Historic House Burns Tuesday
Rockdale Reporter - 2016-01-21
By MIKE BROWN
Antiques, ‘John Wayne Room’ lost forever
What might have been Rockdale’s oldest house, full of irreplaceable antiques was gutted
by fire overnight Tuesday.
The blaze was termed “highly suspicious” by Fire Chief Ward Roddam, noting the house had
been vacant for many years.
Owner was Barbara Wilkes.
Maria Magee, a family friend said the post-Civil War Era home, a longtime Rockdale
landmark, was full of cherished antiques. “I’m just sick this morning,’ she said. “You
literally couldn’t walk through some sections because of all the items.”
Volunteers received the fire call at 10:22 p.m. and battled the blaze for several hours.
A rekindle was reported at 6:56 a.m. Wednesday
LOSS — The house next door to the east, also full of antiques for a business that never
opened, burned several years ago.
That fire was ultimately blamed on intruders.
Magee, who stood in the street wiped tears as she watched firefighters wrap up at the
scene, said 337 Milam also contained a variety of antiques.
“They were beautiful and they can’t ever be replaced,” she said. “The third floor was a
John Wayne Room, had items connected to him, even some signed items.”
“There was a doll room. There was a walkway with patio furniture. There was still a
Christmas tree downstairs,” Magee said. “It’s all so sad.”
OLDEST HOUSE — In a 1975 Reporter story, former owners Billy and Helen Boyd said the
impressive brick house has a claim to being the oldest house in Rockdale.
The family possessed a photo of the house dated 1880 and a notation the house was nearly
a decade old when that photo was taken.
Rockdale was founded in 1873 when the International and Great Northern Railroad reached
The house’s origins are tied up with that railroad.
According to the Boyd family, it was believed to have been constructed by a wealthy
cotton merchant from Houston who wanted a “country place” for his wife which would be
near a railroad.
But the woman never lived in the house and it stood vacant until the turn of the 20th
WALLIS HOUSE — First occupants of the house were the Dr. Rob Wallis family.
Dr. Rob Wallis St. moved to Rockdale from Tennessee.
His son, Dr. Rob Wallis Jr., was a physician and was a well known part of early Rockdale
His widow, Martha “Patsy” Wallis lived in the house for 40 years.
The house had a formal entry with arched passageway and solid masonry construction.
A curved stairway with three leaded-glass windows, led to the upper stories. Lead bars
were installed in the windows by Mrs. Wallis to stop the structure sagging.
In 1975, the Boyds discovered some of the light bulbs in the house were made by the
Edison Company in 1904.
They were still burning in 1975.
All Credit for this article
goes to Mike Brown
(right - top):
Just before dawn
Wednesday, Fire Chief
Ward Roddam carries
ladder as RVFD battles
blaze in rear of house.
(right - middle):
This third-floor room was
dedicated to American
icon John Wayne,
(right - bottom):
firefighters back early
Volunteer Chris Deener
put finishing touches on
long night for RVFD,
extinguishing hot spots
in upper stories.
Photos by Mike Brown - Rockdale Reporter