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The History of The Fay House

The History of The Fay House

The History of The Fay House

A letter written by Carolyn Fay in 1987

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Fay School's "Fay House" has deep, Texas roots. The Fay House was designed by the famous architect John Staub in 1938, and our founding Head of School, Marie Fay Evnochides (Marie), grew up in the Fay House. The Fay House was designed after a Louisiana country house, as Marie Fay's father, Ernest Bel Fay "Ernie," grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her mother, Carolyn Homoiselle Grant, was "B.O.I." (born on Galveston Island). Marie's maternal grandfather moved his family to Houston after enduring another big storm in Galveston in 1915. Marie's parents met in 8th grade and years later married and raised three children, John "Jack," Carolyn "Randi," and Marie, all of who experienced the magic of what is now The Fay School campus throughout their childhood. 

After going through some family archives, Marie recently found a letter written to a dear family friend, Laurens van Der Post, from her mother, Carolyn. Carolyn wrote the letter right after she moved out of the Fay House, about five years before this once family property turned into the green, academic oasis it is – The Fay School. We invite you to read this letter which will take you on a walk, back in time, when Houston was starting to become a haven of opportunity for your children.

The House

The Fay House

The house--my house--our house--my husband's house--my children's house--and at times my grandchildren's house. I told it goodbye three days ago.

My husband and I bought the land for the house the year we were married, fifty years past. We were at the wedding of a cousin of mine, and as the champagne flowed, a friend said to us, "We are building on this farm outside town, and I'd like to buy the farm next door to it. How about buying a piece of it and coming out to live next door to us?" We enthusiastically agreed to this. He went to the phone right then, called the owner of the farm next door, and bought the land.

We went to a fine architect in town, showed him our piece of this farm, and asked him to design a house for us. We were young and had a few ideas, but mostly we left it up to him to design the house. He chose to pattern it after a Louisiana country house as my husband was born and brought up in that state. He drew it long and low on the ground after the fashion of the early country houses in Louisiana. To go into the semi-circular front hall, he planned a stoop with a wide, strong front door. (It was here, Laurens, that we encountered the. praying mantis that year you went on the journey of the Mantis Carol.)

Downstairs there was an octagonal dining room with a wide window framing the view over the meadow to the tree-filled bayou. It adjoined all the service area. Next to the dining room was a paneled room which we called the game room in the early years when we played many card games there. After a while, it became the model room as my husband's collection of full and half models of sailing yachts grew. Many of these he designed and had built at the yacht yard that he and his brother owned. He sailed all of them in races, on Galveston Bay, around the United States, in England, and in Europe. His tiny designing room was just off this model room.

The ground floor was completed by a guest room with ample space for sitting to read or write as well as sleeping. (You remember, Laurens, that was your room when you came to lecture and show your films at the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Houston, Texas, and to visit us.)

We walked up a curving stairway to the upstairs hall and into our living room. This was the most important room in the house to me, where my husband and I spent long hours in front of the fireplace. Together we had collected books, paintings, and some small sculptures which we enjoyed here. He had given me a piano the year we married to encourage me to keep playing, as had my mother and grandmother before me, and it had a special place in this room. However, as the years went by, the music emanated more and more from the records and tapes in the alcove next to it.

Over the years, the only space we added t the house was a small room next to the living room, which served different purposes as our needs changed. At one time it was our sleeping area when we used the living room for our room, and later it became my study and dressing room.

Over the dining room was an octagonal-shaped bedroom. When we were building the house, I shyly told the architect that we were going to have a new occupant in the family for that room. In turn, each of our three children used this room after they were born and as small children. The next room was a small bedroom paneled in an exotic wood that was used by our son, or alternatively, by a baby nurse or governess as needed.

There was a wonderfully large bedroom at the end of the hall with a raised, tray ceiling that always cried out for (and was answered by) interesting wallpaper treatment. It was planned for my husband and me, with a large dressing and bath area and this was where we started our life in the house. During the four years of World War II, my husband was gone on active duty, in the Navy most of the time. I kept the home fires burning with the two older children and gave birth to the third child, whom my husband saw for the first time at nine months of age. After the war, our two daughters took over that spacious bedroom, and my husband and I moved into the downstairs guest bedroom and later into the little room off the living room.

When the children grew up and moved away, we made the octagonal bedroom ours, he took the paneled bedroom for his dressing room, and I the room off the living room as my special place. So really, we have lived all over the house--and loved it--for almost forty-nine years.

Two very special events took place in the house one summer. Each of our daughters came to us and asked to have a small wedding at home. We planned and arranged the ritual for the younger one in the living room in June, and for the older one on the terrace in August. Each time about 50 family members and friends came, and afterward, we all enjoyed dinner and music together.

Our son and two daughters gave us an exciting party to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. It included balloons, flowers, music, dancing with dinner, and a display of photographs of all of us during the years of the house.

Two weeks later, I fell in the house and broke my hip. As I look back now, I needed this. I had gotten into many outside activities, not the least of which was my practice as a dance/movement psychotherapist and my work at the Jung Center. My husband had had a heart attack on a trip we took to the Adriatic the fall before. After we returned, I had a mock heart attack, sympathetic, the doctor said, to which I had paid scant attention. I needed to be in the house and aware of the total life situation at this time in our history.

He and I had six weeks of being together at home, a beautiful, caring time. Then he had a heart attack in his boat after rounding the weather mark in a sailing race. Though heroic efforts were made to revive him, he did not survive. The children and I arranged to have his funeral service in the paneled room of the house with all the models and pictures of his boats on the walls around him. I have stayed closely in the house since he died. The memories in it sheltered and comforted me.

My older daughter and I gave a "Goodbye-to-the-house party" as a final celebration. Lots of old and new friends came.

Now, nine months from the day of breaking my hip, June 25th, to the day of moving, March 25th, I have left the house. Nine months is that period of gestation; a time from conception through carrying a developing life to full term and birth; birth at the time of the Vernal Equinox--"spring."

I am building a "house in the sky," I call it--a condominium on the 29th floor of an apartment building. From it, I can look south and see the place I grew up as a child. I can walk to the Jung Center and to the house of my older daughter. It is a green area with parks and museums nearby.

There have been weeks of clearing out the attic of the old house with constant help from my older daughter and some from my younger one, who came from her farm out-of-town to do some of the work with us. It took weeks of sorting: what to keep, what to give, what to throw away--to empty the attic, the whole third floor of the house, of all that we had collected for 50 years. We found photographs of family members of several generations; letters from my parents, childhood friends, boyfriends, husband, children, grandchildren; old silver; records of family happenings; furniture; clothes of my mother's, mine, and my children's as babies and tots; and costumes from my childhood dance recitals up through my husband's and my "fancy dress party" costumes. My daughters each found their childhood books, toys, furniture, clothes, and they made a pile for their brother of his things.

The last week these two young women and I worked all day every day finishing the task of emptying the house. They took a few things for themselves and helped me collect a box of things for each of the five grandchildren.

Our big, woolly poodle is very sensitive and practically glued herself to my heels as the packing and preparations for moving progressed. She missed her master. Every time we went into his room we found chewed-up pictures and papers, and one day a fine leather frame around a photograph of him had been demolished. I thought this destruction must have been done by an animal from the woods in the back of the house, and I called in a man who catches stray animals in "Have-a-Heart" traps and releases them far away. He only pointed to and shook his head at our own canine family member.

Big vans came and hauled away all the things from my life in the house; some to go to a temporary apartment and others to go in storage until the construction of my condominium is finished. I am now installed in an interim place--a place of transition. I feel in limbo.

I went back to the house after everyone had left for a day of being alone there with only the dog. I went around and spent a long time in each room, remembering. I found again that the most important room for me was the living room--"living" is a good name for it. As the dog lay in her usual spot, I lay on the floor too and let memories flood through me. I started at the beginning, as I have in this writing, adding recall of people and events that took place--some brought smiles and other tears, and I savored all of it. I spent time outside watering the plants and running with the dog.

As it grew dark at the end of the day, I went to each room again to touch it and say goodbye. Out on the grounds I circumambulated the house clockwise, a direction symbolizing movement into consciousness and outward into life. I wanted to see it and bid it farewell at some distance. Then I handed the house key to the guard to give to the new tenants.

As I drove out, I stopped at the last curve in the road. I looked through the long avenue of enormous oaks and remembered planting them as tiny saplings when the house was being built. At the end of it I could just see a dark shape and lamps lighting the front door from each side. With more tears, I said a final goodbye to the house.

This marks the end of an era in my life--the finish of a way of life very special to me. The house becomes a symbol for the fullness of my married time of life. I don't want to leave. I don't want it to end. I feel I am sacrificing something of the utmost value to me and taking an enormous risk of what might come next.

My temporary quarters seem like a bridge. It is warm and cozy here, but I feel shaky--uncertain of what the future will bring. I am embarking on an unknown course--open and feeling vulnerable and unprotected; but at the same time feeling stronger than usual.

I notice small changes. I often find myself not using my married name, but my own personal name in dealings both business and personal. I seem to be inclined toward more extraversion. My small apartment has been filled with people most of the few days I've been here, and I am constantly on the telephone. I am writing this, sharing with many perhaps, instead of holding it tightly to myself, as was my wont.

I must be in the archetypal experience of death and rebirth. The completion and death of a full period of my life, the time of transition, and the coming into the next stage of my life with whatever it might bring. I thank God that I have immersed myself in the psychology of C.G. Jung so that I can be aware and fully present in the reality of this transition and all it can mean.