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Part 2: The historic Raphael House sold, yet saved again

Patty Hullett
The Daily Light
Cara Castellow, left, and Harriett Adams. Adams, the third owner of the Raphael House, has sold it to Castellow.

By Patty Hullett

For the Daily Light

Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series, discussing the third owner, Harriett Adams, as well as what’s in the future for The Raphael House. The first part covered the history of the property at 500 West Ennis Avenue and the notorious family that built it.

Since 1996, Dallas interior designer Harriett Adams has lived and worked from Ennis’ Raphael House, but the interesting history of this enchanting home is about to take on a new chapter, as the mansion sold to a new owner on Friday, Aug. 14.

The Raphael House was entered into the National Register of Historical Places in 1988, awarded the honor because of its historical significance. It has been recognized by the Ennis Heritage Society and is a treasured asset to the historic downtown area. It is the only remaining grand old structure of yesteryear (built in 1906) on Ennis’ west-to-east thoroughfare (aka Business Highway 287), and is located at 500 West Ennis Ave. Over the years, the other historic homes on this street have been razed and replaced with businesses and a modern library building (across the street from the mansion).

The architectural elements in the “Neo-Classical revival” house include massive ionic columns, heart pine floors and moldings, and an unusual servant’s stairwell. For proper ventilation, in a time long before air conditioning, there are working transom windows above both interior and exterior doors, massive pocket doors that still slide easily, and they measure nine (9) feet high by six (6) feet wide, to separate rooms. A breeze is capable of blowing through the house from any direction. The basement still boasts of an ancient but beautifully crafted coal furnace, coal holding bin, and what remains of the wooden coal chute from the back yard, where once coal trucks drove in and released coal into the chute opening.

Harriett Eaker Adams’ early years and background

Harriett Ann Eaker was born in Marshall, Texas, the only child of Iceal and Charles Eaker February 28, 1943. She attended Marshall public schools and excelled in scholastics and “personality”.

She was head majorette of Marshall Junior High and played flute in the band.

By high school, Harriett had traded her baton for a megaphone and was a Marshall Maverick cheerleader throughout high school, a class officer, elected Homecoming Queen, FFA Sweetheart and voted “Most Popular” before she graduated. During this same time she was active in her church and elected President of her church’s CYF District and then elected a State Christian Youth Fellowship officer of the Christian Churches (Disciple of Christ) of Texas, an office she held her junior and senior years in high school. The state meetings, held during days when schools were closed for a holiday, were in every area of Texas to be fair to all involved, but were often on or near the campus of Texas Christian University (TCU), which is affiliated with the Christian Churches through Brite Divinity School.

Harriett was familiar with the TCU campus when she enrolled as a freshman in the fall of 1961, aiming at a major in religion and minor in journalism. The untimely death of her father at age 59, when she was only 19, influenced her to change her major.

“Looking back”, says Harriett, “I honestly don’t know how my mother was able to keep me at TCU, but she did. I became vividly aware of economics as we began to share a family checkbook. I knew I had to pursue studies that would enable me to support myself and to also help my mother. In those days women could be youth directors in churches, but that was about it. So, I was youth director of my Marshall church one summer during college.”

Next, Harriett decided to switch majors, and four years later she graduated from TCU with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During her days in college she was elected a Horned Frog cheerleader, class favorite, class officer, school beauty, TCU Sweetheart, Miss Horned Frog and also listed in “Who’s Who”. Two weeks after graduation, she moved to New York City.

From country girl to NYC

In 1965 Harriett first worked in the Big Apple for Conde Nast Publications, which published “Glamour” “Mademoiselle”, “Vogue”, “Home and Garden”, “Conde Nast Travel”, and “Bride” magazines.

Harriett admits, “I was a green, small-town Texas girl, working as a ‘rover’ between all the magazines when they needed extra staff. It was a wonderful place for 21-year old girls, fresh out of college, and quite an exciting gig to work in the big city, indeed. All and all, it was an amazing learning experience for me. Diana Vreeland was editor of “Vogue” and when I was assigned to that magazine, I walked past her office as fast as I could because I was so intimidated by her reputation. I enjoyed working at “Glamour" and "Mademoiselle” because the staff was more down to earth. The editor of “House and Garden” offered me a permanent position on her staff. It really was the right magazine for me since I already had an affinity for design and a minor in journalism. She had actually been to Marshall, Texas and published a feature on Marshall Pottery. She greeted me by saying, ‘I adore Marshall Pottery and have been to Marshall to visit the pottery’. It was completely unexpected from a very sophisticated lady in the middle of Manhattan. All I could think about at that minute was the red clay earth in some areas of Marshall, that kids were taught not to track into the house.”

“The magazine industry paid very little and NYC was so expensive,” says Harriett. “My coworkers and I joked that we almost ‘paid them’ to let us work there. After some time passed, I was offered double my magazine salary by a film production company. I took the job immediately because it was as much or more than my two roommates made together. The company filmed TV commercials and they were very impressed that I was actually a college ‘graduate’. Most girls lied and would then be let go because they couldn’t do the job they were hired for. So, I became their ‘Girl Friday’, and did everything from payroll to emptying trash, to styling some commercial sets and wardrobes and eventually began making ‘aired’ commercials. My title finally became “assistant producer” when I left to sign with the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency (and I was already with Swartz-Luskin talent agency). I had to join the Screen Actors Guild after appearing in one national commercial – because you could be in only one without joining the union. After that, I made numerous national commercials. I couldn’t believe the residual checks kept coming when commercials were renewed to run again for six more weeks.”

While working there, I married Nathan Miller Adams, writer and author of a recently released novel by Random House entitled “The Fifth Horseman”. He had also written an earlier book on drug trafficking – when no one seemed to be concerned about it in the U.S. He worked for “Newsweek” magazine when I met him, but after we married he accepted an offer from “Reader’s Digest” to be a ‘roving reporter' to go anywhere in the world to find an original story. The magazine was trying to publish more original stories and their top brass actually was concerned about the increasing drug problems in America and beyond. He basically could write his own ticket and that meant that he was traveling much of his time. Since much of it was dangerous work, I could not accompany him. That’s when I enrolled, in the late sixties, in the New York School of Architecture and Interior Design.”

Harriett continues, “I knew I had a natural talent for this type of career, plus I’d always enjoyed the process of interior design. It was and is a profession that respects age and experience, unlike many professions today. After my father died, I thought about what professions would last and could be enhanced by age and experience. Regardless of what happened and how many wrinkles I have (and I am now 77 years old), someone can wheel me in and I can still give my artistic opinion.”

The call to the nation’s capital city

Harriett explains, “While I was still married to Nathan, he was transferred to the ‘Reader’s Digest’ Washington, D.C, headquarters. We then moved from Manhattan to a pre-revolutionary townhouse in the ‘old town’ area of Alexandria, Virginia, two blocks from the Potomac River and one block from the church George Washington attended so many years ago. It was a fascinating area and I enjoyed my time there immensely. I organized and decorated the townhouse quickly and was able to get some design jobs from neighbors because of that. Our neighborhood included some of the most eclectic and eccentric group one could encounter – people like secret service agents, FBI personnel, assistants to Generals conducting the Viet Nam War, and lots of Virginians who were still mad about Grant putting the Arlington Cemetery in the middle of Robert Lee’s home area. It was never a dull moment living in this historic neighborhood, and some of the things I recall would be hard for someone to believe. Nathan became a drug trafficking specialist and was away so much, that we eventually dissolved the marriage, but not the friendship.”

“After our divorce”, shares Harriett, “And after I moved to Ennis, Texas, I visited Nathan and his second wife of many years in Ennis, Montana, for July Fourth festivities on numerous occasions. It is the biggest event in that rather small community. He always said he would retire somewhere he could fly fish every day and he chose the Madison River that runs through the little town. As quite a coincidence, he and his wife Hassie moved to Ennis, Montana, about four years after I moved to Ennis, Texas. He emailed me and announced that he and I now lived on the same street – Highway 287 – and our cities were both named ‘Ennis’. It was strange but true! U.S. 287 runs all the way north through Montana. Sadly, Nathan passed away after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.”

Evolving career in Houston

When Harriett returned to Texas from Alexandria, Virginia, she spent three years living in Houston. She had few design contacts there, so she made a number of TV commercials and accepted a job as creative director of an all-woman ad agency. In addition, she published a book, “Who’s Who on Texas Highways and Byways”, featuring personalized license plates, which were a new fad. Unfortunately, she chose the least expensive printer and he couldn’t keep up with demand. It was promoted too much by front page columnist, Paul Crum, in The Dallas Morning News.

Harriett relays, “A popular TV show of the time (‘What’s My Line’) flew me to New York to appear on the show and I was also interviewed by Newsweek magazine. After the article appeared, the Newsweek reporter called to say she was disappointed they didn’t run my photo, but let me know that Richard Nixon had taken priority over me. (Can you imagine that?) They only had room for one photo on the page and they chose the President’s! My 15-minutes of fame was not to be. Yet, all that led me to Dallas. Friends here knew my design background and thought I was crazy not to pursue it. After all, Dallas was the design center of Texas. That was 43 years ago.”

Harriett’s final career in interior design

Harriett’s first “Dallas” actual interior design job was in Dallas, thanks to the recommendation of a TCU sorority sister. From that job, she began to get referrals. She has worked on marketing centers for Lincoln Properties in four or five different states, she has designed executive offices and stock trading rooms and reception areas in Dallas, but the majority of her work has been the remodeling and interior design of residential homes in Dallas, Houston, and the Austin areas.

“Some years ago I had a unique project in Jacksonville, Florida, right on the coast. I trucked many beautiful antiques and accessories from my Dallas dealers to Jacksonville through my local Ennis mover, Frank Weaver. I’ve also worked on homes in California and New York that were owned by Texans. Locally, I have some wonderful clients, which makes me very happy because I can stay close to home when working with them.”

When asked what styles she prefers and her design philosophy, Harriett explains, “Every period has interesting styles to offer and because of that, I have enjoyed working with all of them and have combined many over the years. I love to create homes and offices that please clients by reflecting their individuality.”

She continues, “I’m not a ‘throw it all out and start over’ designer. People are attached to things for particular reasons. The first question I ask is 'What are you married to and why?' It always involves history: family heirlooms, memories of vacations, school, friends and objects, art or furniture that speaks to them. My eclectic inclinations make it easy to incorporate many styles together in a creative manner, but I do encourage them to edit, if necessary, in a thoughtful manner. Each generation of clients think differently. Some edit very easily, while others hold onto pieces as ‘scrapbook memories’. My final goal is to achieve a timeless design clients will enjoy for many years with no regrets."

Big city lady in search of the right place

Because Harriett is a night owl and likes to work at night when there are no interruptions, she regularly stayed late at her Dallas office. She often felt unsafe walking to her car in the middle of the night. She needed to find a house large enough to have both an office and a home in an area where she could have a business without complaints from the neighbors. In 1993 some of her friends tried to guide her to the Plano / Frisco area, and they told her how they thought this place was about to experience immense growth and that this is where she should be. However, Harriett disliked every house she saw and the treeless landscapes were even further turn-offs. The next year she looked east in the White Rock Lake area, but with no luck. Since she had a design job underway in Arlington and another in Fort Worth, she knew she didn’t want the drive daily with the traffic jams of I-30, and highways 183 and 121. At one point, all three of her viable routes were under construction, so she gave up looking for a new place on weekends, especially since the only time she could search wasn’t panning-out. Feeling defeated, she shelved her attempts and concentrated on her work projects instead.

Harriett says, “Eventually, a designer friend insisted that his realtor show me a house he taught I would like in Lancaster, just south of Dallas. The day before I was to meet the realtor at the house, the would-be agent called to tell me that an ‘F-5’ 1994 tornado had destroyed the house. I decided this was a sign that she should stay in Dallas again.”

She then moved her office to Fairmount, behind Loyd and Paxton’s Antique Galleries on Maple Avenue and felt somewhat safer about leaving in the wee hours of the morning, but she still longed to have her business and home under one roof. Fast forward to 1996, when she began looking again, and this time her realtor took her to Waxahachie on two weekends.

Harriett saw no homes that met all her needs, but still considered putting an offer on one that looked like a Charles Addams house because it was the perfect Halloween house with lots of Gothic spires. When her realtor called the office, she was told that someone beat her to the deal, as he had put down a full contract on the house just ahead of her. Once again, Harriett felt she was not meant to leave Dallas. The agent then insisted on taking her to the city of Ennis. (She admitted that she had no idea where Ennis was and knew nothing about its history.)

“Where is Ennis?” Harriett asked, and the realtor said, “About 15 more miles down Highway 287”.

“The Raphael House was the first house we drove past”, says Harriett. She continues, “I liked the architecture immediately and knew from its location I could have a business inside. We drove past three homes that day in Ennis. I found them all to be appealing homes visually, but knew I especially liked two of them and wanted to return the next weekend to see the interiors. When I finally got a peek inside of the home, I saw that The Raphael House had been completely restored by local lady Danna Cody, who had operated a successful bed and breakfast there for eight years. It is Neo Classical – Revival Architecture with an Edwardian space plan. I loved it! I didn’t have to do anything but move in. The second house was interesting, but needed a lot of work.”

Recalling the very hot summer of 1996, Harriett remembers walking into the cool interior with her realtor, being offered a glass of lemonade by the owner, Danna Cody-Wolf, sitting down on a sofa in the front room, and feeling completely relaxed and at home. She jokingly asked Danna if the house had ghosts…...”

Harriett shares, “My realtor wanted me to tour the house with Danna’s realtor and her, but I couldn’t seem to get up from the sofa. It was as if I was weighted with lead to the sofa. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was not alarmed, but oddly content on the sofa. Finally, after an awkward period of time I managed to stand and followed them up the stairs. We walked through the rooms on the second floor. I already knew I wanted the house and really didn’t pay much attention to the second floor. I told them both that everything looked fine and went back downstairs to ‘the sofa’. My realtor followed me, looked at me in a puzzled way and said we needed to tour the rest of the downstairs and the exterior. With great effort I stood up again and followed her through the downstairs to the kitchen and breakfast room and to the outdoor patio with a table and two chairs. I quickly sat in one of the chairs and the totally relaxed feeling came over me again. My realtor insisted I needed to walk around the exterior of the house. This time, I simply couldn’t get up again. I told her to do it for me and tell me if everything looked OK. She reluctantly adhered to my request. So, I never walked around the exterior of the home at all.”

Saying with a smile, Harriett says, “Later, after I was living here, Danna told me she knew the ghosts were holding me down because I was the first person to look at the house that they liked. I then said, “I thought you said there were no ghosts!”

Danna said with a wink, “I never answered your question at the time.”

Harriett relays, “She then showed me a copy of ‘The American Book of Ghosts’ that includes The Raphael House. Supposedly, there are three ghosts or spirits living within the walls of this 1906 home. One is the youngest daughter Julia, who lived her entire life in the house until she went into a nursing home. Many people in Ennis still remember Julia or tell me their parents knew her. A friend, who frequently visited her in the nursing home, said she always worried about the house she had been forced to abandon. Sadly, Julia died before she could see it saved at the last possible minute by the Cody family of Ennis, nor was she able to witness its remarkable restoration by Danna Cody. The spirits of her two older brothers, Raymond and Ernest Raphael, are said to be here also. I happily tell everyone about the three pleasant, friendly ghosts, like Casper, who seem to really enjoy parties. They only occasionally make themselves known.”

Harriett continues, “My first acquaintance in Ennis, besides Danna and her realtor, was Dan ‘the muffler man’. I took my car to Dan Betts to see why it was making a strange sound the week I moved into town. He ordered his guys to check it out and immediately said to me, ‘You bought that house, didn’t you? I answered, ‘The Raphael House’? He then said, ‘Yes’.”

“I had no idea how he knew who I was.” He then said, ‘My mother knew Julia, and you know her spirit is still living there, right?’ I said, ‘No, I didn’t know that’. So, Dan fixed my car in a jiffy, so I went straight home and called Danna and told her ‘I thought you said there were no ghosts living in my new place’.”

According to an article published by “Ennis Daily News” back in 2006, the writer claims, “The best haunted house in our fair city is The Raphael House and its friendly ghosts”.

Harriett – living her best life in Ennis

During her 24 years in Ennis, Harriett has been an active member of the community. She has hosted many tours and events inside the house and in the picturesque back yard. Her “Lights of Ennis” galas are well-remembered and for 14 years she has funded the downtown holiday lights that outline the roof lines of the historic downtown with soft, glowing, white lights, making the historic buildings resemble an old-fashioned Christmas card.

Harriett is a season-holder and ardent fan for the Ennis Lions football program. She has quite a collection of team-signed championship footballs and helmets on display in her study bookshelves. He loves high school and college football and says she has gone to some Waxahachie playoff games, when Ennis wasn’t playing, just to cheer on the Indians against the hated “whoever”. One time, the hardest ever football choice she had to make was when Marshall and Ennis met for the State Title in 2004. She says she just couldn’t help herself. She stayed on the Ennis side throughout the game because the score was too close. Her Marshall High School classmates were so mad at her for not switching sides at halftime, that they didn’t come to her house on the way home as planned, but instead, drove straight back to Marshall and didn’t speak to her for a year. They said Marshall had been her home for more years than Ennis, but that is no longer true. She says Marshall lost by 2 points because the coach mismanaged the clock. It was that close and the Marshall field goal kicker hadn’t missed all season. His mother was a friend of Harriett’s. That’s really why they were so angry. He might have made a field goal on the last play if the clock had not run out.

Harriett admits, “I have never regretted moving from Dallas to Ennis and I believe in small-town values like the ones I grew up with in Marshall, values that judge a person not on economic status, but on character and deeds, and that’s what makes America great. Big cities often separate people according to economic levels. We all have important information to share with one another. The more you know, the more you understand”, says Harriett.

After a health challenge in 2018, she relays, “I promised myself that I would eventually downsize. I believed I would get well, but prayed very hard for someone to come along who loved the house as much as I do. Previously, only developers, who wanted the property, but not the house, had offered by buy The Raphael House. Walgreen’s representative called me so many times over the years, that we became friends on the phone. I discovered he graduated from TCU and we began to talk football. I couldn’t sell, even when he offered to move my house to another location – just for the prime property. How do you ever put a house back together that has a full height basement?”

She continues, “Several developed communities have approached me over the years that are putting together historic districts by buying historic homes from other towns and creating a historic neighborhood that was never there. They used them as a tourist attraction. It is so ironic that the cities that actually have the historic properties seldom see the value. Waxahachie is an exception to the rule, and especially is the city of Jefferson, Texas. They preserved the old homes and the city was reborn as a very profitable and beautiful tourist attraction.”

Harriett’s prayers were answered when a mutual friend, Michelle Coulter, told Cara Castellow Shockley that she should buy The Raphael House. Michelle orchestrated a meeting with Harriett, Cara, and Cara’s husband, Jake Shockley, to tour the home. Harriett liked both Cara and Jake immediately.

Harriett says, “You just get vibes from people. They are in their early 40’s and seem perfect to take over the house for a long time.”

New buyer to take over The Raphael House

In fact, Harriett recently agreed to sell the home to a new owner – but only if they preserve this infamous home and maintain the integrity of the actual structure. So, after the successful closing of the sale of The Raphael House on August 14, Cara Castellow (Shockley) becomes only the fourth owner of the last remaining mansion on Ennis Avenue. The Raphael family had the original home built in 1906 and owned it until 1988; local resident, Danna Cody, purchased the home later in 1988; and the property owner became Harriett Adams in the summer of 1996; and Cara Castellow will become the overseer of this beautiful home that will be the luxurious offices for her State Farm agency as of November 1, 2020.

Recently, Cara told Harriett, “I think it’s a God thing.” She shares, “I absolutely love everything about this old house and property for my State Farm office. It feels surreal, and I still can’t believe it. I’m honored to have this special place for our team and community.”

It’s an insurance kind of thing

Cara says, “I started my State Farm agency career in 2006, and on January 1, 2007, I had my own State Farm agency in Austin, Texas. My dad was also a State Farm agent in my hometown, Hallettsville, Texas for 26 years – until he unexpectedly passed away in July 2007. The following year, in 2008, I made the decision to leave my Austin agency and go back home to take his place and become the State Farm agent in Hallettsville for almost five years. From there, I took a corporate job with State Farm as a territory sales manager.”

Cara continues, “This is where I met my husband, Jake Shockley, who is a State Farm sales territory manager, and he is over the agents from Waco to Tyler to South Dallas. I missed owning my own business and being a State Farm agent, so when Jake and I decided to marry, we decided he would keep his current traveling position with State Farm, and I would go back into agency work. Ennis turned out to be the perfect place for us, and I became a State Farm agent again in Ennis on February 1, 2016.”

Cara explains, “This is a dream come true for me. I have always pictured owning an office where people would want to come see us to talk about their insurance and financial needs. I wanted a place where our customers and our community felt like they were a part of a place where people want to gather, where they feel at home, and where they feel like they are part of our State Farm family. The Raphael House is the place! We want to be a bigger part of our community and be able to give back in bigger ways, along with adding more life to the downtown area.”

Cara loves to surround herself with people who genuinely care, so she has a team she put together who have heart, with various backgrounds in sales and customer service. She says, “We are committed to providing great customer service and really getting to know everyone. We aren’t a bunch of robots or automated telephone systems. You will be able to speak and meet with REAL people and have a personalized experience, even more so now in our new, spacious location. My team’s most recent accomplishment was in 2019, as our agency was number #67 out of 19,500 agents in the country in life insurance.”

In conclusion

Don’t worry about Harriett Adams moving away. She is relocating to a 1937 home she already owns in the same historic district of Ennis. Her real challenge ahead is in moving two floors, filled with antiques, china, silver, art, art objects, as well as a packed third floor attic the full footprint of the house. Cara does plan to purchase some of the old owner’s things, but each room is an adventure in itself. Some is Harriett’s shop inventory, but the vast majority is her amazing life-time collection of exceptional furnishings, so eclectic, that you feel as though you are entering an exotic museum. She says if COVID-19 subsides in October, she might consider a huge moving sale after she furnishes the 1937 house with the items that fit. A big concern is what her three beloved, rescued dogs – Boomer, Bella and Lady are going to think when they will no longer have their familiar green back yard with thick Saint Augustine grass and lots of shade from beautiful, mature trees.

But Harriett concludes, “The dogs will have to adjust, and so will I.”

And with Cara Castellow as the new governess of The Raphael House in the fall, this interesting place might just be around another 100 years or so.

Harriett Adams on the staircase in the Raphael House. Adams has been the third owner of the historic house at 500 West Ennis Avenue.