When the Sulphur City Council meeting was held Monday, one of the agenda items included hearing from Paul and Michelle Knox. The couple requested approval to place two recreational vehicles on their property at 211 West Lincoln St. The agenda state the RVs would be there “while home is being repaired due to Hurricane Laura.”
Michelle Knox clarified during the meeting that the house would most likely be demolished. Her insurance company pay-out for damages came to $128,000, not enough for repairs to the two-story, almost 4,000 square-foot home thought to be constructed around 1922. The council approved the request.
In an interview the next day, Knox said she has put a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” into trying to repair what is known by Sulphur residents as the old LaFargue house.
Dr. A.H. LaFargue saw patients in the house, according to Knox, a Sulphur native. He was mayor from 1926-1938.
“I found a date stamp of 1922 on a piece of rough lumber, which is what the house is built with,” she said. “We found it when we were tearing out some dark paneling that had probably been installed during the 60s.”
Lumber size standards came into being almost a century ago to meet the need for a common understanding between mill and market, according to a 1964 history from the Forest Products Laboratory, Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Standards continued to change through the years. The lumber in the LaFargue house was probably obtained at the closest sawmill. Rough lumber has the disadvantage of varying in thickness and width. The carpenter generally used the tools he had at hand to fit the lumber to the design.
Since she did not have the resources to repair the house, Knox said she hoped an individual would want to tear down the house for the lumber, or the city of Sulphur or recreation and parks department would move the house and refurbish it as a key piece of the city’s history, but she understands, better than anyone, how expensive such a project can be.
“I’ve always admired the house,” she said. “My husband and I were looking for a house and putting in bids on different properties around 2004. He told me we should put in a bid on this place.”
It was listed at $175,000 and stands on almost four acres. Knox put in a bid of $75,000 and the owner took it. She knew the house needed work. Her intention was to live in it and remodel one room at a time.
“We only had it for six months when Hurricane Rita hit,” Knox said. “We ended up living in a FEMA trailer for three years.”
Michelle said she is a laborer and a “get ‘er done” sort of person. Her husband is a mechanic. She relied on her family and friends for repairs after Rita. When she was told she would have to line the three fireplaces with stainless steel, family and friends helped her tear them out, one brick at a time, she said. The windows were new. The wood floors were refinished after Hurricane Rita.
The Knoxes stayed in the house during Hurricane Laura, a nightmare, she said. But now Knox said she is looking to the future. She wants a shipping container house, but Sulphur’s building code doesn’t allow for those. Knox has decided on a barndominum.