Kell House Museum
Backstory and Context
History of the Kell House
The history of the Kell House dates back to 1896, when the wealthy railroad, oil, newspaper, streetcar, utilities, and flour milling tycoon Frank Kell moved from Basque County to Wichita Falls at the urging of his brother-in-law, Joseph Kemp. Although the Kell family lived in another residence at the time, Frank Kell had his sister-in-law become the contractor of the Victorian-style home on top of the bluffs overlooking downtown Wichita Falls.
Construction began in 1909 after Mr. Kell purchased the land, and the home was finished in 1910, and members of the Kell family (mostly Frank’s unmarried daughter, Willie May Kell in later years) occupied the house until 1980. After Willie May died in 1980, the Wichita County Historical Society immediately moved to buy the house and property, and by 1981, the Society converted the home into a museum.
Museum-goers can discover most of the original furnishings throughout the house just as the Kell family left them. It is because of the feeling and authenticity of the house and its furnishings that has made it the most historically significant museum in the city.
Furthermore, because the family entertained high-profile guests and held grand Christmas parties, weddings, and other special occasions, the house still presents a sense of grandeur that truly illuminates the lifestyles of wealthy settlers.
Architectural Styles and Features
The Kell House Museum is also revered for its unique architectural styles, both inside the home and outside. The acclaimed local architectural firm Jones and Orlopp designed special Victorian style, and gave the home five bedrooms, an outside rear patio and balconies on both levels, a spacious parlor for entertaining guests, and even a small library with a pool table.
Upon entering the house, visitors come upon the spiral staircase that weaves upwards to the second floor, and on the first floor, visitors can stroll throughout the formal parlor that the Kells only used on special occasions. Although the kitchen was quite modern at the time, it stands as the ideal example of the early 20th century kitchen while displaying a myriad of cooking technologies and furnishings.
Each room in the house, including the library and the five bedrooms on the upper floor, contains its own story that illustrates the lives of the Kell family.1