The Swenson House History
This two-story brick home was designed by Abilene architect William Preston for the family of William Gray and Shirley (McCollum) Swenson and was completed 1910. William Gray and Shirley Swenson met as students at Southwestern University. They married and settled in Abilene, where he had grown up.
Swenson was a first generation Swedish-American, and he was a lifelong entrepreneur and businessman in Abilene. His father, who died early, was a nephew of S.M. Swenson, who was the first Swedish person to come to Texas and was Secretary of State under Sam Houston.
Swenson held leadership positions at Citizens National Bank from the time of its founding in 1902 until the 1960s and also presided over Abilene Light and Abilene Ice Company. Swenson worked to establish and to serve on the boards for Abilene in Northern Railroad and the Rasco Snyder and Pacific Railroad. His real estate projects included the Mims building in 1926 and the Hilton hotel in 1927. Mr. Swenson had a gift for organizing businesses and was involved in many that helped Abilene grow, including West Texas Utilities, Citizens National Bank, the Hilton (now Windsor) hotel, a streetcar company and others.
The Swenson's were founding members of Saint Paul Methodist Church, and they raised their four children in this home. The house's is original cypress siding was covered with buff brick veneer in 1928, exterior cypress columns were replaced with brick columns, and the wood shake roof was converted to clay tile. Also during this renovation, a porch on the southside was enclosed and the second floor sunroom was added. The home features the bride overhangs and long, where is Anna lines indicated of the prairie architectural style. Mission style elements include quarter for oil windows and a covered dormer over the front entrance. After the death of W.G. Swenson in the 1969 and Shirley Swenson in 1974, ownership of the house remained in the Swenson family until 1986, when it was donated to the Abilene Preservation League. With few exceptions, the home is as it was when it was given to the Preservation League.
The Swenson House stands as a unique monument to the glory of Abilene’s past while looking toward its future. Money raised through donations, fundraisers and by property rental for community events is used to help renovate, maintain or improve the property.