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Historic Cochran Home Now a
Delicious Link to the Past

By Brad Meyer

The Cochran House, one of the oldest residences in Conroe located at 603 N. Thompson Street, is now the home of Jose’s Villa Italia. For information visit them on Facebook or call 936-539-5599.

Jose’s Villa Italia at 603 N. Thompson Street in downtown Conroe. The restaurant is housed in one of the oldest residences in Conroe, the Laura Grogan Cochran home which was constructed around 1918. Photo courtesy Larry Forester.

Much of old Conroe is long gone, but one of the oldest residences in the community has survived – evolving from a historical home where children played and ate cookies to a fine restaurant serving international cuisine.

The historic Cochran house, located at 603 N. Thompson Street, was once considered the edge of town in Conroe. While the original homes around it have been torn down, this structure has survived because its owners sensed its value to the community – and were willing to be creative in repurposing the building.

“The house used to be surrounded by some lovely Victorian homes,” said Anne Meadows Meneffe who remembers visiting her great-grandmother Laura Grogan Cochran there. “But Conroe used to have a bad habit of tearing anything old down – they’re all gone now.”

This photo of the Laura Grogan Cochran House shows the screened in front porch about the time Fred Cochran Sr. moved into Laura Grogan Cochran’s home (his mother). The house was built for Nancy Lewis Grogan, widow to Richard Grogan, in about 1918 soon after the Grogan Cochran Lumber Company was established near Conroe. Today it is used for the Villa Italia restaurant at the corner of Thompson and Cochran streets. When the house was built, it was on the edge of Conroe, so the story goes that the street was called Cochran. Photo courtesy of Larry Forester.

The house was built for Nancy Lewis Grogan, the widow of Richard Grogan, around 1918, soon after the Grogan Cochran Lumber Company was established near Conroe. The house was passed on to Laura and her husband Terrell, co-founder of Grogan-Cochran Sawmill in the area now known as The Woodlands.

The Grogan-Cochran Sawmill was a major business enterprise in the region and a major employer. In 1964, Mitchell Gas & Oil Corporation bought 50,000 acres, from which the master planned community known as The Woodlands was created.

“My great grandmother has asthma and was something of a shut-in” recalled Meneffe. “I remember visiting her at the house on Sunday afternoons and hearing stories from when she was young. Those are good memories.”

The Cochran family on the porch of the Laura
Cochran house.
Photo courtesy Larry Forester.

Bill Cochran of Conroe recalled visiting his great uncle Fred Cochran at the house on Thompson Street and enjoying glasses of cold lemonade and freshly baked cookies in his youth.

“There was a place where people used to practice parallel parking across the street,” said Cochran. “It was a lot of fun to sit with Uncle Fred and watch – it could be quite humorous.”

Cochran said he is pleased the house has survived.

“It’s nice when people can take an older structure and keep it as part of the community,” he said.

In 1998, attorney Anthony Bernardino purchased the residence and spent 10 months renovating it for use as a law office, according to an article in The Courier. The original appearance of the house was retained as much as possible.

Later, the historic home would be repurposed again when restaurateur Norma Coronelli took over the building for her Villa Italia restaurant previously located in downtown Conroe. Coronelli, who was born and raised in Sicily, developed a lunch and dinner following for her authentic Italian cuisine.

When Coronelli passed away, the restaurant was taken over by Jose Jrameldo and is now named Jose’s Villa Italia – reportedly using the same recipes created by Coronelli.

For information visit them on Facebook or call 936-539-5599.

“It pleases me that the building is still around and in use,” said Meneffe. “Sometimes it’s the little things in life that are special and meaningful.”

For more information on the history of Conroe and the surrounding area, visit the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County, located at 1506 N. I-45. For information, visit www.heritagemuseum.us or call 936-539-6873.


The Courier

January 13, 2013


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