Downsizing has become quasi-fashionable, but 45 years ago Shirley Meysenburg was looking to upsize.
“We had a smaller house, with four children, so we really needed room,” says Shirley. She’s standing in the spacious living room of her elegant three-story Queen Anne style house. “We had a house over on 9th Street that I really liked.”
But with four children, it really wasn’t enough space.
And then one day her husband, Bob, told her he’d bought the house that their friends Bob and Jill Royer — who had five children of their own — used to own. Shirley winces slightly at the idea of the surprise purchase.
“Of course, after we moved in we loved it,” she says.
The house is a well-preserved example of the generous, comfortable homes that affluent residents preferred a century ago. Its exact date of origin isn’t well-preserved. Property records at the courthouse point to a construction date of 1892, when Homer and Mary Wilson bought lots abutting Buckeye from J.R. Burrton.
Shirley thinks the house is older than that. She was told it was built in 1880, and then suffered a fire.
“Most of the house survived the fire,” she says. “The beams in the basement — you can see where the fire was.”
Homer was one of Abilene’s insiders. His father, P.U. Wilson, established the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle, and Homer was a co-owner. His son France, who was advertising manager for a time, inherited the house on Buckeye after his parents died in the early 1940s. France was a boyhood friend of Dwight D. Eisenhower; the two maintained contact even after Dwight went on to become a five-star general.
France and his wife, Ellen, kept the home for only a few years before selling it to DeMerle and Marjorie Eckart, who in turn sold it to Bob and Jill Royer in 1950.
The Royers made a number of changes, Shirley says. They removed the wraparound porch, enclosed a sunroom and remodeled the front of the house.
“Jill designed the kitchen,” she says. “It was built for her.”
One of the decorating motifs in the house is rocking horses. They seem to be everywhere.
“Every rocking horse was a gift,” Shirley says. “I have never bought a rocking horse in my life. I got them from Florida, Germany, all over Europe.”
Shirley is a golfer, a good one.
“One year as the club champion, they gave me a rocking horse instead of the usual trophy and stuff,” she recalls.
Now she’s thinking of downsizing — it is a lot of house for one person, after all. But she still regularly is host for her bridge-playing friends. And the house is still filled with memories.
She’s in no hurry to make up her mind.