Monte Verdi Was One Of Top Producing Plantations In Texas
By KELLY GOOCH Staff Writer
CUSHING -- Joe and Cecilia Koch are surrounded by history.
The couple live at the Monte Verdi Plantation, nestled on a hill in southwest Rusk County. They awake to antiques, tall, ornate furniture and mostly original flooring dating to the 19th century.
There is a fireplace in every room of the plantation house. The floors are heart pine wood. The interior wood is cypress.
In the dining room sits old cabinets, and their bedroom features a rosewood half-tester bed, a sewing table and a Recamier couch.
Upstairs are more bedrooms and period wallpaper that took about nine months to make. A wig dresser for men's hair pieces also is kept in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Although he and his wife enjoy the antiques and freely use the furniture, Koch described living in an old antebellum home as a "lifestyle choice."
There is a small kitchen and no closets. The couple uses wardrobes and armoires for their clothes, and maintenance is a recurring issue.
But the Kochs also included modern touches, such as a flat screen television in their bedroom, and have spruced up the look.
"What we've done is add some interior and exterior paint, freshened it back up, and worked on landscaping," Koch said. But, we've really worked hard to employ 19th century furnishings. We've traveled from here to South Carolina for pieces, but a majority of what has been put in here has come from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. ... We've worked hard to find some unique pieces that people haven't seen."
In fact, he said he and his wife don't take vacations. Instead they spend time together during weekend getaways to estate sales and antique auctions. He estimated they attend about 12 auctions each year.
But Koch said his home is about more than the architecture and antiques.
It's fascinating, he said, because Julien Devereux, who built the home, and his father both kept journals throughout their lives.
A page from Julien Devereux's journal hangs near the house entry way, chronicling when the plantation received its name, which means "green mountain."
Koch said the journals provide him and his wife with a family history to go along with the house. For instance, they found a cedar tree outside was planted in 1856 by Julien Devereux's wife, Sarah, in memory of her husband.
Monte Verdi remained in the Devereux family until the turn of the 20th century. In its heyday, Koch claims it was one of the top five producing plantations in the state.
Koch said the home was in disrepair until Mr. and Mrs. E.F. Lowry purchased the property in 1958 and began restoration in 1959, a process that took years to complete. The place did not have plumbing until the 1960s.
According to a handout on the plantation, Lowry later purchased a log cabin in Mount Enterprise, to be placed where the original plantation kitchen once sat.
The cabin, built in 1844, still sits on the property with two bedrooms, a full kitchen and a television.
The Koch family, which includes the couple's three grown children, has owned the plantation since 2006.
They lived in the northeastern part of Rusk County but owned property by a cemetery close to Monte Verdi, where they kept cattle and raised hay.
As they were looking for additional property to purchase, the plantation house and some acreage came up for sale, so they bought Monte Verdi.
"When the house came on the market, it was such a rare opportunity to be stewards of not only a piece of Texas history but a piece of American history that goes back to antebellum times," Koch said.
Mrs. Koch said they also enjoy sharing that history with the community, particularly with children.
They do that by conducting tours by appointment for civic groups and schools. Koch said people also call to do things such as wedding photos and baby showers.
They offer their home for events, such as weddings and family reunions, on a very limited basis, but hope to do more in the future. When they aren't at the plantation, they go to work in Henderson at their real estate company Century 21.
"We feel very fortunate not only to have the role of stewards but have a love for the property," Koch said.
Cecilia and Joe Koch stand outside of the Monte Verdi Plantation, which they own and live in. The Kochs have a passion for antiques and have spent much time traveling and acquiring pieces to furnish the home with the appropriate period pieces of furniture. Their home is now open to the public for tours by appointment. (Staff Photo By Sarah A. Miller)