And the road goes on forever...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Kell House Museum

A person would never be able to sneak up or down these stairs unnoticed I noted at the squeaking and creaking, as Hannah and I ascended to the second story of the 5833 square foot mansion of one of Wichita Fall’s greatest personages—Frank Kell. Noted native son, he and his brother in law Joseph Kemp built and started practically everything of note here in Wichita Falls in the early 1900’s: the grain industry, the development of Lake Wichita Pavilions (the entertainment extravaganza of the day), the utility companies, the newspaper, the streetcar system, the railroad, and the college. They've even both got boulevards named after them; can you say fabulously rich?

Hannah is a recent transplant from South Carolina and for $5 per person she will be happy to take you on a very thorough tour of how the other half lived here on the dusty plains of north Texas. I have her all to myself this morning as I learn about Frank Kell and his wife, their six daughters and one son. The four bedroom home is furnished with their actual memorabilia and furniture augmented by others typical of the period. The woods are rich, the furniture dark and ornate, and the chandeliers sumptuous crystal.

Persian rugs adorn the hardwood floors, and the home was the first in Wichita Falls to offer both electricity and air conditioning. The Kell’s employed a chauffeur and housemaids and these employees lived in back in the carriage house. It looks from the photos that over the years the exterior of the structure changed somewhat and at the time they built the home in 1909 they were out in the country. Now surrounded by big trees, downtown city streets and whizzing traffic, one is left to wonder about the ghostly whispers from children trying to sneak down a squeaky stairway on a still Christmas morning.