1301 Grant

May 12, 2020 11:20 am Published by 1 Comment

History of 1301 Grant – provided by Tom and Tonia Henman

The house was built by Mark Walker, a partner with Mytinger & Walker Home Builders, in 1924 or 1925 as his family home. The home building company was very successful reportedly building about 1,700 homes in Wichita Falls, several of them in the neighborhood. Mark was also known as the first resident of the city to own an automobile which was a 1904 Orient Buckboard. Mark resided in the home with his wife, Pearl, and three children. Pearl would often perform piano recitals in the music room for friends and family which were reported in the local newspaper. Tragedy struck the family in 1938 when their son, Mark Jr, died. He was the first officer on the Hawaiian Clipper, the Pan-American Airways flight that disappeared near Guam during their flight from San Francisco to Manila. The aircraft was never found.

Due to the Great Depression, the Walkers sold the home to the John Thomas Harrell family in May 1937. J.T. Harrell was president of the City National Bank and resided in the home with his wife, Grace, and three children. Grace had a great interest in the theatre and converted the third floor space into a theatre with a stage, stage lights, and two dressing rooms. The Wichita Falls Reader’s Club performed plays in this space which could hold seating for up to 75 people. The Harrells also converted the music room into a library. In 1943, the Harrell family donated land to the city which became Harrell Park. The Harrell School, later called the Harrell Accelerated Learning Center, was named after J.T. Harrell.

The home passed down to J.T Harrell’s daughter, Mary Rocchio, and her husband, Clarence, in the 1950s where they raised their family. In October 2013, we purchased the home from the estate of Mary Rocchio which included her three elderly children with the plan of making it our permanent residence after retirement and moving back to Wichita Falls. One of the children, Thomas Rocchio, shared a story while showing me his old bedroom. He opened the closet door and pointed out the top portion of the inside of the door which had tick marks and small writing. During the summer of 1962, he documented the number of dates he had on the back of the door. He was quite busy that summer having over 60 dates!! We left that portion of the door undisturbed when we repainted the door. Another story shared with us involved the holiday season. On Christmas day, J.T. Harrell would place a large container of Christmas punch in the entry way of the home leaving the front door unlocked. Friends would come and go throughout the day while enjoying a nice glass of holiday refreshment.

In June 2019, we moved to Wichita Falls and into the home and immediately began restoring the home to its original grandeur. Since the home had been in the same family for so long, much of the originality remains to include chandeliers, wall sconces, door hardware, gas area heaters, and ornate crown molding. With that, one long overdue update was never completed…the laundry room was never moved into the house. It is still located off of the detached rear garage near what used to be the servant’s quarters. We have removed all of the cloth/canvas on every plaster wall and ceiling and repainted the interior of the house to include all of the doors and windows. We also restored the original hardwood floors. We are now working on restoring the exterior windows, adding energy efficient storm windows and repainting the exterior of the house. We are also attempting to restore the original fountains on the grounds. Later this year we will begin our kitchen and bath remodel which will finally bring the laundry room into the house.

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This post was written by Christine Heidebrecht

1 Comment

  • Rita Reynolds Gibbs says:

    My father, William ( Bill) Reynolds was a teenager and dated one of the girls. He said he and his boy friends hung out at that house during the depression and were fed regularly. I have a photo of my father in the back with two of the fellows. In the 60s I was one of the girls who dated Tommy! We also sat our in the back and visited. Mary told me she had a mad crush on my dad! Would you like a copy of that picture? I would love to find Tommy. Any chance you could tell me where to find him?

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