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McNamara House History

The McNamara House Museum was build in 1876 for William J. McNamara, his wife Mary Ann Buckley McNamara, and four daughters: Mary Ellen, Elizabeth, Margaret, and Catherine. Mr. McNamara, an Irish immigrant and former resident of Port Lavaca,was a prosperous dealer in hides, cotton, and wool.

The house he had build was essentially vernacular in form. Its symmetrical main section and separate rear wing have wide verandas, roof overhangs, raised open foundations and large windows typical of many traditional Southern coastal residences. However, the house also represented a transition in architectural styles, through the application of mid-Victorian ornamentation in the form of sawn and carved porch post brackets and dormer fret work, and its fashionable multi- colored, natural-tone paint scheme.

The house and its grounds have been modified, but not totally altered, since 1876. Four other original outbuildings and a double fence (designed to keep stray cattle and other animals from wandering into the spacious yard) have since been removed. Dormers were added to the southern elevation around the turn of the century. The garage, which is currently used for the "Open New Doors" and "A Day with the McNamaras" school programs, was probably added in the 1920's.

The McNamara House remained in the hands of the McNamara and O'Connor families for over 80 years. The latter were descendants of Mary Ellen McNamara and T. M. O'Connor through their marriage in 1883. After the death of Elizabeth, last surviving of the McNamara daughters in the 1950's, the Lawrence O'Connor family generously decided to donate the home as a museum. Through the efforts of many dedicated volunteers, its doors were again opened as the McNamara- O'Connor Historical and Fine Arts Museum.

The McNamara House continues in the role of a regional history/historic house museum. Its professional staff are using an extensive collection of documentary artifacts, architectural drawings, photographs, textiles, costumes and furniture to interpret everyday life and material culture in 19th-century South Texas. With its original paint colors, 19th-century-style landscaping, and restored period rooms, the life of McNamara House's original occupants has also been partially recreated.