The dusty hallways of the historic Bianchi House on Reiger and North Carroll avenues still occupy Barbara Bianchi’s family memories. New owners are restoring the decaying house, destroyed by fire and water damage. But Bianchi is keeping its history alive. Her trove of historical documents will help ensure neighbors remember the “House of the Future’s” past.
What do you know about the home’s founders?
The original builders were Didaco Bianchi and his brother, Gaetano. They were from Renazzo, Italy, and they came over because of World War I. Jacob Waspi was a good friend. His family came down in the 1870s, and they were members of the 26-member Swiss colony. Waspi and Didaco got together and formed Southwest Architectural Cement Stone Company. They were quite successful. They did the Majestic Theatre in Fort Worth, the Oriental Hotel in Dallas and are reported to have done the fountain and some other buildings at Fair Park.
What is your connection to the house?
We assume Waspi introduced Didaco to his youngest daughter, Ida. They married March 5, 1907. The next step after that is to build a home. The house was completed in 1912, and they had two children, David and Theodore. Theodore was my husband Robert’s father. Didaco and Ida were his paternal grandparents. Robert passed away last year.
What did the interior look like?
The inside was just marvelous. The entryway had high ceilings and beautiful, intricate crown molding. It had a butler’s pantry, which was a lovely feature of the old house. Didaco was heavily involved with the design and did some interior stonework himself. It was done in the prairie style, similar to country homes in his part of Italy. The foundations were 17 feet deep. Didaco wanted to be sure the house would be on an extremely stable foundation. It needed to be sturdy to hold the structure because it was built of stone. The main fireplace was cement. There was a brick oven in the kitchen. The kitchen floor was all tile. They did an excellent job because the house burned, and the new owners tell me there is not a crack in that fireplace.
What memories do you have of the house?
We visited Robert’s grandmother Ida. She was quite eccentric. She had a parrot that sang “The Eyes of Texas are Upon You” when you walked up on the front porch. She also had a spider monkey she would dress in different outfits based on the season.
Why did the family decide to sell the home?
Ida Bianchi was from the generation that didn’t lock their doors. A young man broke into the house. He demanded money and jewelry. He didn’t speak any English, and she didn’t understand what he was asking. She had everything in a floor safe under a rug, and she was so stubborn she wouldn’t have given him anything anyway. He beat her up, took a lamp cord and tied her to the bed and raped her. She was in her 90s. One of her neighbors found her screaming. They decided it wasn’t safe for her to live there anymore, and it wasn’t feasible for us to move in with her.
What was it like to see the house fall into such disrepair?
It was very traumatic. It almost brought me to tears. I’m glad my husband didn’t see it. As a child, he would spend time in the summer there at his granny’s house. It would have really, really hurt my husband because he had fond memories of the home.
What are you doing now to share the history of the house?
I’m trying to pull together as much research on both families as I can. It gives an understanding of why the house was built the way it was. The house seems to have an aura. When people go in, they seem to like it and want to live there.