County Historical Commission has given oldest house a dignified farewell

If nothing changes, on Monday a home that has stood in Rockdale since the Ulysses S. Grant administration will come down.

The imposing brick structure—once looked upon as a mansion and locally known as the Dr. Rob Wallis House—burned on Jan. 20, 2016.

It was obvious from that moment the structure’s days were numbered. It was too far gone to be repaired. In recent decades it had been used only as storage for antiques.

But even though the loss of such a historic structure is sad, it has been given a dignified last few months of life by volunteers with the Milam County Historical Commission.

Recognizing the lasting value of honoring history, the Commission was determined to save everything possible from the structure and went above and beyond the call to do just that.

In March, somehow, it preserved the second story stained glass window which survived the fire. It will be retained for some kind of use in Rockdale at a later date.

Two months later the Commission held a yard sale of objects salvaged from inside the house, gleaned by its volunteers for more than a year since the fire, at some bodily risk.

In August even some of the bricks from the Wallis home were sold.

It’s not really known when the home was built but best estimate is a couple of years before Rockdale was incorporated as a city in 1874. It’s believed the house was built by a wealthy Houston cotton merchant who never lived there.

For a couple of years Rockdale was “the end of the line” for the I&GN Railroad and that’s the era in which the house was constructed.

Its first documented residents were the Dr. Rob Wallis Sr. family. The Wallises moved to Rockdale from Tennessee, as did many of the town’s early inhabitants.

Dr. Rob Wallis Jr. and wife Martha then lived in the house. After he died, Martha Wallis lived there for 40 years.

The Milam County Historical Commission certainly honored their memory, and those of everyone who remembered the impressive brick structure through the decades, by their hard work and dedication—M.B.

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2017-10-12 digital edition

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