Buna, Texas and the Polka Dot House

Buna Polka Dot HouseIn southeast Texas at the southern end of Jasper county is a community called Buna. I lived in Jasper County from 1984 through 1993 and again in 1996. Buna was my home in 1992 and 1993. I had the blessing of serving a wonderful group of people as associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Buna.

Two large questions filled my mind when I first talked with the church’s search committee about joining their staff. The first was how the community got its name. The second concerned a certain house in town.

Buna was named by the owners of the lumber mill. I was told the Beaumont Lumber Company mill in southern Jasper County was first called Carrolla. It was named for the Carroll family. They were prominent Beaumont lumbermen and industrialists. The site was renamed Buna, however, in honor of one of the family’s cousins, Buna Corley. So Buna was named after a cousin of the saw mill’s owner.

The second question concerned that certain house. At first glance the house was nothing special. It was painted white like many other houses. At second glance I realized it was different. There were spots on the house. Cleaning my glasses didn’t help. The spots were still there. As I got closer I realized the spots were actually polka dots. The polka dots were painted blue!

Several members of the associate pastor search committee taught me the history of the house as they knew it.

Some told me a couple bought the house after World War Two and couldn’t agree on the color to paint it. They said the wife wanted a white house, but the husband wanted it painted blue. He grudging gave in painting it white to please the wife. Then he painted blue polka dots to please himself. I believe it was the Odell family that purchased the house.

Not all on the search committee agreed with how the house got its polka dots. Others told me the Davis family owned the house and later sold it to the Odell family. Some thought it may have already had the polka dots before the Odells got the house. One said no matter how many times the Odells painted the house white the dots just kept bleeding through the white paint so they finally gave up and kept the polka dots.

Buna water towerApparently the house originally had red and blue polka dots, though I only remember the blue ones. They were a royal blue, just like the high school colors.

Through the years the house has been a residence, florist, gift shop, home of the Buna Chamber of Commerce, and a few even remembered it housing the sub-courthouse of Jasper County.

Any residents of Buna that know the real or rest of the story please feel free to leave a comment.

Does Buna, Texas still have the little white house with blue polka dots? I don’t know for sure. I haven’t been to Buna since just after Hurricane Rita. That certain house was still there then.

A reader shared this website with me that has more info on Buna’s Polka Dot House: http://bunapolkadothouse.wix.com/bunapolkadothouse. Also please read the below comments to get the rest of the story from local residents and kinfolks of Buna’s Polka Dot House original owners and polka dot painters.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, and award-winning short story writer. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories and Beyond Imagination. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his writing, reading, and book reviewing habit working as an IT application support analyst. He is a former Captain in the US Army. His blog Kepler’s Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs. You can visit him at http://www.jimmiekepler.com.

25 thoughts on “Buna, Texas and the Polka Dot House

  1. Sadly, I republished the article on February 14, 2017. It had been originally published three years earlier. The republishing broke the links to the 4,195 Shares on Facebook. If your share link was broken, my apology. Please just reshare the blog post. Also, if you have updated information or pictures I would love to update the post with the new information.

    1. 2019- the polka dots are still there. It’s become a theme in town with a new antique store painting blue polka dots on the windows and our local newspaper has a miniature polka dotted house for mail or such. Unfortunately there’s no business in it at the moment.
      I’m nearly 36 and My mother had a photo in an album from the redbud parade when I was very young.. or maybe shortly before I was born and the house is in the background, the house had red and blue dots.

    2. Buna, Kenya – Wikipedia
      Buna is a small town in Wajir County, situated in the North Eastern Province in Kenya. Nearby towns and places include Ajao and Bute Helu. County‎: ‎Wajir County Area code(s)‎: ‎46

      I once lived in Buna, a small rural town in Northern Kenya with a beautiful landscape. Never imagined there could be another place on earth with similar name, especially in the US!! Time i find out how my old place got its name.

  2. Dorothy Stanley Smith, we have the same memories. Mr. Davis built the house in the late 40’s and the family later moved to the country. I rode the same school bus as Joyce and her brothers. And oh yes, Floyd King Wright was principal when I was there. I remember Mrs. Jayroe being an elementary school teacher.


  4. I have a vague memory that the dots were changed to red and blue for the Bicentennial in 1976. Anyone else recall that?

  5. The story I’ve heard all my life is, my Great Uncle Virgil Davis saw a polka dot house like this in Oklahoma and decided to build his home in Buna just like it. Interesting, how many stories exist concerning this tiny home.
    Pam Bingham

  6. I grew up in Buna. Our principal Mr. Wright lived in the house at one time. I do know that Mr. Davis was the one who painted the house. I went to school with his children, so the account by Julie is accurate. I live next door in the old Jayroe house. My husband’s aunt, Pauline Smith Jayroe Marshall, left the house to us in her will. We enjoy living next to the Polka Dot house because it is a wonderful landmark for directions to my house. The Polka Dot House should have a historical marker placed in the yard.

  7. I went to school with Herman Davis , and he and his brother painted the house with dots in 1954 or 1955.

    1. Lucille
      My Uncle Herman did not paint the original polka dots. His father, my grandfather did, did. He may have touched them up, but that would be all. This is our family legacy and history so first hand knowledge of it is in our family.

  8. Hi Mr. Kepler,
    It was my grandfather, Virgil Newton Davis, who built the polka dot house The dots did not come to exist because my Granny “nagged” him about painting it either; but because he always said he grew up during stark times and wanted to bring some color to the world. At the time of his untimely death, he was digging a septic pit for a duplex he had planned to paint with tear drops and horseshoes on either side. I built a website in his honor to tell the accurate story of how the landmark came to be: http://bunapolkadothouse.wix.com/bunapolkadothouse. It was my uncle and his wife who sold the house to the O’Dell’s after it was deeded to him. If you’re interested in learning more accurate information about this landmark, feel free to contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the family members who know the history. Thanks. Julie Davis

  9. The house had royal blue polka dots long before the Odells purchased the house. My Great Aunt and her husband built and lived in the house adjacent to the polka dot house. She was married to Mr. Jayroe who was the Superintendent at the Bessmay Lumber Mill. He hand-picked every board that went into their house. We would visit her when I was a child (early 1960’s) and I remember standing in the yard and looking at the house next door with the blue polka dots. Even the bird bath in the front yard had blue dots painted on it. The original dots were not like they are now however, the originals were less defined and applied to the house with a spray can. In the 1970’s, a picture of the house and the story behind it was printed in the Houston Post. The story was told then that the wife wanted the house painted and the husband got tired of the nagging so he went out and painted the dots on the house to spite his wife. I believe when the Odells purchased the house, it stopped being used for a residence, it had been abandoned for a while and was in poor condition. They painted it solid white and many were upset because after the newspaper article in the Post, they felt that it was famous and part of Buna heritage. There was a campaign to put the dots back on the house and eventually they were replaced but this time the dots were red and blue and stenciled on. Over time, as the building was used for one thing then another, they were painted back to being all blue. The house has never been used for a sub-courthouse. There was talk many times of what could be made out of the house to try and preserve it but it is too small and in too poor of condition for anyone to be interested.

    As a side note, most do not know that there is an old negro cemetery behind the house. When the Odells purchased the property, it was paved over for the placement of oil field equipment. The cemetery is partially on my family’s land.

  10. Cute story about the polka dotted house. My first home was a little ranch house in Lake Highlands. I painted the knotty pine walls (which were in bad shape) white. The knot holes bled through so the room was polka dotted. I like it:)

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