1204 N. Buckeye Avenue
The Nichols House
Built in 1878
An early-day Episcopal priest, John W. Birchmore, built this Second Empire brick home with a French Mansard roof in 1878. It later was purchased by Walter D. Nichols, a relative of J. C. Nichols who created the nation’s first shopping center, the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City.
Walter Nichols helped drive 5, 000 Texas cattle up the Chisholm Trail towards Abilene before homesteading northwest of nearby Detroit, Kansas, in 1871. In 1888, he established the W. D. Nichols Land Company which became recognized as one of the most expert firms on Western Kansas land values. Nichols served as County Assessor and Register of Deeds before moving to Abilene.
In 1897, Nichols and C. H. Olson of Upland, Kansas, started the Kansas Farmers Mutual Insurance Association, which, it is said, they organized because established insurance companies failed to recognize that Indians were not the only inhabitants of the state. The business exists today as Upland Mutual Insurance Company. Nichols also was a partner in Nichols and Howard, a real estate, insurance and loan business.
Always willing to serve his community, Nichols was Mayor of Abilene for 12 years.
He and wife, Hattie, sold part of their land to their daughter, Georgia Howard, in 1911 and another portion to a granddaughter, Nina Mae Gemmill, in 1929. After the deaths of the Nicholses, another daughter, Nan, lived in the home with her family. Her husband, Fred W. Meyer, gave a quit claim deed to Nina Mae Gemmill after Nan’s death. Thirty years later, the Gemmills sold the property to James and Karen Schoenbeck.
The original home featured an entry, front parlor with a bay window, back parlor, dining room, kitchen, pantry and enclosed porch on the main floor. Crown molding appears in each room.
The front door, which consists of paned glass, boasts the original doorknob that once contained the doorbell.
The hall off the open stairway on the second level led to a bedroom with a bay window, three other bedrooms, a bath and a sleeping porch.
Originally published in Historic Homes of Abilene, The Heritage Homes Association, written by Cecilia Harris, photos by Bob Paull, 1994.