Friday, July 29, 2011

Rabb Plantation @ Sabal Palm Sanctuary

Just east of Brownsville, Texas is the Sabal Palm Sanctuary. It is a 527 acre tract of land at a bend in the Rio Grande River. It is one of the most uniquely biodiverse habitats in the United States, containing one of the last vestiges of original sabal palm forest. The Sanctuary provides breeding habitat for may endangered or high-priority birds and is a critical source of shelter and food for migrating and wintering species.

Upon entering the Sanctuary, you drive past a beautiful old plantation house that is undergoing restoration work.

In 1891 Frank Rabb, working with his mother-in-law Maria Vicenta Vidal Starck, began work on a large two-story Victorian house that would dominate the high ground overlooking the Rio Grande a few miles downriver from Brownsville. It was built at a total cost of $15,000.00. At the time, it must have been one of the grandest homes in the region, making a statement of wealth and prosperity for 25 year old Frank Rabb and his new wife--a couple anxious to make their mark on society and politics of the region.

A handwritten note recently found in the Newel Post in the front hall gave some detail to the house’s construction: “The contractor, Jason Meboy Mclery, guaranteed to have it finished before Christmas dinner 1892. Skilled carpenters who worked on the building were Charles Morrison, John Falls, Stafford Corkill, Josefoun Tonks; painters Gallahaut & Bensery; trim by Shaw, Spucha & Ed Lagats. The house was complete on April 8th 1892 . The note ended with: “In god we trust the rest pay cash. Six month with fleas & ticks; San Tomas Ranch; March 28th 1892”

Notable guests at the Rabb-Starck Plantation home included Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan during his regular visits to the region.

(Historical information courtesy of the Rabb Plantation Home Facebook page)

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