The Petra Vela Kenedy house in old San Patricio, near Lake Corpus Christi, is not much to look at; but historians say the old house is quite significant.
You are probably familiar with the name Kenedy, but what about Petra Vela? It turns out, she was the wife of Mifflin Kenedy. The house was their home on the Laureles Ranch from 1869-1882. That ranch was passed into the possession of King Ranch in 1906.
"The Kenedy's actually owned the Laureles Ranch, which is between Kingsville and Corpus Christi, and Captain Kenedy and Petra Vela Kenedy lived on that ranch, in this house, for roughly 10 years. And then they moved into Corpus Christi and built a house up on the bluff," said Bob Trescott, tourism director for the city of Kingsville. "She didn't live much longer than that, so some of her happiest time, in her letters we see, was in this house, when it was in Kleberg County on what is now the King Ranch."
The house was used for over 100 years, first as a ranch house and later as a chapel. Then, in the early 1990s, it was moved from Kleberg County to the community of San Patricio.
"The King Ranch did not want to maintain this, the old headquarters on the Laureles, anymore," retired historian Bill Havelka said. "They wanted to update their buildings and stuff, and they were going to demolish them if somebody didn't take them off the property."
Now, efforts are underway to save the house and move it to Kingsville, where it can be restored to its original glory and preserved for future generations.
"This is back in 1870, right. No power tools," said Lilly Wilkinson of Ram House Movers, Inc. "Craftmanship back before there was electricity or power tools. So this is just pretty neat, and this thing's been here all this time."
"Of course they didn't have air conditioning, right? So they had windows that could open up from the floor, you know, quite a ways," Havelka said. "That would give them, a cooling effect, and I'm sure they had them on the other side where that door was, and they could open the door too, for cooling."
Despite undergoing some modifications throughout the years, it is estimated that about 90-percent of the house is still in its original state.
"You know new products versus old products," said Scott Knight of Phoenix Homes. "Back in the 1800s, they didn't have composition shingles, and that kind of thing. They had wood shingles, which is the underlayment there, and the old lumber that you see is full dimension, a 2 X 4 is two inches by four inches, and it's amazing what has been replaced on this and what hasn't. What is original and all."
The home has historical bicultural ties, and Petra Vela lived through it all.
"Tumultuous years. There were revolutions and wars both south of the border in Mexico and in Texas, and the war between the states in the United States, so we know those histories, but she lived those histories in her immediate family," Trescott said. "She had family members that fought on both sides in several of those conflicts. She lost children in some of those conflicts, and she stayed with her family. She and her husband built these empires. She stayed true to her Catholic faith, and was a major contributor to the Catholic church, both in Brownsville and in Corpus Christi, and her legacy lives on today."
Part of that legacy is on display at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, where an entire room is dedicated to the Kenedy's. It's a legacy that the Petra Vela Kenedy house may help continue to live on.
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