Listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, Harrington House is one of Amarillo's most important and recognizable landmarks. It was built in 1914 by brothers John and Patrick Landergin, who became wealthy cattle ranchers in the late 19th century. Later, it was the home of wealthy oilman Don Harrington and his wife, Sybil, who were also prominent figures in the community. In terms of architecture, the house is a fine example of Neoclassical architecture, featuring a two-story portico, a symmetrical design, an ornate interior, and a collection of fine and decorative arts. The house has twenty rooms, eight bathrooms, and seven fireplaces. Today, the home is a museum and open to tours by appointment.
Backstory and Context
Patrick and John Landergin were born in 1854 and 1856, respectively, on a dairy farm in New York. They were the sons of Irish immigrants who fled the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s. When they were teenagers, the brothers worked as trail drivers in Kansas and throughout the Southwest. They settled in Eureka, Kansas in 1875 and, at some point during these early years, invested in a herd of longhorn cattle. Eventually, the acquired 2,600 acres of land in three ranches. They sold the cattle to markets in England and became wealthy as a result. As prominent members in the community, Pat was elected to the Kansas legislature and was a trustee of two colleges in Kansas, a director of Eureka Bank (John was also a director), and director of the Kansas Livestock Association.
In the early 1900s, severe drought resulted in a sharp decline in the cattle market, prompting the brothers to move to Amarillo, where they first leased then eventually bought 92,000 acres. They would acquire more land in the coming years, totaling around 1.5 million acres in three states by 1916. Pat became director and later president of the Panhandle Cattlemen's Association and John became vice-president of the Southwester Cattle Raiser's Association. The brothers also established the town of Vega in 1907. In 1917, they were founding members of the Amarillo Oil Company, which was the first company to drill for oil and natural in the Panhandle. After the brothers died, one of their nephews, Frank Donegan, took over their business interests. Unfortunately, the decline in the cattle industry during the 1920s caused serious financial problems for Donegan, as supporting the cattle ranches strained the bank and oil/gas activities. Unable to maintain the family business, Donegan was forced to terminate it. The house in Amarillo was impounded and sold at auction to the Harringtons in 1940; the rest of the business interests were eventually sold off in the early 1940s.
Don and Sybil Harrington
Don Harrington was a businessman and engineer. He came to Amarillo in the 1926 and leveraged his skills to purchase oil and gas leases. He also designed a processing plant called the Cargray Plant. He would eventually become one of the most successful oilmen in the industry. Sybil was born in Amarillo and developed a love for the arts beginning at a young age, particularly music and dance. She and Don got married in 1935.
Don, too, had a love for the arts. Over the years, they acquired fine and decorative art pieces on their travels to Europe. Famous artists represented in the collection include Monet, Renoir, and Degas. They held an open house in 1968 to exhibit the collection to support the Amarillo Fine Arts Association. The Harringtons donated 45 works of 19th century European to the Phoenix Museum of Art. They also established the Don and Sybil Harrington Foundation (now called the Amarillo Area Foundation) in 1951 to provide philanthropic support to a variety of educational, medical, cultural, historical, and humanitarian organizations and causes. Sybil continued these activities after Don passed away in 1974; she died in 1998.
"The Harringtons." Harrington House. Accessed November 23, 2019. https://www.harringtonhousehistorichome.org/the-harringtons.
Williams, Joe, et al. "Landergin-Harrington House." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. December 16, 1977. https://catalog.archives.gov/OpaAPI/media/40973175/content/electronic-records/rg-079/NPS_TX/77001466.pdf.