Stories in Art: The Rotan-Dossett House in Waco, Texas

A unique piece of Texas history stands strong in McLennan County. Completed in 1891, the Rotan-Dossett House is an impressive sight and well deserves its place on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Stanton Studios had the opportunity to restore and preserve the windows in the home in 1998, which was a huge undertaking because of the amount and variety of windows that remain. Due to the delicate nature of glass, restoring stained glass windows is a difficult and timely process that must be completed by professionals.

The current owners of the house, Stuart and Elizabeth Smith, discuss the difficulties of maintaining a building that’s more than 125 years old. Though it would be hard to live in such an old home, Mr. Smith was happy to give us a tour and spoke of the house fondly with a smile on his face.

Historical Home
Historical Waco home restoration plaque

After completing the Seven Summit challenge (which consists of summiting the highest mountains on each of the seven continents), home restorations presumably pose no challenge to him.

The Rotan-Dossett House has an interesting history. As the plaque on the outside of the house explains, the original owner of the house was a Tennessee native and a Confederate veteran. Edward Rotan came to Waco in 1867, eventually becoming a very successful banker and civic leader. He built the house with large halls, wide porches, stained glass and ornate woodwork. The distinct architectural styles make the house a rare feature in the South. Rotan sold the house in 1917 to A.J. Dossett, who passed it down to his children and then his children’s children. Mrs. Smith, the great-granddaughter of A.J. Dossett, is the fourth generation of her family to live in the house.

After welcoming us into the house, Mr. Smith led us to the front entryway where Bryant Stanton designed and fabricated new glass door panels. The original opalescent stained glass panels that had been in the front door were removed by a previous owner who didn’t like that she couldn’t see out her front door.

“Jane Brooks, Elizabeth’s aunt, brought me the door panels in a wooden crate that had been sitting in the attic since the house was completed,” Stanton said. He restored the original door panels, and the Smiths installed them in their country home.

One year later, Mr. Smith asked Stanton for ideas for Mrs. Smith’s Christmas present. Stanton, remembering the original front door glass, came up with the idea to design and fabricate a new set of leaded glass panels inspired by the original opalescent panels. These new panels would still allow those on the inside to see who is approaching the front door. Installed next to two original stained glass windows, these leaded glass windows complete the entryway and give a fresh look to the design of the home.

Restored leaded glass entry by Stanton Studios

The most impressive windows in the house are six large stained glass windows that curve around the stairwell landing, giving it a soft color while maintaining privacy from the street. (These same windows, now restored, can be seen in this photograph obtained from the Texas Collection at Baylor University.)

Window restoration by Stanton Studios

As we followed Mr. Smith upstairs to one of the bedrooms, he told us how it was once the favored bedroom for girls in the family who wanted to get married. Called the Charm Room by its residents, it bestowed marital luck on its occupants, which Mr. Smith said might have more to do with the fact that the oldest girls were the ones who got to stay in the room.

In the same room, beautiful rondels give an interesting look to the windows while still letting in the afternoon light. One of the rondels in the window was broken over the course of time and was replaced by the bottom of a clear wine glass. It’s nearly indistinguishable from the actual rondels surrounding it. Though Stanton Studios doesn’t recommend this quick fix, we applaud the ingenuity.

Exploring the house gives visitors a sense of stepping back into time. The age of the house is almost a tangible quality in the house and the windows maintain that feeling throughout. The house is a testament to craftsmanship during the late 1800s, and Stanton Studios was honored to be able to restore the windows in the house.

Interested in learning more about Stanton Studios’ work on historical homes like this? Contact us for more information!

Historical home in Waco, Texas
Leaded glass window with rondels
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