The Scanlan Mansion is GONE!

November 14, 2017

UPDATE: After the recent flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, I noticed on Google maps that the Scanlan Mansion is gone. The home site has been completely cleared. I presume that when I visited the site of the mansion earlier this year that the work being done was in preparation for demolition. I have no idea what the plans are for the site but I know that many people thought that the house was historically significant and that the developer of Sienna Plantation had plans to preserve it. Perhaps there are plans to rebuild it somewhere else. I’ll update this site if I find out more information.


The Scanlan Mansion used to be visible at the end of these two rows of trees.


Google Maps view of the former site of the Scanlan Mansion

Originally published on February 2, 2017:

On a Sunday last December, I rode my bike 15 miles to reach a two mile section of gravel road. I cycled that road from end to end and back to the beginning for a total of four miles. Was it worth the 30 mile round trip? It certainly was. I was on a mission to see the Scanlan Mansion.

The Scanlan Mansion is located on Scanlan Road, a gravel road crossing private property in Fort Bend County. The road is unpaved and is gated at its eastern end (at TX 521). There’s another gate about one mile from where I entered the road at its intersection with Waters Lake Boulevard in the Sienna Plantation master-planned community. The road continues west from Waters Lake Boulevard all the way to the Brazos River (but I didn’t explore that section). Scanlan Road bisects the recently developed southern section of Sienna Plantation.


Scanlan Road near the Scanlan Mansion

The Scanlan Mansion was built in 1937 by the daughters of Thomas Howe Scanlan, who was mayor of Houston from 1870-1873. Scanlan, immigrated from Ireland in 1853 and made a fortune by smuggling cotton through Mexico. He used his wealth to invest in real estate in Houston and Galveston. Scanlan was a consequential mayor who worked to eliminate corruption and champion the cause of the freedmen. He appointed blacks to the police force, the board of city alderman and he supported the candidacies of blacks running for city council. He died in 1906 and left his multi-million dollar estate of real estate and oil properties to his seven daughters.


The view of the mansion from Scanlan Road.

Two of the daughters, Lillian and Stella, never married and lived in the family home when it was located on Main Street in Houston. In 1937, the sisters clashed with the city when it wanted to cut down their favorite oak tree on the street in front of their home for a road widening project. The sisters were not successful in challenging the city to save the tree and decided to dismantle the mansion and rebuild it on their property in Fort Bend County near Arcola. They called the property Sienna Plantation, after Saint Catherine of Siena, the patron saint of single-women.


There are lots of oak trees along Scanlan Road.

They lived in the mansion until their deaths in 1948 and 1950. Prior to their deaths, the sisters formed the Scanlan Foundation, a trust developed to benefit various Catholic charities. The Catholic Diocese of Houston-Galvestion used the plantation from 1955 to 1967 as a retreat for the Cenacle Sisters.


This crumbling, brick fence borders the mansion property.

The property was restored in the early part of the development of the Sienna Plantation community and in 1997 was used as a marketing center. I’m not sure what happened to the property after that but the house does look like it has been recently occupied. The developer, Hillwood Residential, has taken steps to preserve the property by enlisting a group of history-minded volunteers and the Fort Bend County Historical Commission to determine the condition of the house and advise on long term plans.

As for the Scanlan family, they are buried in the Glenwood Cemetery in Houston and their name lives on as roads in the Sienna Plantation development. In addition to Scanlan Road, there is Scanlan Trace which circumnavigates the original development. Cyclists in the area know the route as the Scanlan Shuffle. In Houston, there is the Scanlan Building at the corner of Main and Preston. It was built in 1909 as a memorial to the deceased patriarch of the family and was the first building in Houston to be greater than 10 stories tall (it’s 11).

Note that the Scanlan mansion is private property and there are many no trespassing signs posted.


The front of the mansion.


The rear of the mansion.


7 thoughts on “The Scanlan Mansion is GONE!

  1. I grew up there. My grandfather was the foreman on Sienna Plantation. We lived in the little house right next door to the mansion. I used to play in the mansion, and catch frogs in the fountain out front. Behind the mansion were offices that I loved exploring and imagining what life was like back then. The doors in the offices still had names on them from when it was run I guess by a Catholic Church or something. At the second entrance to the mansion, near the end of the road, there was a small makeshift cemetery under huge trees. Our pasture was out back, where we had cows, horses, rabbits, and a garden. Behind our house was a one room apartment attached to a wash room filled with old large commercial looking washers. So many great memories of this place. Sad to read that it is now all gone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your note. I can imagine how you feel and I’m still surprised that they tore the mansion down. I’ve not seen a thing in the local press about it and I still hope that the developer has plans to rebuild it in another location. But who knows what will happen? It could easily just be lost forever and replaced by another drab housing development. If so, I’m glad I was able to see it before they tore it down.


    • I am very saddened to learn that they have torn this fabulous home down. So much history is being destroyed all around us. I would love to know if there are any plans to relocate this mansion? As the daughters did in 1937 when they brought it here. What a shame I am devasted really. Why do they fill so compelled to destroy? It is greed always about money and what the property is worth and how many houses can they build rather than to preserve history. I enjoyed reading your story what a wonderful childhood you must have had. Thank you for sharing.


  2. My grandma and grandpa stayed in an old brick house near a small church for probably since the late 1930’s, until early 1990’s when they were told to move out because of all the new homes being built,. My Dad, oldest brother, cousins worked cattle there, my oldest brother helped grandpa build fences out in Sienna when he was a young boy. My family has a lot of history that has never been told. Really upset me how my relatives lived there for so many years and had to move out because of all the new houses being built. So sad……..

    Liked by 1 person

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