Fencing and Segmentation of the Grounds
The Neill-Cochran House Museum grounds once encompassed 17 ½ acres. They were bordered by what is today Rio Grande to the east, Windsor Road to the north, Shoal Creek to the west, and 21st street to the south.
When first laid out, the grounds included a number of secondary buildings, including the still-standing Dependency, a barn, a privy, a kitchen, and two cisterns. The grounds also likely incorporated fenced pasturing for livestock and a kitchen garden, as well as a fenced enclosure around the main house.
Late nineteenth-century images show a white picket fence along the north side of the house (where the stone and iron fence stands today) as well as along the east side (boxwood hedge today). Landscaping close to the house was minimal, but the fencing protected the building from animals.
The idea of demarcating different portions of the grounds into practical vs. ornamental gardens has existed throughout recorded history but in Texas took on vigor after the Civil War. Landscape historian Sadie Gwin Blackburn has written of Houston that, after the Civil War, homeowners increasingly divided their grounds between a decorative “front” yard and a utilitarian “back” yard. In a description consistent with the layout of the Neill-Cochran House grounds today, Blackburn continues:
The earlier picket fence was replaced by a decorative wire or iron fence. A walk led from the entrance gate to the steps of the front porch, and narrower walks branched away at the front steps on one or both sides of the house, making narrow beds between the walks and the foundation of the house. A fence of vertical boards or latticework extended from each side of the house to the outer side fence, screening the back yard utility area. – Sadie Gwin Blackburn, Houston’s Forgotten Heritage (1991)
The fencing you see today is a combination of original and reproduction cast iron from a cemetery outside of Seguin, TX. The original fencing was 28 feet in length and included 8 posts. That fence and the gate on the north side are original, while Herrera Metal Works produced the remainder of the fencing in the 1980s. The museum also turned one of the original iron posts into a hitching post ring which stands to the side of the Carriage House (#10). The stone on underneath the wrought iron fence on the north side also is original to the property. It was originally a field fence on the west side of Longview street, two blocks to the west of where you stand today.