Old West Saviors

Hometown Visionaries

Husband-and-wife team rebuilds treasures in a hometown founded by an ancestor.


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The “Wizard of Oz” taught that you don’t have to go far from home to find your dream. Donna and John Sickles know what that means, and Saint Jo, Texas, is thankful.

“I grew up 50 miles away, but I discovered Saint Jo as an adult,” renowned artist Donna Howell-Sickles says. “John and I were looking for property all over the country, but we fell in love right here.”

Even more, she’s related to the Howell who founded Saint Jo; his youngest brother was her great-great-grandfather. “I discovered that it’s actually my Howell Street in Saint Jo,” she says with pride.

In 1996, she and John bought a building on the square in what she calls a “classic little Western town—it has a plaza and a gazebo and, for better or worse, what they originally built just stayed.”

Retired from building architectural models and a veteran of restoration, John was excited about fixing up the building in Saint Jo. He had already spent 25 years restoring an 1895 Victorian in Frisco, which the couple donated to the city.

His first project was to convert the second floor into an open loft where the couple lived for about a decade. The downstairs space became a gallery for Donna’s vibrant cowgirl paintings and works by...

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