205 NE. 3rd Street
The Kirby House
Built in 1885
Destroyed by Fire in 2013
Two prominent men who contributed to the growth and development of the city of Abilene – Joseph McCoy and Thomas Kirby – both once resided on the land on which this house now stands.
McCoy, an ambitious livestock dealer from Illinois, was the first to build a home here on what was then known as Grand Avenue. McCoy conceived the idea of making Abilene a shipping point for Texas cattle bound for markets in the east and north. Although his business endeavor turned Abilene into a famous Cowtown, it left McCoy penniless. His home ended up in the hands of Thomas Kirby, who founded the Kirby Bank in 1878.
The Kirby Bank was reported by The Illustrated Reflector newspaper as having a yearly business “not exceeded by any bank west of Topeka in Kansas”. Thomas Kirby was known to attend strictly to business and deal honorably. He thus amassed a fortune with which he purchased several blocks in the city and large tracts of land in the county.
Thomas also was a civic minded and generous individual. He often donated both his time and his money to such worthy projects as the building on Mount Saint Joseph’s Academy and the establishment of Kirby Park. He also served two terms as county treasurer.
In 1885, Kirby moved the McCoy home off the property and built this Second Period Italianate mansion to reflect his pride and position in the community. After his death, his wife, Annie, sold the home to the Abilene Commercial Club, a private men’s club believed to be the forerunner of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. The club added a large dining room at the rear of the home and used the house as its headquarters for 20 years. In 1944, the structure was sold and transformed into six apartments.
During the home’s lifetime, major changes were made to both the interior and the exterior of the building.
In 1986, Terry and Jerry Tietjens purchased the structure with the intent of transforming it into a fine restaurant. After a long restoration process that returned the mansion to its former glorious state, the Kirby House Restaurant opened the next year.
Double front doors lead to the foyer’s parquet floor of walnut, mahogany, oak and maple inlaid in a geometric design. The leaded glass in the foyer and the hardware throughout the home are originals. Ceilings are 12 feet high and the doors are nine feet.
The focal point of the front parlor is its original birdseye maple fireplace. Adjoining the parlor is what was the Kirby family’s dining room, once connected to the kitchen by a butler’s pantry. Two more parlors on the main floor are separated by pocket doors.
Located on the landing of the walnut staircase is a casket niche. The second floor once housed the Kirby family’s private bedrooms, the original bathroom and the servants’ rooms. Again, pocket doors separated the master bedroom from its parlor. An open porch at the rear of the home allowed the Kirbys to enjoy cool summer breezes. The porch has become the restaurant’s solarium.
The Second Empire period tower, which can be reached from this floor rises four stories above the street and was entirely reconstructed, as was the front porch.
Originally published in Historic Homes of Abilene, The Heritage Homes Association, written by Cecilia Harris, photos by Bob Paull, 1994.