Now that the remodel on their newly acquired two-story Mediterranean style home with three bedrooms, two full- and two half-baths is complete, Wayne and Marlene Norcross can finally sit back, relax and enjoy a sense of ownership. “We are caretakers of such wonderful history,” Wayne said, referring to the old Carlisle/Blankenbeckler home they purchased approximately one-and-a-half years ago. “Marlene and I feel it’s a privilege to keep the history alive.”
The home on Sycamore Street was built in 1935 by Bertram C. Hill and the Mediterranean style was inspired by Maude Carlisle. Maude was the motivating force behind the unique home located on a corner lot. The original facade did not change until 1960 when the kitchen was redesigned and a morning room and utility room were added. “The morning room was trendy before its time,” Marlene mentioned. The bank of sliding windows still offers an outstanding view to the courtyard when closed, while allowing the courtyard to become one with the home’s interior rooms when they are in the open position. “The home is
conducive to family gatherings,” Marlene added.
In 1969, the garage of the home was closed in so the family room could be added. Frank and Neil Blankenbeckler, Maude’s son-in-law and daughter and second owners of the homestead, took the fourth bedroom original to the home and turned it into an upstairs dressing room in 1975. In 1987, the family room received an update. “The fireplace was added at that time,” Wayne explained, “as was the custom cabinetry. The last time anything structural was done to the home was in 1987.” When purchasing the home, Wayne and Marlene inherited the plans, renovations and updates, so they can be certain on the history of the home when sharing it with others. “The stainless steel countertops are original to the home,” Wayne said, “as are all the windows.”
Many “firsts” to Waxahachie were found in the home’s construction so many years ago. The hydraulic water sprinkler and tennis court were the first of their kind in the area. Today, the sprinkler system is still in working order, but the Norcrosses decided to replace half of the tennis court with an in-ground pool. The remaining section of tennis court became an all-around sport court for the couple’s grandchildren.
The 12-inch walls, made of brick, plaster and stucco overlay, keep the home quiet, while also lending to a balanced temperature year-round. Chandeliers are commonplace within the home. The Murano glass chandelier, which hangs in the upstairs bedroom, was custom-made in a factory in Italy. The second upstairs guest bedroom is home to an antique French crystal and brass chandelier dating back to the late 19th century. The door handles and knobs throughout the house are from Spain. The stair railings, also original to the home, were hand-forged and hammered to what visitors still consider artwork at its finest.
During the purchase, Wayne and Marlene acquired several items from the Blankenbeckler family. A couple noteworthy pieces include a hand-painted bedroom suite dating back to the 19th century that Marlene placed upstairs to honor Mrs. Blankenbeckler’s memory, and a French Rococo mirror that is well over 100 years old. “I love the less ornate French decor and furnishings,” Marlene admitted. Marlene has taken the traditional and merged it with one of her favorite collections — pigs — to make for a cozy, whimsical home with a deep French Mediterranean feel. “We added our own things,” she said, “while maintaining the integrity of the home.” Other collectibles include blown glass artisan vases and trays, which go perfectly with the Murano chandelier. A washstand in the family room that was passed down from her great-grandmother is the only material memory Marlene has of this side of her family. “My great-grandmother brought it with her in a covered wagon from Virginia,” Marlene said. “When their house burned, this was the only thing that survived.” It may not be in the best condition, but it is a piece that evokes some very special memories.
During the remodel, Wayne and Marlene removed all the old, outdated wallpaper, had the home’s interior and exterior repainted and the floors throughout were also redone. They remember the traffic jams they caused when trying to pick the perfect shade for the outdoor shutters. “We painted the shutters all different colors until we found a color we both liked,” Marlene laughed. “Neighbors would drive by and vote on their favorite colors. It was fun!” Still today, people will drive by slowly, and some will even stop and knock on the door, to revisit a memory they made years earlier.
Tradition in this couple’s home has always been to come and go by the back door. The front entrances in their previous homes were never really used. “We looked at and bought this house without ever going through the front entrance,” Wayne confessed, also mentioning they chose Waxahachie when moving back to the area so he could pick up where he left off in the insurance business. They quickly realized the same tradition applied to the Carlisle and Blankenbeckler families.
The water feature found in the courtyard pond today was originally a brick barbecue pit. The trees, offering shade by day and romantic lighting when evening comes, were planted when the home was built. The far back area of the 1.03 acre lot is where visitors will find the English flower garden, always in bloom. “The garden blooms all year long, thanks to Mrs. Blankenbeckler,” Marlene noted. “She wanted to be able to come to the garden at any time and enjoy flowers in bloom.”
When company comes to visit, Wayne enjoys sharing a bit more history about the home, its original owners and its location. “During the Great Depression, Sycamore Street was known as Silk Stocking Row because of the wealthy people who resided here,” he said. “The women who lived in these homes were of a certain level of good fortune, influence and privilege.” Marlene cannot go one day without thinking of her own mother and the childhood that includes vivid memories of the house she and Wayne lovingly call home today. “When I was a little girl, my mom and I used to drive by this house. I used to dream of living here one day,” she reminisced. Many years later, she is living her dream.