615 NW. 3rd Street
The Rice House
Built in 1879
A man elected to the position of mayor of Abilenne for eight terms built this Queen Anne style home in 1879. Following the rowdy days of the cattle era, it was the leadership of A. W. Rice that resulted in the elevation of the moral tone of the community. Rice was politically active during his lifetime, constantly seeking ways to improve the life of Abilene residents. During his reign as mayor, dusty streets in the business section of the city were paved and a sewer system was completed.
Rice was active in several business ventures as well. He was one of the organizers of the Citizens Bank and served as its vice president. He also was president of Rice-Johntz-Nicolay Lumber Company , vice president of Abilene Manufacturing Company, president of Abilene Wholesale Grocery and had interests in grain and livestock businesses.
The Queen Anne style of the house is delightfully asymmetrical and makes an unusually picturesque composition. Handcarved oak double doors welcome guests standing on the wraparound porch that was added in 1926. Original features include a parquet floor in the living room, embossed leather inlays along the staircase and intricately carved woodwork throughout the home. Light shines through three stained glass windows. An unusual detail is the warming oven that is part of the steam register in the dining room.
A black iron fence wrapping around the front yard was installed in 1978.
David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower stayed at the home when David was conducting research for a book about his grandfather, President Dwight D. Eisenhower. At that time the home was owned by Don Wilson, who later became the Archivist of the United States. It now is the residence of Mel and Toastie Racy.
Originally published in Historic Homes of Abilene, The Heritage Homes Association, written by Cecilia Harris, photos by Bob Paull, 1994.