Samuel Bell Maxey House
This High Victorian Italianate-style home was built in Paris, Texas, in 1868 by the West Point graduate, U.S.-Mexican War veteran, and two-term Texas state senator Samuel Bell Maxey. Descendants of Maxey remained in the house until 1967, when the family donated it to the city of Paris, ensuring its preservation. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, opened to the public for tours in 1980, and is now owned and maintained by the Texas Historical Commission. The site explores the real stories of a prominent Texas family and how they cherished and modified their Victorian residence and grounds to reflect changing styles and trends in architecture, interior design and technology. Visitors experience the family's daily life through original furnishings, clothing, and photographs.
Backstory and Context
Maxey became involved in military efforts during the Civil War. According to the Texas Historical Commission, "he formed the Ninth Texas Infantry Regiment to serve the Confederate States, eventually rising to the rank of major general." Maxey decided to return to his law practice after the war, but, because he had fought for the Confederacy, required a presidential pardon to regain his citizenship rights. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was eventually able to persuade President Andrew Johnson to grant Maxey that pardon, allowing him to become a prominent Paris attorney.
With money from his legal cases, Maxey built his Victorian-style home on Church Street in 1868. The fashionable house was designed to resemble an Italian villa with elongated, hooded windows, a portico and open porches. The elaborate carvings on the front columnns and other rich architectural details are reflections of the Victorian love for embellishment. The house was a progressive addition to the city’s architecture and considered a proper home for Maxey’s prominent status. He took office as a Texas state senator in 1874, serving two terms working to improve national transportation hubs. He died in 1895, but the house remained in his family.
Maxey's great-nephew Sam Bell Maxey Long inherited the house in 1908 and began extensively remodeling it in 1911, adding a breakfast room, laundry room, sewing room, and a larger parlor. He combined two of the sitting rooms to create a larger, more formal parlor. Outside, brick walkways were relaid and the original fence was replaced by a boxwood hedge along Church Street.
The house was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1962. Maxey's descendants donated it to the city of Paris in 1967 to continue its recognition and ensure its preservation. The city undertook to restore the house. The restoration process was completed September 1, 1980, and the house was opened to the public on a tour basis. On January 1, 2008, the house was transferred from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to the Texas Historical Commission (as a public history site) and is now operated at the Sam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site.