The Queen Anne and Shingle style home located at 209 Grand Avenue in Waxahachie has silently presided over the town since it was first built in 1896. Enormous proportions, including a large expanse of porches, ornamentation and even an octagonal tower create a sense of wonder and mystery. Who built this home and what stories does it have to tell?
H. W. Trippet was a banker and civic leader in Waxahachie in the late 1890’s. The home he built at 209 Grand Avenue reflected Mr. Trippet’s esteemed position in the community. Unique architectural details are lavishly displayed – cedar fish-scale shingles, two wrap-around porches, and a porte-cochere for the carriage to drop off the family or guests without having to brave the elements. A large stone used as a carriage stop still remains to this day.
The property was later sold to Walter E. Shive, a successful seed, grain and coal store owner. The Shive family owned the home until it was sold to Robert and Wanda Bell sometime in the 1950’s. The story of how the home changed hands has become legendary in Waxahachie.
Maude Shive, the only remaining descendant of Walter, lived in the home for many years. She had no close relatives and she never married. Wanda Bell referred to Ms. Shive as an “unclaimed jewel” and described her as “very opinionated” and “a character.” Although Ms. Shive received many offers to sell the home, she refused. It had to be entrusted to the right family who would treasure the property and never damage it.
Enter Robert Bell, a humble, Waxahachie postal carrier. When Robert began delivering mail to 209 Grand Avenue, he had no idea that one day he would own such a grand mansion. Robert was a kind, gentle man who made friends with everyone he met. Slowly, as he faithfully delivered the mail every day, he got to know and admire Maude Shive. One day, she announced to Robert that she wanted to sell the house to him.
Robert was flabbergasted. He did not have that kind of money! He tried to dissuade Maude from her plan, but she was determined that Robert and his wife, Wanda, should live in the home and raise their family. A price was finally agreed upon, and the mansion at 209 Grand Avenue became the home of the Bell family.
Bell 3Wanda Bell recalls that their friends thought they were “crazy” for buying such a big, old house in need of repair. She still laughs that their friends “took up a collection to send them to the State Hospital in Terrell.” But when the Bells began throwing parties and holding get-togethers in the expansive rooms, their friends embraced the new residence.
Robert and Wanda had plans to restore the home themselves, but never seem to find the time. They were too busy raising their family. They did manage to enclose a back porch, which became the family’s main living area and den.
Robert and Wanda eventually became the proud parents of five beautiful daughters. Each girl had her own bedroom and there were always friends running around the property. One can almost hear the joyful laughter and fun that was shared by the Bell girls with their many friends
In 1983, as part of a high school project, Amy (one of the daughters) researched the history of the home and applied for a Texas Historical Marker. The Marker is proudly displayed on the front porch, to the right of the grand entrance into the home.
The passage of time has dulled the woodwork and ornate interior details. The inlaid parquet pattern in the hardwoodBell 4 floors is sometimes difficult to see, but still remains intact. A colorful stained glass window in the foyer reflects the sun’s rays, just as it has been doing for more than 100 years. The five sets of pocket doors remain, as do the eight fireplace mantles, adorned with beautiful tile. The main staircase, with its built in window seat, attests to the grandeur of the home.
All five bedrooms are upstairs. A wrap-around porch connects the hallway and two bedrooms on the west side of the home. Presumably, the windows were opened to let in the cool breezes at night in the time before the air was “conditioned.”
A plain door hides the stairway to the attic, which encompasses the basic footprint of the house. The construction techniques used in the late 19th century are evident in the large, thick beams that span the space, without a center support. The attic floor is expansive and contains several alcoves, including the tower seen on the west side of the home.
One story that has been passed down about the original owners of the home involves their children. The Trippets had a strict rule about where their children could play with their toys. Each child was assigned an alcove in the attic. They could play in the attic as much as they pleased, but they were never to bring any toys downstairs. Only at bedtime could a treasured doll or other toy be brought down.
The passage of time has brought the home to another crossroad. Wanda Bell can no longer live in the home by herself, and has moved to another, smaller home. An estate sale in November brought throngs of curious people to see the contents and the interior of the property. The home now stands ready for a new owner – someone who will devote the time, money and love to restore it to its former beauty.