mr. Kruschel had earned a reputation for generosity. His obituary stated, ‘he was public-spirited and aided with his purse every enterprise that he thought would benefit his town and county.’ Mrs. Kruschel continued to follow his example. After their mother died in 1943, the daughters carried on the family’s philanthropic good works. 

Legend has it that Mrs. Emma Kruschel, pictured at the family home after a rare La Grange snowfall, forbid her daughters to marry.

Misses Kruschel, as the local newspapers called Agnes, Olga, Ella and Hattie, were active in their church and often entertained. Remembered as being gracious and kind, they were known as generous benefactors to La Grange and Fayette County.

The Kruschel sisters donated land near their home for a swimming pool and park. In this 1956 photo, Agnes breaks ground on the project. Sister Hattie, in a dark dress beside her, stands with her hand on her hip; sister Ella is next to her. Olga, the fourth sister, was unable to attend.

Many of the sisters’ gifts were small, such as buying paint for the building housing the floral entries at the 1955 Fayette County Fair. However, those gifts were no less important.

That same year, the Kruschels won honorable mentions in the categories for the best outdoor and best nativity scene lighting in the La Grange Jaycees’ Christmas contest. All their lives, they valued being part of the community.   

The third eldest Kruschel daughter, Ella, who died at 92 in 1976, outlived all her sisters.

Restored by the Rombergs

Although Arnold Romberg had ties to Fayette County, Texas, he and his wife, Suzy, didn’t plan to someday retire in La Grange. But that changed when they laid eyes on the two-story Kruschel home that had sat empty for several years. Their realtor attempted to dissuade them, suggesting homes on the market requiring significantly less TLC.

However, the ornate old home appealed to the Rombergs’ shared sense of adventure and purpose. They purchased it in 1979. Then Arnold and Suzy got to work on the extensive and most satisfying project of their lives.

Restoration of the beautiful Victorian was a labor of love as the smile on Arnold’s face (above) can attest.

Beauty More than Skin Deep

The Romberg’s revitalization included both new plumbing and electricity to make the old house cozy and snug.

Community-Minded Owners Like the Kruschel sisters, Arnold and Suzy Romberg have devoted themselves to community and civic affairs. Suzy was instrumental in founding Second Chance, a Fayette County non-profit resale store, that’s now operated by a consortium of seven churches.

Suzy also volunteered with the Fayette County Republican Party and served on the board of the Fayette Public Library, as well as other organizations.

Arnold was elected to the La Grange City Council and served 17 years. Today, he is president of the Texas Heroes Museum in La Grange and the La Grange Railroad Depot Museum. Arnold also actively participates in several other groups.

The Kruschel-Romberg Connection

The two sets of homeowners shared an intense interest in safeguarding a mid-19th century historic La Grange house listed on the national register of historic places.

In 1961, the Kruschel sisters lent the La Grange Garden Club money to purchase the historic N.W. Faison House and its contents from out-of-state heirs to create a civic museum.

Several months ago, some 60-plus years later, the La Grange Garden Club officially turned over ownership of the N.W. Faison House to the Faison Preservation Society. Arnold is the president of this organization that will oversee and protect this antiquity in the future.

Arnold decided it was time to downsize.

Following Suzy’s death last fall, 88-year-old Arnold put their home on the market. He hopes the new owner will treasure the grand old house as much as he and Suzy – and the Kruschel sisters – have. He also wishes they might carry on the century-plus Kruschel-Romberg commitment to the community.

If this old home could talk, it undoubtedly would echo those sentiments. Until a new owner settles in, though, the Kruschel/Romberg house continues to hold its breath.

Thanks to the Fayette Heritage Museum and Archives for the use of the historical photos.

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I am fascinated by the stories that old homes and buildings could tell. Here are two other posts on that subject: 

Elaine Thomas
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