ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A home near Abilene Christian University (ACU) has long been an asset to staff and students since its construction in 1929. But the story behind the man who built that house, John E. McKinzie, tells one of love for ACU that’s been passed down generation-to-generation.

McKinzie/Johnson house (2023)

“I have like 80 family members that have either attended a semester or graduated from ACU, it’s just in our blood,” explained McKinzie’s great granddaughter, Martha Groves.

Groves told KTAB/KRBC McKinzie was instrumental in ACU’s early years, and according to an article from the campus newsletter The Optimist, he played a role in establishing the school at its current location. So, it’s no surprise he chose to live just across the street with his wife, Bess, in the 800 block of East North 18th Street.

Bess & John E. McKinzie

There, McKinzie also served on the then Abilene Christian College board, overseeing the cafeteria – or “Bean” operations. He also made his home available to staff and students for meetings, missionary dinners, high tea, and even housing for those in need at various times.

“My great granddad oversaw the bean for a while and the students would come over and wash the linens between every meal,” Groves said.

The McKinzies lived in the home until Bess’s passing. Thereafter, their friends, the Johnsons, took their place and would stay put for more than 20 years. After the Johnsons, the home went back into the McKinzie family hands. John and Bess’s daughter, Betty, and her husband moved into the home after retiring. All throughout each family’s time there, the home was kept as a utility to the students and staff of ACU.

“There have just been so many outreaches and connections with Abilene Christian, that it’s gonna be very natural to continue that relationship,” volunteered Groves.

Betty passed on in 2021, and the home was inherited by her granddaughter, Martha Groves. Having loved the home and it’s history for her whole life, Groves told KTAB/KRBC she and her husband have some exciting plans for the property.

Betty & Owen Shipp

“When that heritage was passed over to us, we consider it such a tremendous gift,” Groves beamed.

In December 2022, the Abilene Landmarks Commission approved recommendation to have the home undergo “historic overlay,” restoring the outer façade and interior to its original 1929 status.

“We’re always happy to have owners taking care of historic properties, because Abilene’s lost a lot of beautiful, extraordinary properties… This house definitely qualified on several levels,” Commission chair Pebbles Lee shared.

In true McKinzie fashion, the Groves don’t plan to stop at simply restoring the look of the home. Instead, they said they hope to make the property, once again, a resource to the Abilene and ACU communities. Groves said they plan to hold high tea and bridge parties – just as her great grandmother did, as well as make the home available for historic and educational purposes.

“We just decided we’re going to continue to let people be loved in that home,” added Groves.

To get involved with the restoration or to donate, click here to email Martha Groves or give her a call: (806) 535-5437.