ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) ― An Abilene woman has worked hard to get a bronze “Abilene Historic Landmark” plaque on her gate, but the connection to her home runs much deeper than a fancy plaque.
When you turn down Grand Avenue in South Abilene, you’ll see some pretty nice homes. Two blocks down, though, you’ll see something most people haven’t seen in quite some time. A white-picket fence surrounds Jami Anderson’s home, and out front sits a white-painted metal mailbox. It’s rustic, unique and screwed onto the gate, an “Abilene Historic Landmark” plaque.
Inside, the original wood floors remain from the 1939 home, as well as its original fixtures, frames and other necessities. You might find some 1890’s art hanging on the wall or a table that is nearly 200 years old. It’s unique. It’s historic.
Anderson moved into the home nearly 17 years ago from Tyler, Texas. Living in a similarly built and styled home there in East Texa. She moved back to the Big Country to be closer to her parents, living in Snyder at the time.
This Big Country native’s parents helped her get settled into her new living arrangements, which Anderson said she purchased without ever seeing the home.
“They were just proud that I had found a home that looked just like me,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s father, smiling from ear to ear, told her the house “looked just like her.” Not literally, of course, but figuratively. He meant the house was sat upon a strong foundation, holding pieces of history and had withstood the test of time. It was strong, yet had a hint of luxury, as well.
Regardless of literal or figurative meaning, any good home starts with a solid foundation. That’s where Anderson’s connection to the home begins.
“Several years ago I applied my home to be an original historic home of Abilene, and they had to look up the original blueprints,” Anderson explained of the beginning of this journey.
Applying for historical landmarks is no easy feat. You have to find original receipts, blueprints and other documents proving its age. However, once approved, any changes to the house must be approved by the Historical Landmark Commission and must be based in the same era where the home was built.
While digging for the original blueprints, one thing stood out to Anderson. It was the name inked at the bottom of the blueprints.
Once approved, Anderson began talking about her success in getting a historical marker, when suddenly a man walked over.
“He had overheard me talking about my house, and he came up to me and asked me what my address was,” Anderson recalled.
He was a gentle old man, very courteous and very respectful. However, asking a stranger’s home address could be received as out of the ordinary. Not this man, he replied to Anderson with something she would have never dreamed of hearing:
“I built that house.”
It was W. Rufus Sivley, the original contractor who had signed the blueprints, introducing himself to Anderson, neither of whom realizing the strong relationship that would form from their first meeting.
“It was real special to me, to meet the man who built this house,” Anderson said. “It really is such an incredible home, and he has built so many like it in the historic part of Abilene.”
According to Sivley’s obituary, he also played a role in the sanctuary at First Christian Church (now, First Baptist Church on North 3rd Street), Pioneer Drive Baptist Church and the gymnasium at McMurry University.
Their friendship grew over the last few years of his life, and up until the time of his death, where she honored that friendship by naming her dog Rufus.
Literally built the foundation of her life now, Sivley also built a strong foundation that has lasted nearly 84 years.
“Just like my parents, they endured a lot and had a good attitude but kept on chugging, just like this house,” Anderson chimed.
While Sivley built the physical foundation, her parents built the figurative foundation, the one her dad compared here to earlier. She’s strong, but willing to preserve what is most important to her and able to withstand adversity.
In 2022, Anderson has leaned on that foundation, unshaken, in the most trying year of her life so far, losing both of her parents. However, she can take a look outside at the beautiful pink flowers growing in her garden, brought from her parents home when she first moved in, or look at the beautiful white fencing, two story home and the history that it has seen and know she can make it through any hardship, just like her father said she could 17 years ago.