Close to a Fairy-Tale, The Abilene Mansion
Why It's Special
I lived in Abilene Texas until I was about 9 years old. We were forced to move after my mother was laid off from Dyase Air Force Base and my father from General Dynamics. Abilene, to me, was a small quiet, content town. During my time there, I attended the same school, took dance at a local studio, spent the summers at the YMCA summer camp and was always doing something with girl scouts. Leaving was hard because at 9 I already had everything planned out. I had decided I was going to be a coger'et at Cooper High, have the biggest mum during homecoming and was only going to leave when it was time to go to Texas A&M. To this day I believe the move was for the worst and I think things would have taken a different direction had we stayed, maybe. Although I have basic memories of that time and place, there are two places in Abilene that have a special remembrance. One of them being The Paramount Theater, I have never seen another place like it, and The Abilene Mansion.
The Abilene mansion was located on Buffalo Gap Road, a road traveled daily by my mom, sister, and I. The greatest part of this road was the Abilene Mansion. Every morning I would ask my mom "tell me when it is coming up". Falling back asleep most morning, I would be awoken to, “okay Barbie, it’s coming up”. I would press my face against the window anxious to see the enormous palace. To me, at that age, that house equaled MAGIC. It was the closest thing to a castle in a fairy tale. In my mind it was my mansion or would be one day. It was so mysterious standing behind the rod iron fence and closed gates. It revealed very little, if any, light from occupancy. During the duration I passed the mansion, it was vacant and has been for most of its life. In my little girl mind that was ok. I would occupy it one day, bringing the gardens back to life and assuring every lantern and lamp post had fresh bulbs to brighten it’s beauty for everyone. I would sit out on the balcony, which wasn’t a balcony at all, but I didn’t know that, and have breakfast with my husband. I would entertain and have huge parties, which, in my imagination, where like a Cinderella’s ball, Entertained by live bands and fancy dresses. I found this part of my “little girl imagination” ironic when recently seeing pictures of the large blue ballroom in side of the mansion.
I wanted to share the history and pictures of the mansion, I thought to be so amazing, with others that will never travel to this small town. It probably means more to me than it does to you, but the architecture and design is magnificent to see within itself. I have not physical seen the mansion in over 18 years and since then it has suffered neglect, but I still find this place fascinating.
According to Abilene Reporter-News
For 15 years, the white mansion on Buffalo Gap Road sat slowly decaying as it was passed from one owner to the next.
And while its exterior white paint and decorative wood trim chipped away, public interest in the 12,000-square-foot home, one story, never waned. In fact, there's perhaps no other building in Abilene that has generated more interest and questions over the last two decades.
The regal home became an instant landmark following its construction in 1983.The home's original owner, Peter Kasimirs, was born in what is now Poland and lived and worked in Germany as a young man. He immigrated to Canada in 1952 without a penny to his name, but dreamed of working in the United States. He eventually followed his dream to Alabama, where he found his success in the hotel business.
In 1973, he and his wife, Pat, bought the Royal Inn in Abilene, Texas. They also bought an old house that had stood for years at 7302 Buffalo Gap Road. The Royal Inn thrived, and the Kasimirs decided to build a bigger home.
Pat Kasimirs still lives and works in Abilene. Peter Kasimirs died in 2006 at age 93. Pat Kasimirs said they planned to expand around the old house, but couldn't because the house's foundation was not strong enough to support the planned additions.
So in 1983, they tore down the home and started from scratch.
Peter Kasimirs loved European architecture, and Pat Kasimirs, who was from Alabama, loved colonial homes. So they compromised. "That's how the design of the house came about," Pat explained. "We kind of sat down together and combined what I liked and what he liked and designed the house."
Rumors circulated that the home was modeled after the Alabama governor's mansion, but Pat Kasimirs stated, "No way, It looks nothing like the Alabama governor's mansion. It does not look like the White House in Washington, D.C."
Yet "The White House" has been a common nickname for the sprawling mansion -- as has "The Elvis House." (It does not look like Graceland either.)
Kasimirs said the construction caused quite a stir in 1983, and people gossiped about what the house was going to be, suggesting everything from a museum to a place for illegal activity.
"There were all types of rumors," Kasimirs said. "You name it. It was hilarious from one day to the next. We would neither confirm or deny. We kept everybody guessing. There was always a lot of curious people."
She said no one could believe that a seven-bedroom house, covering more than 12,000 square feet on more than three acres of land, was simply going to be their home.
A Dream Come True
The house was a dream come true for her husband, said Pat Kasimirs, 65, and he was determined to build it with the best materials available. "We didn't cut corners at all," she said. "He had his hands on every part of it. The house is very well-constructed."
In 2005 the home cost $2.5 million. More recently, she said it was around $1 million.
The construction took several years. Materials were imported from Italy, Austria and South America, among other places, and much of the glass and crown molding was handmade.
"The glass that is in that house was handmade, hand-cut," Kasimirs said. "Local artisans did that. It was very time consuming." She said the beveled, leaded glass in the entrance hall is particularly beautiful.
"That hall is so fascinating," she said. "As the sun goes down, you get a rainbow of colors. It's just absolutely fantastic."
Pat Kasimirs said the library was one of her favorite places in the house. All four walls were covered in shelves from ceiling to floor, and the shelves were made of solid red oak.
At the end of the longest hall is a large blue room with a fireplace and a full wet bar made of solid mahogany with a marble countertop. The blue room served as their game room, and they entertained there quite a bit.
The kitchen is relatively small compared to the rest of the house, but it is covered with solid red oak cabinets all the way to the ceiling. It also has a rose-colored marble floor and marble countertops, Kasimirs said.
The kitchen leads to the formal dining room, which boasts beautiful stained-glass doors. From the dining room comes a foyer with doors leading to the indoor pool on the south side and doors leading to a more formal living room on the west side.
Throughout the home are chandeliers that Kasimirs said were imported from Austria and are Swarovski crystal.
The house also has a little apartment in the back, which the Kasimirs hoped to use when family visited. Their son ended up living there when he was home from school, Pat Kasimirs said.
The house also had a three-car garage, and Peter Kasimirs planted more than 200 evergreens throughout the three-plus acres. The grounds also had an outdoor pool and a fountain.
"It turned out to be a beautiful home," Kasimirs said.
The Dream Dies
The Kasimirs had lived in the house for six or seven years when their fortunes took a turn for the worse. Pat Kasimirs said their accountant made some poor stock market decisions, and the couple literally lost a fortune.
"We lost everything we had," she said. "It's just one of those unfortunate things. It was one of those things that could have been avoided."
The Kasimirs were bankrupt and did not have the money to keep their dream home.
"We did not give up the house voluntarily, I assure you of that," she said. "We continued to live there as long as we possibly could. We stayed there for a time knowing that foreclosure was pending."
In 1990, they were forced to leave. Before they left, they let the public see their beloved mansion. They had an open house and donated the proceeds to the local soup kitchen, a genitures act considering they had no money and fallen from prospering to poverty.
"It was a super-fantastic turnout," Kasimirs said. "More than we ever thought it would be. The house attracts people."
Kasimirs said she and her husband hated to see the deterioration in the house over the years, and in the later years of her husband's life, she would not even drive him by it.
His wife chokes up a little when she thinks about what the home meant to both of them.
"I loved the house," she said. "I enjoyed living there. We had some fantastic memories there."
The Wrong People To Purchase In My Opinion
Since 1990, the mansion has passed from owner to owner, many of them from out of state. Twice it's been repossessed by an out-of-state bank.
Champions Church, which has been around since 2000, purchased the building in April, and church leaders call the house "The Mansion" and say they plan to immediately restore it to its former grandeur.
I was not excited to read this. I guess they took it over in 2009. Many others were also unhappy to see it go to “another”, their words not mine, church.. It will be turned into a commercial property, eventually dwindling out the mystery and magic. I can not see a company or organization appreciating or cherishing it as the Kasimirs did. Unfortunately I can see them conforming/destroying the original architecture to fit their needs and wants for profit. Maybe not at first, but time will pass and they will do as they will.
"We're not doing any structural changes to the building," said Champions Church Senior Pastor Richard Humphries. "We are basically restoring it."
The Mansion will soon house the church's administration offices and several of its ministries. The facility also will be available to the community for weddings, business meetings and more.
The asking price for the home was way below the appraised value of more than $770,000.
Although the church paid less than market value, by the time extensive restoration work is figured into the totals, Humphries figures they will have spent the appraised value or more on the building, “that’s what they refer it to”. But it would have cost $1.2 to $1.9 million to build the same size facility from scratch.
Plus, the location of The Mansion made it a natural fit with the church's longtime goal of becoming an active, thriving part of the Wylie community. The church “already owns” the Wylie Swim Club, the land between the church and The Mansion and the lot directly behind The Mansion.
They started “the renovation” or as I call it, “the destruction” by removing the two pools. The church leaders did not want to keep them because they already own the Wylie Swim Club, and don’t think the pools fit in with the home's new role. “See, they are going to destroy it”
They also planned on replacing all the wallpaper and carpet.
The Church leaders had already started speaking of their profits saying “the huge entrance hall will be a perfect place for weddings and can easily seat 60-100 people”.
"The outside will be completely restored, and it will get a new roof," he said. "Then we will start to repair some of the interior."
The Humphries said they are aware that neighbors have had problems with past owners who tried to open the building to the public (which never happened, it is NOT zoned for commercial property) -- particularly with parking and traffic.
I am upset that the mansion is being conformed by a church. Sadly, I do not believe that they will keep their promise to restore it, but eventually conform it (as they started from the begging). I do not know the current state of the mansion. Or if the church was able to afford and keep the mansion. The most recent information I could find was dated 2009. If anyone comes across this hub that does live in the Abilene area, I would than appreciate an update.
To see a walk through video of the mansion you can go here