813 NW 3rd – the Clarence F. Mead House

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Spence and Georgia Murray have seen enough of the world that they’re not necessarily impressed with the new and modern.

So when one of Abilene’s oldest homes, the magnificent late Victorian Italianate home at 813 NW 3rd, came on the market, it caught their eye.

“This was one of our goals,” Georgia says. “We always wanted an older home.”

They have had ample opportunity to sample others. Spence’s career was with the railroad, and that took them to several states and communities large and small.

After living in Abilene for nearly 10 years, they purchased one of Abilene’s more celebrated homes. The house was built in 1886 by Clarence F. Mead, a prominent attorney. This was a boom period for Abilene, and he built a house that proves it.

The Abilene Chronicle prepared its readers in early October 1886 for the completion of the home.

“C.F. Mead’s handsome new residence on West Third Street is almost completed, and will be ready for occupancy about the middle of the month,” it wrote. “It is furnished in hard pine, contains large airy rooms and all the modern improvements. It will add one more to the pleasant homes of Abilene.”

Here’s an excerpt from the narrative description of the home, submitted 113 years later for its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Few houses in Abilene can claim stylistic elements as numerous and diverse as the Mead house,” the application reads. “Its significance lies not in simply the diversity of design influences but in the quality of their rendition as well. As originally built, the house typified Abilene’s upscale housing. Through consistent and regular updating, this house continued to remain current and soon overshadowed its contemporaries in terms of scale and adherence to fashion. Its role as community model continues to this day.”

Georgia and Spence say their favorite part of the house is the library. It has rich oak wood, is furnished with deep, comfortable chairs, and features a fireplace.

But what caught Georgia’s eye initially was the exterior.

“Probably the front porch,” she said.

It’s what caught the eye of others, too.

“The most dramatic aspect of the porch is its angular projection from the northeast corner of the house,” notes the historic register application. “This projecting portion serves as the main entry and visually reduces the apparent height of the house.”

In one sense, the home reveals Americans’ desire to be fashionable.

“The highly eclectic evolution of the Mead house vividly illustrates the long-standing American obsession with current fashion,” the application observes. “In its first 40 years, the house was regularly updated and, despite the odds of doing so, successfully integrated five distinct late 19th and early 20th century architectural traditions to create a unique and memorable whole.”

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