BUILDINGS AS CHARACTERS: THE WEEKS MANSION, WICHITA FALLS, TEXAS
Often inanimate objects become prominent characters in our stories. They take on a living role. One that is just as important as the main characters. The historic Weeks Mansion in Wichita Falls, TX is the setting of many scenes in my soon to be released novella, "Dianne's Destiny: Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll" from The Wild Rose Press (Yellow Rose Imprint). I've wondered what the walls of this stunning place would say if they could talk. Haven't we all wondered something like it in our lives? Legend says the mansion is haunted, I believe it just may be.
When construction on the home began in 1924 Fred and Katie Lou Avis Weeks and their daughter lived in the carriage house. They were able to move into the mansion in 1926.
Mr. Weeks was a successful and renowned attorney. He spared no expense building the home. It remains full of architectural details that feel sometimes decadent, often breathtaking, yet comfortable. A few examples of the details include:
*A two story Italian marble fireplace in the living room featuring faces from mythology catches the eye.
*A two story stained glass double glass door that exits to the back yard. The only remaining original light fixture hangs from the ceiling in the living room (seen below).
*One mason from Wichita Falls, Walter McAbee, was contracted to complete all of the brick work on the carriage house and the home, which he completed entirely by himself using red, vitrified bricks from Coffeyville, Kansas. These bricks give the exterior the feel and quality of unbreakable glass. The concrete work is precise, every brick is placed with the same amount of distance between each one giving a uniform appearance.
*Several of the first floor walls and ceilings are made of dark walnut. The main staircase featuring two landings and the bannister blends almost invisibly at first glance.
*Sadly, the family wouldn't live there long. The stock market crash in the early 20th century hit them hard. In 1931 the bank repossessed the 13 acre estate and evicted the Weeks family.
*The home sat empty for seven years before being sold to the Lebus family. They stayed until 1946 when the Featherston family bought it. They stayed until 1949 when it was sold once again. Other inhabitants included:
*The City Club Restaurant that was said to rival the Country Club. It closed in 1953.
*The American Life and Trust Insurance Company took possession and shared the home with The Back Door Players Theater Group and Region IX Education Service until 1973.
*Gatsby's Night Club, a food and drink establishment reminiscent of a Prohibition Era Speakeasy, resided there until 1977.
*Several other restaurants tried their hand at the mansion with limited success.
*The Weeks Mansion was declared an historic site and placed on the Historic Registry in the early 1980's. (See photo above).
*Shortly after that it was The Marketplace featuring fine shops, dining, boutiques, a tea room, and a photographer's studio.
*The mansion served as a local events center throughout the 1990's.
*In 1999 it became a private residence again when the Shellanberger family bought it.
*In 2009 it was purchased by the Wood Group. My dear friend, Mary Wood, moved into the mansion. She has slowly and studiously furnished and decorated the mansion in its original vintage style.
*The Weeks Mansion is 16, 000 square feet. It includes four upstairs bedroom suites with full baths and a mezzanine.
*The main floor, includes the large two story foyer, a side portico entrance, the formal living room, study, kitchen, formal dining room, breakfast room, master bedroom, 21/2 baths, butler's pantry, dumb waiter, sunroom, and extra large laundry and craft room (formerly the kitchen). In addition to the formal stairwell there is a back stairway to both the upstairs and the basement.
*The main basement stairs open on to an area featuring a long walnut bar, three ante-rooms with arched doorways guarded by Italian marble mythological beings. The basement library includes many law books belonging to Mr. Weeks. The maintenance areas are also located down there.
*Every room and many window sills are decorated with original art.
*Mary opens her home to historic groups, tours, parties, weddings, and other community activities. She believes it is her duty to share the history of this stately mansion and restore it to its former beauty.
*Two other residents charm all visitors--an aging black Labradoodle named Toby and a prissy white male Standard Poodle named Kramer.
*During the Christmas season the home is decorated with at least eight themed trees and decorations turning every downstairs corner into a wonderland. (The photo is of the formal tree in the living room. Notice the walnut ceiling and staircase).
*I invite you to take this cyber blog tour of The Weeks Mansion. It is called The Blankenship Mansion in "Dianne's Destiny". Comments and suggestions are appreciated.