The Bankhead Highway, the first transcontinental highway across the U.S. passes through Franklin County and serves as Mt. Vernon s Main Street. The Franklin County Bankhead Route follows an early Indian trading route known as the Choctaw Trail and intersects east of Mt. Vernon with the Cherokee Trail, the Texas portion of the "Trail of Tears." The Bankhead Highway opened in 1919; by 1930 it was re-named U.S. No. 1, called "The Broadway of America." The local newspaper masthead carried "THE MT. VERNON OPTIC-HERALD - ON THE BROADWAY OF AMERICA" for half a century. The Bankhead Highway Route was changed in 1937 and follows present U.S. Hwy. 67. Four miles of the original Bankhead Route lead directly from Mt. Vernon s Main Street west until intersecting again with U.S. 67.
Henry Clay Thruston purchased 100 acres of land on the north side of this highway in 1888. Thruston was born in South Carolina in 1830, moved to Tennessee, served in the Confederate Army and came to Texas in 1868. He purchased land in the Daphne Community in what is now Franklin County and moved nearer to Mt. Vernon with the purchase of this house surrounded by 100 acres of land in 1888. He died in 1911 and the land passed to his surviving son, Edward Thruston. Edward and his wife, Pollie Taylor Thruston, had two sons; both of whom died before their parents. Edward Thruston died in 1920. His wife then married J.B. Green. Miss Polly, as she was affectionately known, died in 1932, and Green died in 1937. After Green's death, the land was divided into smaller parcels.
H.C. Thruston toured with traveling circus companies after the Civil War; his wife and sons remained in Mt. Vernon. His wife predeceased him and was buried in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, and he was buried beside her at his death. Thruston stood 7 feet 7 and 1/2 inches tall and was billed as the world's tallest man. He is believed to be the tallest soldier of the Confederate Army if not of the entire Civil War.The house was built about 1868 by Oliver A. Mathews who lived in the house until his death in about 1883. The house and acreage was sold to G.W. Malone in 1883 who then sold to H.C. Thruston in 1888.
The house is architecturally significant as a 2-story dog-trot house, a style common in the 19th century across the American South. Before the adaptation of electricity for cooling; a house could be heated with the use of individual fireplaces or stoves for rooms but there was no way to cool a home in the southern summers. This house was designed to take advantage of any breeze.
The Thruston House serves as the Bankhead Highway Visitor Center. The House is architecturally significant as a two-story "dog-trot" house. This style was common in the 19th century across the American South. Before the adaptation of electricity for cooling, a house could be heated by the use of individual fireplaces or stoves, but there was no way to cool a home in the southern summers, so houses were designed with open "breezeways" to take full advantage of any moving air during the hot summer months. The Thruston house is an adaptation of the simple two-room dog-trot, with two additional rooms in the attic/second floor loft, reached by a very steep stair, which might originally have been only a ladder. The house also has a third room downstairs, a large kitchen behind the original parlor, which was probably added some time after the original structure was built.
The house had been abandoned for many years and was used to store hay, while buzzards roosted in the upper story. By the time of its acquisition, the roof was almost gone and the house itself in need of immediate repair. In 1991, it was acquired by Ikie Pollard, who deeded it to the Historical Association. The family of Ceil Moore, an interior designer in Dallas, donated $8,000 in her memory in 1991 for replacement of the roof. The Mike Jordan Family and Virgie Beth Hughes arranged substantial gifts which paid for foundation work to stabilize the house and erect a storeroom to support restoration work. In 1998 Virginia Dupree Scovell of Dallas gave the adjoining 57 acre block of land, which has become Dupree Park, in memory of her parents. The Mt. Vernon Boy Scout Troop was especially helpful in work on the house and in the development of a nature trail in Dupree Park. In 2001, Franklin County received approval of a federal grant (Transportation Enhancement Act Funding for administration by the Texas Department of Transportation) in the amount of $250,000. To qualify for the federal funding to erect the Pavilion and restore the house, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Lowry and the Mt. Vernon Economic Development Corporation arranged donations of $50,000 and work commenced in earnest in 2002. The entire project was completed and dedicated the following Labor Day, September 1,2003.
The Bankhead Highway Trails and Visitor Center includes the Lowry Pavilion, which is available for rent for special outdoor occasions, and the Dupree Park Nature Preserve and Nature Trail, a mile and a half walk through the property, with special marked stations for bird sightings. Though the property gates are locked at off hours, a pedestrian gate allows admittance for individual use from dawn until dusk. A printed trail guide is available in the Visitor Center.
Through the generosity of individual donors, the house has been furnished in the simple style of a Texas farmhouse of the late 19th - early 20th century. The southwest room on the front, the only one with a fireplace and original mantel, has been turned into a quilting room, with an original quilting frame of the period, where local women of the community continue to practice the art of quilting. The southeast room is an office containing memorabilia of the restoration and photographs of Colonel Thruston and others. The northwest kitchen has been partly modernized, but retains the feeling of the original, which had a pot-belly stove and no running water. Throughout the house care has been taken, whenever possible, to retain the original look, prior to the restoration, of floors, ceilings, and doors, but entire portions of the house that were rotted away had to be replaced. For security purposes, the original open dog-trot had to be enclosed with glass. The interior is thus an amalgamation of old and new.