If you grew up in the Temple area, chances are you knew someone who worked for Wilsonart. You probably went to the Ralph Wilson Youth Club after school, or at least knew someone who did. And though it's now gone, the Wilsonart plant on South General Bruce was a familiar site to anyone who traveled along southbound I-35.

Top: Wilsonart Plant in June, 2013 | Bottom: Former Site of Wilsonart Plant in December 2018 | Images via Google Maps
Top: Wilsonart Plant in June, 2013 | Bottom: Former Site of Wilsonart Plant in December 2018 | Images via Google Maps

Ralph Wilson Sr., the founder of Wilsonart who passed away in 1972, gave so much back to the Temple community, and while his legacy lives on in many ways, it's his house that has piqued my interest today.

Built in 1959, the Wilson House was designed as a showcase for the quality laminates that would put Wilsonart on the map and make it the enormously successful company we know today.

However, this wasn't just a show house. Mr. Wilson lived there with his wife, Sunny, until the day he died. It was his way of testing the quality and durability of his products, experimenting with them, and demonstrating their usefulness and beauty.

The house still stands on South 61st Street in Temple and serves as an archive and a space for corporate events. It's a vivid and colorful shrine to the design trends of yesteryear, but that almost wasn't the case.

Back in the 90's, Wilsonart hired art historian Grace Jeffers to design a new archive center. Some employees thought she'd get a chuckle out of visiting Wilson Sr.'s house, which was scheduled to be demolished.

Jeffers was awe-struck. The daughter of a laminate salesman, she'd studied laminate design and even written a master's thesis on the subject. After her attempts to have at least part of the house preserved in a museum didn't work out, she finally asked the company if they'd consider buying and preserving the structure themselves.

The company was on board, and the house was saved. In July of 1998, the home was even added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Yes - Ralph Wilson Sr.'s Formica palace is considered a historic landmark!

In the video below, Jeffers explains what makes the house so special and why she fell in love with it.

Personally, I'd love to get a look inside. Have you been there? How was the experience?

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