Spanish-style mansion became popular restaurant
Green Avenue in Orange was once lined with sprawling mansions of different architectural designs. But in the timeframe of the 1890s and early 1900s, one of the mansions was unique compared to the Victorian, Queen Anne, and Beaux Arts designs. The F.A. Farwell house at Green and Eighth, to the immediate east of First Presbyterian Church, was a brown stucco mansion built in the Spanish Mission style with furnishings of the Arts and Crafts Revival, which was avant garde at the time.
The mansion to citizens of Orange and visitors for some 20 years as Little Mexico Restaurant, as Mr. and Mrs. Si Winkler operated a popular restaurant.
The Farwell House became the second to the last of the great Victorian Age mansions on Green Avenue. The Stark Foundation removed the house in the mid-1970s as the site for the Stark Museum of Art parking lot and meeting room. Only the Stark House is left of the turn-of-the 20th Century mansions. The red brick mansion serving as City Hall was built by Edgar Brown Jr. in the 1920s.
Frederick Henry Farwell came to Orange and began work with the Lutcher and Moore Lumber Co. as assistant bookkeeper in 1893, according Dr. Howard Williams’ history of Orange, “Gateway to Texas.” He assumed different positions in the company and by 1902 was general sales agent to the company that sold products around the world. He became vice president in 1920, then general manager, and in 1946, president of the company. He is given credit for working to promote shipbuilding of large wooden vessels in Orange.
Farwell, his wife, and daughter lived in the house for decades. Farwell died in 1947 and his wife, Fannie, continued to live there until her death in 1952.
The sprawling, three-story stucco mansion had gardens and bougainvillea growing on the walls. Inside were large, tiled fireplaces and walls of dark wood. The furniture was of the Arts and Crafts style, which was of simple design compared to the intricately carved furniture of the Victorian Age.
A stucco wall surrounded the grounds and as the years passed, ivies and blooming vines grew.
Farwell was prominent in Orange and throughout Texas, but he also became known in the East Coast dog show society with the likes of Vanderbilts and Jay Gould. Farwell owned the Sabine Kennel raised purebred terriers, usually with the formal name of “Sabine.” He competed in the Westminster show at Madison Square Garden, the Mineola Dog Show on Long Island, and the Philadelphia dog show. Often, he won top prizes, including “Best of Show” at the Westminster Dog Show. His champion dog was Sabine Rarebit.
After the Farwells died, the Winklers turned the mansion into Little Mexico Restaurant and at one time, lived upstairs. The restaurant was the first large Mexican food establishment in Orange. The wood-paneled walls and candles on the tables added to the atmosphere. Some of the dining rooms were on windowed porches of the house.
Several civic clubs held their weekly meetings at Little Mexico and student groups and adult clubs held banquets at the restaurant.
The restaurant closed in the early 1970s and the once-grand house sat empty. By the mid-‘70s, it was gone, a victim of new development.