The Scanlan mansion still stands where it was rebuilt on the far southeast part of Sienna Plantation.[/caption]
Long before it was developed into a master-planned community, Sienna Plantation was a prominent sugar cane and cotton plantation in Texas that had a long history of owners. In later years, it was also home to a Roman Catholic Church retreat.
“Sienna Plantation has a rich history, and the land has such character that makes it much more than just a piece of dirt,” said Doug Goff, chief operating officer for Johnson Development Corp., which now owns the property.
The Sienna Plantation land was originally part of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colony settlement, which were land grants issued by Mexico to Texas settlers. The land was first settled in 1824 by William Hall and David Fitzgerald, according to research by Gene Arensburg, a historical researcher and developer of Sienna Point Estates.
Fitzgerald died shortly after making his claim and his portion of the property was sold to J.B. Capels.
The efforts of Texas settlers after the Texas Revolution attracted South Carolina planter Jonathan Waters. He arrived in 1840 and acquired the claims of Hall and Capels. According to Arensburg’s research, by 1860 the land was known as the Waters Plantation and had more than 6,500 acres of sugar cane and cotton. Waters also operated a wharf on the Brazos River.
Waters died in 1872, and his widow sold the plantation to Thomas Pierce for $50,000. A week later, Pierce sold the plantation to Houston businessman Thomas W. House for $100,000.
House owned the plantation until 1906 when former Houston Mayor Thomas Scanlan assumed ownership. Scanlan died that same year, and his seven daughters inherited the estate.
After a dispute with the city of Houston in 1937, the two remaining Scanlan daughters, Lillian and Stella, dismantled the Scanlan mansion in Houston and rebuilt it on the plantation. The two daughters named it Sienna Plantation after Siena in Italy, according to Arensburg’s research.
With no direct heirs, the two sisters established the Scanlan Foundation as a charitable trust benefiting various Catholic charities. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Scanlan daughters entrusted Sienna to the foundation. From the mid-1950s to 1972, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Houston-Galveston used the plantation as the Cenacle Retreat.
In 1978 the property was acquired by Johnson Development. Today Sienna Plantation is a master-planned community that spans 10,800 acres with about 23,000 residents, Goff said.
“When developing Sienna we felt the sense of responsibility in having land with such history and character,” Goff said. “We took pride in being careful with the environment, worked around the sensitive natural features and set aside land for open space and parkland.”