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Historians, county officials hope someone
can move Carter home, Stewart Law Office

by By Sondra Hernandez

Photo: Jason Fochtman, Staff Photographer

Montgomery County officials are hoping a community member will relocate a historic house located at 402 West Phillips Street as seen Feb. 7. The residential home was built in the 1920s and purchased by Robin and Hattie Cater, who owned Carter Drug Store in downtown Conroe. It was later the Stewart and Stewart Law Office from 1976 to 2013 before being purchased by the county in June 2016. County officials are planning to use the property to benefit the Montgomery County Tax Office, but no formal action has taken place to decide the property's future

For three generations of lawyers in the Stewart family, the two-story white house at 402 West Phillips Street was the perfect place to set up shop.

From 1976 through 2013, A.K. Stewart, Al Stewart and Keith Mills Stewart, practiced law there, along with other law associates. It was also the home of Cecil Joiner and Jim Pokorski's Insurance Associates of Texas as they took up residence upstairs.


Photo Courtesy of Al Stewart

A.K, Stewart was born in 1904 on a farm near New Waverly He became involved in the schools, eventually becoming Superintendent of County Schools He left the school system to become a lawyer, getting his law degree in 1944. Stewart purchased the home to serve as an office for he and son Al Stewart's law firm. Al Stewart owned the property until 2013. In June 2016 it was purchased by the county,

"It was close to the courthouse and you wanted to be close to the courtroom," Al Stewart said. "It also had good exposure along Phillips Street and was easy to get to."

However, after the property was sold to the county in June 2016, the fate of the old home now hangs in the balance.

The county is considering ways to develop the property, and hoping someone will come forward to move the house. If it is not moved, the old home could eventually face its demise.


Early history of the home

It's estimated the home was built in the 1920s, but no documentation could be located as to the exact date it was built.

Photo Courtesy of Heritage Museum of Conroe

Pictured as Robin C, Carter and Hattie Stinson Carter, owners of the Carter Drug Store at Main and Davis streets in downtown Conroe, They purchased a hoe nearby at 402 West Phillips to serve as their residence.

It was purchased by Robin C. Carter and Hattie Stinson Carter in 1928 for use as a residence near their Carter Drug Store in downtown Conroe. Carter Drug Store was located at Main and Davis Streets in downtown Conroe.

"He (Robin) was loved by everyone in town, as he dispensed not only pharmaceuticals for his customers, also provided drugs for animals," according to Montgomery County Historical Commission Chairman Larry Foerster.

Robin Carter served on the Conroe Chamber of Commerce and as a city councilman.

When then-mayor Thomas Earl Gentry went off to war during World War II, Robin Carter served in the capacity of mayor during Gentry's absence.

A passage on the Carter family history in "Montgomery County History" published by the Montgomery County Genealogical Society in 1981 said "He was born a gentleman, lived a gentleman and died a gentleman." Robin Carter died on Oct. 8, 1969.

The same passage also listed Hattie Stinson Carter as a good wife, mother and grandmother who "Was born a gentlewoman, lived a gentlewoman and died a gentlewoman." She died Oct. 18, 1978.

The Carters had two daughters, Mittie Sue Carter and Roberta Courtenay Carter.

The family home at 402 West Phillips stayed in the care of the daughters until it was sold in 1976.

According to Al Stewart, the home was residential property and had been leased up until 1976.


A new owner

The property was purchased by A.K. Stewart, Al's father, in the fall of 1976 to serve as their law office.

For the elder Stewart, law was the second career of his lifetime.

A.K. Stewart grew up on a farm in the New Waverly area.

He became involved in local schools eventually working his way up to Superintendent of County Schools.

But times were hard for teachers in the early 1900s.

"He first got into schools deep in the Depression," Al Stewart said. "Some of the school districts couldn't afford to pay their teachers so they gave them scripts to exchange for goods and services in their communities."

Al Stewart said his father never told him why he changed careers, but he figured his father thought he could earn a lot more money as a lawyer than as a school man.

When World War II broke out, A.K. Stewart, who was born in 1904, was too old to go off to war, according to Al Stewart, so he went to Houston Law School instead, passing the Bar Exam in 1944.

Al Stewart followed his father's path, getting his law degree from Baylor Law School in 1967.

The practiced together in the First Federal Savings and Loan Building (now Woodforest Bank in downtown Conroe) before purchasing the property at 402 West Phillips.

Al Stewart said a lot of work had to be done on the property to convert it from residential to commercial property.

After his father's death in 1987, Al Stewart bought out his sisters' shares in the property and did more improvements.

He removed the carpet and had the oak floors restored to their original state. He also added a room over the sun porch where his office was located to help with drainage from the roof, which was originally flat.

Robert Bartlett and other lawyers officed there throughout the years also.

After his son, Keith Mills Stewart, graduated from law school in 2001, he joined his father at the property. The younger Stewart went on to be elected to County Court at Law No. 5.

Stewart owned the property until 2013 when he sold the property to Alton Hues.


What will happen to the house?

On June 15, 2016 the property was purchased by Montgomery County.

According to Assistant County Attorney B.D. Griffin, county representatives are looking at various options for the future use of the property which could include a tax office and/or parking.

At this time, there has been no formal action regarding plans for the property, Griffin said.

It is local historians' hope that the home can be moved and Al Stewart shares that vision.

"I'd like to see someone move it but I know it would be incredibly expensive to do that," Stewart said. "The roof would have to be moved, the second story and first story would have to be moved separately. It would be incredibly expensive."

One of the suggested new homes is the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County complex.

Museum officials estimate the cost would be around $100,000 to move it which would be too much for the nonprofit.

"It would be good to put it at Heritage Park, but it is probably not practical," Stewart said.

According to Foerster, County Commissioner Jim Clark and County Judge Craig Doyal are supportive of the idea of finding someone to move the home.

"I believe the county would like to see someone come forward with a proposal to move the house structure," said Griffin in an email to The Courier. "Absent a proposal, I expect that the structure will be demolished."

Contact Foerster at 936-756-3337 or foerster@dfcllp.com if you are interested in offering a proposal to move the house.

For more about the Montgomery County Historical Commission, visit  www.montgomerycountyhistoricalcommission.com.



Conroe Courier

February 12, 2017

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