316 N. Mulberry Street
The Bonebrake House
Built in 1878
One of Abilene’s first telephones was installed in this home built in 1878. J. E. Bonebrake, a prominent businessman, leased the phones from the Bell Telephone Company in April of 1879 while on a business trip to the East. Bonebrake carried the telephones in a simple wooden crate as he returned home by train. He then installed a telephone line between his residence and his office, according to the April 11, 1879 issue of the Abilene Gazette newspaper.
In 1871, Bonebrake opened one of the first stores in the community and made his fortune by selling machinery to wheat farmers. He expanded into the hardware business and also established the Abilene Water Works, which supplied water to the community for several years. Later, he owned electric, gas, and water companies and became president of the First National Bank.
In 1879 the telephone allowed Bonebrake to keep in touch with his family while supervising construction of the Bonebrake Opera House, which contained showrooms for his business and a theatre that seated 700 people.
The form, roof pitch and brick window crowns suggest this home originally was of Gothic Revival architecture, popular from 1830 to 1880. It was one of four houses in Abilene built using bricks made at the local brick factory. There are three fireplaces in the home, one on each of the three levels.
Major remodeling efforts have occurred throughout the home’s lifetime. In 1967, the house was divided into an apartment building and continues to be operated as such by Dale and Jacquie Wallace.
Originally published in Historic Homes of Abilene, The Heritage Homes Association, written by Cecilia Harris, photos by Bob Paull, 1994.