The Rice House

615 NW. 3rd Street

The Rice House

Built in 1879


Alfred William Rice 2

Alfred William Rice

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.

615 NW 3rd Street

The asymetrical style of the house creates a whimsical appearance

615 NW 3rd Street #1

Ornamental trim enhances the entry

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.

615 NW 3rd Street #2

Handcarved doors, woodwork and staircase enhance the living room

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Elaborate window and door casings throughout the main floor emphasize the Queen Anne character

615 NW 3rd Street #4

Originally published in Historic Homes of Abilene, The Heritage Homes Association, written by Cecilia Harris, photos by Bob Paull, 1994.

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The Bonebrake House

316 N. Mulberry Street

The Bonebrake House

Built in 1878


John Elijah Bonebrake 1

John Elijah Bonebrake

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.

316 N Mulberry #1

The Bonebrake House has been altered from its original appearance in the Gothic Revival Style

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.

316 N Mulberry #2

The Bonebrake House – 316 N. Mulberry Street

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.

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The Birchmore-Nichols House

1204 N. Buckeye Avenue

The Nichols House

Built in 1878


Walter Dean Nichols 2

Walter Dean Nichols

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.

1204 N Buckeye #1

A conical roof is perched on the original roof

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.

1204 N Buckeye #2

The painted woodwork and light colored wallpaper give a spacious feeling to the interior of the house.

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.

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The McInerney House

619 NW. 3rd Street

The McInerney House

Built in 1877


Thomas C McInerney

Thomas C. McInerney

This Gothic Revival style brick home is believed to have been built in 1877 by Benjamin Bussell, an Abilene merchant.  The depth of the windows and doors on the west side suggest the original home consisted only of four rooms on two levels.  Bussell and his wife, Emma, sold the home in 1881 to another pioneer family, the McInerneys.

Thomas C. McInerney was a bootmaker in Leavenworth, Kansas, when, in 1868, he decided to move his family to Texas Street in Abilene.  There he opened a small shop to meet the needs of the cowboys driving cattle up the Chisholm Trail.  The cattle trade boomed during the next five years and so did McInerney’s business.  He soon built a factory and employed 20 bootmakers.

In 1908, the McInerneys made considerable improvements to their home, increasing the size of the dwelling and installing a heating plant and a gas fireplace on the west side.  They also altered the Gothic style porch.

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619 NW. 3rd Street – The bargeboard expresses the house’s Gothic Revival character

619 NW 3rd 2

The house features a marbelized mantelpiece

The McInerney’s son, William (Bill Mac), moved into the home at age three and later acquired it from his family.  A dentist in Abilene for 56 years, he donated his dental equipment to the Kansas Historical Society upon his retirement in 1957.

A year after his death in 1963, the home was purchased by Charles S. and Doris McMichael who began remodeling in the early 1970’s.  They added two sunporches, a bathroom, dustproof closet, a kitchen, pantry and utility area and a three-car garage.

Jeff and Ricki Elliott bought the home in 1979 and focused their first efforts on landscaping by adding an iron fence.  Inside, they converted the gas fireplace back to wood.


Originally published in Historic Homes of Abilene, The Heritage Homes Association, written by Cecilia Harris, photos by Bob Paull, 1994.

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John Hoon (1869-1924), Clothier

John Hoon was born in Berlin, Pennsylvania on January 4, 1869, the fourth child of Valentine Hoon and Elizabeth Suder.  John grew up on the family farm in Brothers Valley Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  The Hoon family arrived in Abilene, Kansas on March 25, 1885 and John would live in Abilene the remainder of his life.

John Hoon

John Hoon (1869-1924)

The Hoon family were active members of the Grace Reformed Church.  John Hoon officially became a member of the Grace Reformed Church in Berlin, Pennsylvania in 1884.  The Grace Reformed Church in Abilene was formed on November 4, 1883, when its Constitution was adopted and elders and deacons elected.  Shortly after the Hoon’s arrived in Abilene, John’s membership was moved from Berlin to Abilene.  In April 1886, the church voted to build a new church at the northwest corner of Buckeye Avenue and 5th Street (current location of Copeland Insurance), and Valentine Hoon along with other members were commissioned to manage the construction.  John first served as the Sunday School Superintendent Secretary in 1889 and would later be a deacon.

John married Addie Raney on April 9, 1893 at her parent’s home in Abilene.  Addie, the fourth daughter of Harden P. and Harriet L. (Johnson) Raney, was a native of Tennessee.  John and Addie lived at 304 E. 1st Street and did not have children.

Professionally, John was employed by William Ward Davis at the Davis Shoe Store, which was also known as the Blue Front Shoe Store, which for a time was located in the Brady Block (now the United Trust Building) at the northwest corner of 3rd and Cedar Streets (currently Cedar Street Market).  For 16 years, John worked as a shoe salesman primarily for Mr. Davis, but also for C. A. Wyandt (1891) and for Arthur B. Rose (1898-1900).  John’s brother William, worked 15 years for the clothier, Franklin Bearce, who’s store was at 211 N. Broadway.  When Bearce’s closed in 1902, William Hoon was the agent for the merchandise clearance.

AWC 4-2-1903

W. H. Hoon & Company Opening Advertisement, Abilene Weekly Chronicle, April 2, 1903

With the closing of the Bearce Clothing Store, the Hoon brothers saw an opportunity.  They had collective experience of over 30 years in the retail clothing business along with great reputations.  In April 1903, they formed W. H. Hoon & Company, which carried a wide range of men and boys clothing and accessories.  The company opened at 209 N. Broadway Street (currently part of the Abilene School District offices).  Two month after opening, the 1903 flood ravished downtown.  The Hoon brothers had only 1 foot of water in their basement and sustained minimal loss.  However, they did have $100 of merchandise on a boxcar in Kansas City that was damaged by the flood.  This was a minor loss compared to many of the other businesses.

Also in 1903, Everett E. Swanzey left his salesman position at the A. B. Rose Company to work for W. H. Hoon & Company.  The following year William Hoon sold his portion of the business to Mr. Swanzey and took a traveling salesman job for a clothing manufacturer and relocated to West Virginia.  With his new career, William would live in several cities including Sioux City, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Wheeling, West Virginia.  John tool the reigns and the W. H. Hoon & Company was renamed to Hoon & Company.  In April 1908, Hoon & Company moved one door south to 207 N. Broadway Street, which had been occupied by the J. K. Markley & Company grocery store.  The 1,750 sq. ft. space displayed a largest and most exclusive line of high grade clothing, hats, shirts, and neckwear.  Apart from the owners, the clothier hired two sales clerks.  Among those who worked as sales clerks was Harry Lewis Sorber.

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Interior of Hoon & Company at 209 N. Broadway Street in 1905

AWR 9-26-1907

Hoon & Company Advertisement, Abilene Weekly Reflector, September 26, 1907

In 1912, Hoon & Company installed a new awning and a thief tried to break in through the door on the alley, but was unable to pry the door open.  This thief was successful at Case’s dry goods store that night.  In 1913, John traveled to Kansas City to pick up his new car, a Velie 32.  Two years later he sold the car to William A. Matteson and purchased a larger Velie from Charles Ellwood Dyer.

John took great interest in civic affairs.  In 1898, John was elected to the City Council representing Ward 1 by a 29 vote majority over George Washington Shook.  During his first term, John served on the committee that ascertained the condition of the Central Hotel, which was later condemned and razed.  At the end of his first term in 1900, John ran for re-election and tied Theodore Hasshagen with 71 votes each.  At the City Council meeting following the election, the names of Hoon and Hasshagen were placed in a hat and Hoon’s slip was drawn.  At the same meeting Richard A. Brown resigned his seat on the City Council since he moved outside the city limits.  Mr. Hasshagen was nominated to fill the position vacated by Mr. Brown and was unopposed.

During his second term, John was elected as the City Council President in 1901.  At that time the Mayor was elected at large rather than appointed from among the councilmen.  In 1904, John was elected to the Abilene School Board and served one full term until 1908.  After his public service, he was a Ward 1 election judge for a number of election cycles.

John was an active member of the Abilene Commercial Club (forerunner of the Abilene Area Chamber of Commerce).  Following the condemning and demolition of the Central Hotel (southwest corner of Spruce and 3rd Streets), the Commercial Club formed a committee to solicit financing for a new hotel.  John Hoon was one of the team members offering subscriptions to build a new hotel.  This effort was successful and resulted in the construction of the Forster Hotel at the northwest corner of 2nd and Spruce Streets (currently occupied by NextHome Unlimited, Farmers Insurance, Verizon, and The Teck Shop).

John and Addie lived at 304 E. 1st Street for twenty years and were caretakers for Addie’s aging father who stayed with them until his death in 1920.  John’s aging mother lived across the street at 309 E. 1st Street.  John died on August 6, 1924 in Abilene.  Three days later his funeral was held at the Grace Reformed Church and was laid to rest in the Abilene Cemetery.  Addie died in 1935 and is buried with her husband.

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