Venerable Homebuilder Marks 75 Years Building Houses and Dreams in Texas

HistoryMaker Homes
Written by Nate Hendley

Buying a home is the biggest financial investment most people make in their entire lives. As such, the experience can be both exhilarating and unnerving. HistoryMaker Homes Limited of Texas works hard to build excellent homes and make the purchase process as painless as possible.

The oldest privately-owned homebuilder in Texas, HistoryMaker marked its 75th anniversary this year. The company designs homes that are aesthetically pleasing, economical, and environmentally friendly. Some structural elements are built off-site for the sake of efficiency and speed, and energy saving measures include insulated glass, high-efficiency air conditioning, Energy Star rated appliances, and LED light bulbs. High-tech features include WiFi garage door openers and thermostats, easily accessible wiring, and hard-wired connectivity.

In addition to building homes, HistoryMaker provides its customers with links and information about lenders and insurance via its website. The company site also explains the multi-step method for buying a home from them. The “HistoryMaker Process” begins with a purchase agreement, then a loan application, and a conditional approval letter. Next, if all goes to plan, the client is invited to make an appointment at the HistoryMaker showroom to select their preferred flooring and cabinetry, along with other features, finishes, and flourishes.

Further steps include a “pre-drywall meeting” (homeowners are invited to inspect installed plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems prior to drywall going up), a quality inspection, then closing. HistoryMaker offers a warranty and maintains a dedicated customer service team to assist homeowners with any issues they might have after moving in.

The HistoryMaker website is packed with pictures of beautiful homes the company has built. The residences offer a sturdy looking elegance, with clean lines, appealing façades, and family-friendly touches such as spacious yards, patios, and porches. Videos of completed homes are also available, as are digital tours of potential floorplans. Prospective homeowners can investigate the company’s floorplans, move-in homes, and communities in Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio.

A blog on the HistoryMaker website contains articles about the financial benefits of homeownership, popular residential communities, and stylistic suggestions (“Embracing Biophilic Design: Bringing Nature into Your Home” is the headline on a recent post).

HistoryMaker Homes traces its lineage to O.N. Mitchell Sr., a grocery store meat department manager who launched his own business, Mitchell’s Grocery, in East Fort Worth in 1946. Health issues ensued, however, and O.N. Mitchell’s physician recommended he seek new employment that involved fresh air and less stress. As a result, O.N. Mitchell got into the house-building business. His timing was excellent—servicemen were flooding back after World War II and looking to set down roots, some of them benefiting from government home loan guaranty programs for veterans.

In 1949, O.N. Mitchell Sr. and his son, O.N. Mitchell Jr., constructed and then sold their first home for approximately $5,000 (the equivalent of roughly $66,000 today, according to the U.S. Inflation Calculator website). The firm built and sold more homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex region and achieved such success it began to develop entire communities. The first such community, established in 1958 in Arlington, Texas, consisted of 160 single-family residences, the priciest of which was listed at $9,995 (about $108,000 today).

O.N. Mitchell Sr. passed away in September 1977, but the company he created and the values he espoused such as hard work, a family focus, and religious commitment, continued to flourish. The firm took an innovative approach in response to economic conditions. When gas prices and mortgage rates increased dramatically in the late 1970s, HistoryMaker began selling homes with 1.5 story floorplans that incorporated an unfinished room over the garage. Homeowners could save money on costs and finish this room at their own speed.

In the mid-1990s, Nelson Mitchell joined the firm, eventually becoming the fourth generation of the Mitchell family to lead the company. Under Nelson Mitchell’s watch, HistoryMaker grew rapidly, with closings soaring from 412 in 2009 to 800 in 2016, according to Builder magazine’s annual Builder 100 list. By 2022, closings had risen to 1,267 and HistoryMaker was ranked 57th on the Builder 100 list. Things have since slowed a bit (2023 closings totaled 927) but the company remains firmly entrenched in the top echelon of American homebuilders.

A few other things have happened in recent years: in 2017, Lane Wright became HistoryMaker’s first president who wasn’t part of the Mitchell family. Also, HistoryMaker established a presence in Houston then San Antonio, Texas, in addition to its Dallas-Fort Worth base.

Building and selling homes isn’t all that matters to this long-lived company. HistoryMaker has long been involved in charitable and community endeavors. The firm has raised millions of dollars for women’s shelters, food banks, the Miracle League (an organization that enables disabled children to play baseball), and Homes for Hope (homebuilders who construct a house then sell it, with proceeds going to assist low-income people).

Indeed, HistoryMaker has earned industry kudos for its charitable work. In 2022, CEO Nelson Mitchell accepted a Hearthstone BUILDER Humanitarian Award (an honor that “recognizes home builders who demonstrate a lifetime commitment to public service” in the organization’s words).

Recently, HistoryMaker was involved in a high-profile initiative to right a decades-old wrong involving African-American civil rights leader Dr. Opal Lee. In the late 1930s, when she was a little girl, racism and vandalism drove the Lee family from their home in the Historic Southside Neighborhood of Fort Worth. Habitat for Humanity, HistoryMaker Homes, and other companies recently joined forces to build a new home for Dr. Lee on the site of her original family residence.

2024 has been a momentous year for the firm; Zac Thompson became president following the retirement of Lane Wright, and HistoryMaker marked a milestone anniversary. While home styles, technology, and designs have changed since the early days of the firm, HistoryMaker’s values remain intact as the firm moves forward.

These core values include high performance (“We believe high-impact outcomes are driven by a culture that is built on respect and trust, and transparency,” reads the website), accountability, customer service, and “Christ-Centered Heartbeat” (conducting business with integrity and honesty).

Clearly, these values have served HistoryMaker well, given its transformation from a small outfit run by a former grocer to one of the leading homebuilders in the Lone Star State.

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