Story by Kelsey P. Boyd
Stroll through a typical American neighborhood and you’ll most likely see cookie cutter houses where each home looks almost identical to the next. Walk through the neighborhood where David and Eleanor Scroggin live, however, and you’ll think you’ve ventured into a Mexican village.
The Scroggin’s house is a stand-out in Russellville. Built in what Eleanor calls a “Spanish contemporary style,” the Scroggin’s decorating influence comes from Eleanor’s love of the Southwest United States, namely Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Both Eleanor and David admire the Spanish culture and built their house to reflect its liveliness. The house features arched entranceways, vibrant colors and countless pieces of original art mainly from Santa Fe and Mexico. Eleanor described the atmosphere inside her home as “light and happy.”
David and Eleanor not only live in an interesting house—they both live extraordinary lives. David is the campus minister at Arkansas Tech University’s Wesley Foundation where he is known by the students and staff as “Brother Dave.” He has served as the primary catalyst for the foundation’s tremendous growth over the past few decades. Eleanor is heavily involved in art. She paints dozens of pictures a year and sells them around the South and Southwestern regions of the U.S. She also creates jewelry for herself and her daughter and enjoys scrapbooking in her spare time.
Eleanor’s creativity is reflected in her house, which she designed herself, except for one element. David jokingly (and honestly) says, “The only thing I picked out in the whole house is the color of my office.”
Eleanor had the house plans in mind many years before it was built and began drawing the plans out while she and David lived in a trailer during his early days in the ministry.
David was serving in five churches from Mayflower to Greenbrier at the time which kept him on a strict, hectic schedule, so naturally, designing and planning their unique home took David and Eleanor much prayer, thought, and consideration because of their meager funds and limited resources.
One evening while eating at a Mexican restaurant, the couple made their dreams a reality and decided to build their exotic home. David and Eleanor asked a server at the restaurant to write “House of Miracles” in Spanish. Today, the couple calls their home Casa de Milagros, because they claim it was miraculous to build.
Local architect Jeff Harrison helped Eleanor with the roof of the house and designed the courtyard in the front yard. Finton Shaw of Conway built the front gate and railing in the courtyard that Eleanor had designed. Builder Bill Hegeman helped with the construction of the house, as did Mike Williams.
David and Eleanor watched the workers become more and more pleased with their projects as the house began to take shape. Eleanor describes how the workers “started putting in this extra enthusiasm” into the house. She said all the people that worked on her home were “wonderful.” The couple claims that even the workers were blessed through the miracle of their new home.
David and Eleanor use symbols of the Christian faith throughout their home.
Eleanor wanted to use a personalized symbol of a cross. She created her own “subtle cross” as she named it. In Eleanor’s cross that she designed specifically for the house, each of the four sides is of equal length. The cross motif is found in many places throughout their home—the outside gate, the living room floor and above the mantle.
Another influence of religious art is found in the many sculptures of the disciples around the house. A wooden Joseph carries tools in the living room and Moses holds the Ten Commandments in a lighted niche above the fireplace.
David and Eleanor also admire the Catholic culture and have many displays of the Catholic faith around their house. Eleanor has painted several pictures of Chimayo, a Catholic place of worship in New Mexico. Carvers in Santa Fe created wooden angels which are found throughout the house, particularly in David’s office. Eleanor’s favorite piece in the entire house, though, is Mary, a wooden carving used in processionals in the Catholic Church.
Eleanor remembers seeing the figurine for the first time in a religious antiquities store she frequents in Santa Fe. “She just took my breath away,” Eleanor recalls. She learned that the figurine was a processional Mary supposedly from South America during the 1800s.
Unfortunately, Eleanor did not have the means to purchase her at the time. She visited the store again six months later and found Mary in the same spot. After working out a deal with the shop worker, Eleanor paid a sum each month and eventually owned the antique figurine.
“We had Mary in layaway,” she laughed.Eleanor visits her sister in Santa Fe at least twice a year and has collected countless pieces of artwork from antique stores and shops in New Mexico. She has several pieces of Mexican ceramic art from Santa Fe, a nativity carved from a single piece of wood, and an antique guard cat at the entrance to their home.
Eleanor has several Oaxacan (Wa-HOCK-un) animals scattered throughout her house. These creatures are intricately hand-carved and -painted in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The Scroggins have pieces of their personal lives scattered around their house, as well. David and Eleanor’s bedspread has influences from Southwestern art and was made by a friend, Rose Mary Nix of Ola.
In their kitchen, the Scroggins have a cabinet and buffet from David’s grandmother. David has a piece of furniture in his office from Eleanor’s grandfather.
Eleanor explained how she likes “a mixture of contemporary furniture and old pieces.” In fact, she designed each room in her house around pieces of furniture.
When moving from their old house, David and Eleanor decided to keep only the things they couldn’t live without. They sold lots of furniture and art in an auction and kept the things that meant most to them. Eleanor said, “We’re going to live with what we love.”
The Scroggins could not be more pleased with their home. The thing that makes it most special is the history, devotion, and love they pour into their home and into its visitors.
The Scroggin’s Casa de Milagros is truly a miracle.
Story by Kelsey P. Boyd