This book is the first comprehensive survey of Texas architecture of the first half of the twentieth century.
Texas architecture of the twentieth century encompasses a wide range of building styles, from an internationally inspired modernism to the Spanish Colonial Revival that recalls Texas' earliest European heritage. This book is the first comprehensive survey of Texas architecture of the first half of the twentieth century.
More than just a catalog of buildings and styles, the book is a social history of Texas architecture. Jay C. Henry discusses and illustrates buildings from around the state, drawing a majority of his examples from the ten to twelve largest cities and from the work of major architects and firms, including C. H. Page and Brother, Trost and Trost, Lang and Witchell, Sanguinet and Staats, Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, David Williams, and O'Neil Ford. The majority of buildings he considers are public ones, but a separate chapter traces the evolution of private housing from late-Victorian styles through the regional and international modernism of the 1930s. Nearly 400 black-and-white photographs complement the text.
Written to be accessible to general readers interested in architecture, as well as to architectural professionals, this work shows how Texas both participated in and differed from prevailing American architectural traditions.
- Preface and Acknowledgments
- I. The Historiography of American and Texas Architecture in the Twentieth Century
- II. The Survival of Past Traditions
- The Richardsonian Romanesque Victorian Classicism
- The Shingle Style
- The Ecclesiastical Gothic
- III. Progressive Modes of Design
- James E. Flanders of Dallas
- Trost and Trost of El Paso
- Lang and Witchell of Dallas
- Sanguinet and Staats of Fort Worth and Houston
- Atlee B. Ayres and George Willis of San Antonio
- Other Progressive Manifestations
- Progressive Survivals in the 1920's
- IV. Academic Eclecticism: 1900-1940
- The Academic Eclectic Courthouse
- Post Offices and Libraries
- City Halls and Fire Stations
- Miscellaneous Public Buildings
- School Buildings
- Collegiate Architecture
- Ecclesiastical Architecture
- Semipublic Institutions: Railroad Stations, Banks, and Lodge Halls
- Theaters and Retail Architecture
- Hotel Design
- The Office Building
- V. Regional Eclecticism: 1900-1940
- Sources Outside Texas
- The Mission Revival in Texas
- Regional Campus Design
- Regional Romanesque and Mediterranean Styles
- The Pueblo and Meso-American Revivals
- The Spanish Colonial Revival
- VI. Modernistic Modes of Design: 1928-1940
- Modernistic Institutional Design
- The Modernistic Skyscraper in Texas Modernistic Commercial Design
- VII. Residential Design: Modes and Typologies, 1895-1940
- The Late-Victorian House: A Resolution of Picturesque and Formal Values
- Formalist Design: 1900-1917
- The Bungalow Mode and Its Permutations
- Picturesque Design: 1918-1930
- Vernacular Tendencies of the 1930s
- Regional and International Modernism of the 1930's
- VIII. International and Regional Modernism in the Public Sphere: 1930-1945
- Public Housing During the Depression and War
The great size and wide geographical diversity of Texas, surpassed in the first respect only by Alaska and in the second perhaps only by California, suggest that a history of its architecture in the first half of the twentieth century would be of more than local or statewide interest. It might be expected to represent most, if not all, of the styles, building types, and social influences common to the deep South and the midwestern prairie; to the Great Plains and the arid Southwest; to the national ecumene and to the regional environment of the Spanish borderlands. Texas lacks only great mountains and spectacular scenery; early in this century, it lacked cities of great size and cultural influence. It had, however, perhaps more cities of intermediate size than any other state, and certainly more county seats and courthouses. If the greatest American architects did no work in Texas in this period, their influence was exerted through native or transplanted Texans who knew and imitated their work. To study Texas is to study a large cross section of America in microcosm.
Nevertheless, the period has only recently begun to attract historical attention. It has been said that each generation despises the work of its parents and rediscovers the world of its grandparents. Thirty years ago this book would not have been written. The late eclectic and modernistic traditions that are so evident in most of the architecture discussed herein were held in scholarly and professional contempt as recently as the 1960's. Architectural historians had come to grips with the nineteenth century, but tended to view it as a prelude to modern architecture, created in Europe and America in the 1890s. In that decade, the course of architectural development was thought to bifurcate into two channels, one progressive and the other reactionary. A progressive current eschewing the use of historical forms, associated with Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in the United States and with Hendrik Petrus Berlage, Peter Behrens, Victor Horta, Otto Wagner, Auguste Perret, et al., in Europe, developed into the mainstream of modern architecture. By the 1930's the rudiments of this progressive current were being plotted by Lewis Mumford and Henry-Russell Hitchcock in America, and by Nikolaus Pevsner and Sigfried Giedion in Europe. Giedion's Space, Time and Architecture, first delivered as the Charles Elliot Norton Lectures at Harvard in 1938-1939 and closely following the arrival of Walter Gropius and the other Bauhaus 6migr6s, fused American and European modernism into a common tradition. Published in its first edition in 1941, Giedion's opus separated a mainstream of historically important constituent phenomena from a side current of transient ones. These transient phenomena, of course, included a much larger body of architects and monuments than the constituent mainstream, a fact that Giedion chose to ignore. His highly selective account of nineteenthcentury precedents for modern architecture did not promote a sympathetic investigation of Victorian architecture on its own terms.
In fact, although Sullivan and Wright had a considerable following in the Progressive Era before World War I, a much larger body of architects remained committed to the habit of historical adaptation, perhaps with more refined taste and greater erudition than their Victorian predecessors--or so they believed. This late, post-Victorian Eclecticism dominated American architecture, at least in a quantitative sense, from the mid-1890's until the various strands of modernism began to appear in the 1930's. Concurrently in the 1930's, historians began to reassess the preceding century, rediscovering the world of their grandparents.
Henry-Russell Hitchcock rediscovered H. H. Richardson in 1936, fifty years after the architect's death and four years after Hitchcock and Philip Johnson had defined the International style for the Museum of Modern Art. But Richardson came to be valued by Giedion and others for his protomodern qualities, as a precursor to Sullivan and Wright, rather than for his Victorian context. In 1936, Victorian architecture was still despised as discordant and even ugly. It seems significant that the generation which accepted the classically reductive spirit of International Modernism should reassess the classical revival, which had begun to succumb to Victorian aesthetics in the 1840's. In 1841 Andrew Jackson Downing denounced the Greek Revival as unsuitable for domestic architecture because it was not expressive of purpose, and ushered in a half-century of Victorian architecture in America. A century later, in 1944, Talbot Hamlin, one of the leading interpreters of an elastic concept of modern design for American architects in the 1930's, published Greek Revival Architecture in America. It was now legitimate once again to appreciate classical simplicity and discipline, partly because contemporary modern architects saw in the Greek Revival a reflection of their own principles of design. But the Victorian interlude was still held in contempt.
This began to change in the 1950's, with the publication of two important works (both 1949 Yale dissertations) that contributed to a reassessment of Victorian architecture on its own terms. The first was Vincent Scully's The Shingle Style and the Stick Style, which examined American domestic architecture from Downing to Wright., The second was Carroll L. V. Meeks' The Railroad Station, published in 1956. Narrowing his focus to the most significant building type of the nineteenth century, Meeks subjected this body of work to a rigorous arthistorical methodology. Following the example of Heinrich Wölfflin, Meeks defined nineteenth-century architecture in terms of dialectical opposition to twentieth-century modern architecture, as Wölfflin had done for Renaissance and Baroque. For Meeks, the essential qualities of the nineteenth century were variety, movement, irregularity, intricacy, and roughness. He coined a term for this broad period, comparable to the Baroque style; Meeks called the style of the nineteenth century Picturesque Eclecticism. In characterizing this broad style, from 1790 until 1914, as eclectic, Meeks took what had been a pejorative term and made it methodologically descriptive. Eclecticism implies the selective use of historical models to form new combinations for contemporary use. An eclectic designer might borrow the forms and details of the Gothic or the Baroque, but would use them freely in pursuit of picturesque design values and the resolution of contemporary functional needs, and not in an attempt to revive past building types.
The 125 years of Meeks' Picturesque Eclecticism is almost as long as the Baroque period, and it is obvious that development in the arts is never static for such a long interval. In an effort to account for the evolution of style within broad periods, the French art historian Henri Focillon proposed a theory of The Life of Forms in Art. All broad styles, according to Focillon, evolve from youth to maturity to old age, or from an archaic to a classic, and thence to a Baroque, phase. Meeks, who had studied under Focillon at Yale in the 1940's, applied this evolutionary schema to Picturesque Eclecticism. He called the early phase Symbolic Eclecticism, dated from 1790 to 1860, and corresponding to the classical revival and others. Meeks' second phase was dubbed Synthetic Eclecticism, dated from 1860 to 1890, and corresponded more or less to the Victorian interlude in American taste. The final, late phase, dating from 1890 to 1914 and coexisting with a noneclectic progressive strand in American architecture, he called Creative Eclecticism. This term has never satisfied other historians using Meeks' system, and Academic Eclecticism has been proposed as more appropriate, in that it draws attention to the greater reliance on accurate historical details and historically correct proportions prevalent in this phase of design. This phase has been described as a revival of Revivalism, reflecting the greater fidelity to historical models that characterized the period before 1860, or at least before 1840, and again after 1890. The term "revival," in fact, is often attached to component modes of Academic Eclecticism, such as the Georgian Revival or the Spanish Colonial Revival. Eclecticism and Revivalism are obviously relative terms. No Greek temples were erected in America during the Symbolic Eclectic period; the form was adapted eclectically to modern usage. After thirty years or so of Synthetic Eclecticism or Victorian taste, a greater accuracy in the use of form and detail reemerges in the Academic Eclectic period, which for purposes of this study has been extended into the 1920's and even the 1930's.
Yet, even a period of thirty or forty years is too vast to be encompassed within a single category, especially because the eclectic habit encouraged choice among competing sources or historical periods. It has been said that a generation in art is ten years, for not only do new designers enter practice, but cycles of change occur, even in the oeuvre of a single artist. Thus, with careful scrutiny it is possible to distinguish the style of the 1900's from that of the 1920's, always allowing for survivals and anticipations. In dealing with eclecticism, however, the problem is complicated by the use of alternative historical sources. It is therefore necessary to distinguish alternative modes within a single generation in design, as the Victorian Gothic and Second Empire were competing modes in the 1870's, or the English Tudor and Spanish Colonial in the 1920's. The term "mode" is perhaps best used for such contemporary eclectic alternatives, reserving the term "style" for broader categories.
If the rediscovery of Victorian (or Synthetic Eclectic) architecture dates from the 1950's, its popular appreciation is a phenomenon of the 1960's, when the orthodox traditions of modern architecture and modern city planning came under attack. Americans rediscovered their Victorian heritage, a development reflected in the Texas Architectural Survey, whose first volume, Texas Homes of the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1966. The twentieth century before 1945 was still largely virgin territory, however, except for the Prairie School, which was seen as part of the mainstream modernism that had separated from the retardataire eclectic tradition. Perhaps no scholar has done more to rehabilitate the alternative tradition in American architecture than David Gebhard.
Gebhard, who began as a Prairie School specialist in the 1950's, turned his attention next to the Moderne style of the 1920's and 1930's. From the late 1930's this body of decorative art had been disdained by modern purists as "modernistic," or even as yet another eclectic style. It was separated from "authentic modern architecture" by its conservative construction and its retention of ornament, whereas International Modernism exploited progressive construction methods in a radical avant-garde manner characterized by "volume rather than mass, regularity rather than symmetry, and the elimination of ornament." Although other scholars have studied this phase of the arts of design, popularizing the term Art Deco, Gebhard has concentrated on the architecture, which he prefers to call Moderne. His division of the Moderne into three component phases, the Zig-Zag, Streamlined, and PWA (Public Works Administration) Moderne, remains basic to the continuing study of this body of work, although Gebhard's terms are subject to reconsideration. I have decided to describe this body of architecture in Texas as modernistic, which serves to revive a common 1930's term and strip it of pejorative connotations, just as eclectic is no longer considered a negative term.
Gebhard went on from the Moderne to examine the Academic Eclectic tradition, concentrating on the architecture of Spanish Colonial inspiration in California, where he was joined by other researchers in this historically fertile region. The basic historical distinctions made in California also seem valid for Texas, except for the Pueblo Revival, which originated in New Mexico. A romantically evocative Mission Revival, originating in California in the late 1880's, had spread to Texas early in the new century and was used sparingly until World War I as a vehicle for conveying southwestern regional character. After the war, the Mission Revival was supplanted by the much more popular Spanish Colonial Revival, which drew on historically accurate provincial Baroque sources but interpreted them with a picturesque sensibility that was prevalent in the 1920's. Although in fundamental composition and social purpose the Regional Eclectic modes and those derived from non-Hispanic sources do not differ, these two categories have been divided between Chapters 4 and 5 of this book for organizational convenience. Regional Eclecticism is a subspecies of Academic Eclecticism, and not an autonomous category, a fact borne out by the frequent recourse to a regionalized classic or regional Romanesque idiom. A few recognizable details, such as Spanish tile roofs, were frequently used to signify regional historic character. The Meso-American Revival, a minor current in the eclectic mélange of the 1920's, has also been grouped with Regional Eclecticism for editorial convenience, sanctioned by Gebhard's example.
Academic Eclecticism, as used in Chapter 4, implies architecture that is neither progressive--i.e., substantially free of historical basis--nor specifically regional in its reference to historical sources. This body of work includes the greatest part of Texas architecture between 1900 and 1930, excluding the survival of Victorian forms before r 900 and the prevalence of modernistic ones after 1930. Owing in part to the sheer number of these buildings, they have been given a primary division not by component mode or by chronological phase, but by building type, with mode and chronology as secondary principles of organization within each section. Perceptible changes can be observed in all building types about midpoint in the period, around the time of World War I, thus dividing Academic Eclecticism into two generations of design, corresponding to the earlier Mission and later Spanish Colonial phases of Regional Eclecticism.
Of all the various eclectic modes employed, by far the most common was a form of generic classicism perhaps best defined as Beaux-Arts Classic. Although it recalls somewhat the neo-classicism of the period before the Civil War--hence the sense of a revival of Revivalism--it should not be confused with this earlier style. Style should be chronologically limited to a definite time period when it was current; a later recurrence of similar forms should be given a separate definition. Beaux-Arts Classicism has the advantage of focusing attention on the increasing academicism of American architecture after 1893, the year of the Chicago Columbian Exposition. Not only did an increasing number of American architects receive formal training at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but American schools of architecture increasingly patterned their curricula on that of the Ecole. By World War I, perhaps a majority of practicing architects in the United States had some formal schooling in design, whereas previously the normal route to architectural practice was apprenticeship, and Beaux-Arts principles of design filtered down even to architects without formal education. At its best, the Beaux-Arts Classic stood for the flexible application of a definite vocabulary of forms and ornament to a public architecture planned to incorporate modern functions and composed to express those functions. The idea of a functional plan being legible in the exterior composition of a building is perhaps the greatest legacy of the Beaux-Arts system to modern architecture. And the Academic Eclectics thought of themselves as modern; they saw no contradiction in solving contemporary building problems within the eclectic tradition.
Nevertheless, by the 1920's this eclectic tradition had begun to pall. A renewed shift to picturesque composition, difficult to resolve within the classical discipline, was one manifestation of this decline. Another was the obvious unsuitability of classical design for the dominant American building type of the modern age: the skyscraper. Among historical alternatives, the Gothic commended itself to the expression of the tall building because it was the one style to emphasize verticality in proportion. Skyscrapers were built in considerable numbers in Texas in the 1920's, not just in the major cities, but as beacons of progress and modernity in the state's larger towns. By the end of the decade, however, classic and Gothic forms of skyscraper articulation were abandoned in favor of the modernistic idiom, which in many cases resembled merely an abstracted and stylized form of Gothic ornament. The same process is observable in smaller buildings within the eclectic repertoire. The most important examples of abstraction and stylization were provided by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and Paul Philippe Cret, and the influence of both men may be seen in Texas architecture from 1928 onward, although only Cret did any work personally in Texas.
Cret was only one of a number of architects of national reputation to do work in Texas, including Cass Gilbert, Ralph Adams Cram, George Bossom, Kenneth Franzheim, William Lescaze, and Richard Neutra. Nevertheless, the great preponderance of the state's nonresidential architecture continued to be designed by practitioners based in Texas. Yet not just the scale of building, but also the scale of architectural practice, changed in Texas in the twentieth century. Chapter 2 opens with the work of J. Riely Cordon, the most prolific late-Victorian architect in Texas, who nevertheless left in 1902 for greater professional opportunities in New York. His place was taken by new firms of modern significance: Trost and Trost of El Paso, Sanguinet and Staats of Fort Worth and Houston, C. H. Page and Brother of Austin (later called Page Brothers, Atlee B. Ayres of San Antonio, and Lang and Witchell of Dallas, to name only the more significant organizations formed shortly after the turn of the century. These firms tended to evolve internally as they adapted to new modes of design after World War I. C. D. Hill left the employ of Sanguinet and Staats in Fort Worth to found his own practice in Dallas in 1907. Wyatt C. Hedrick bought out his partners, Sanguinet and Staats, upon their retirement in 1924, as they had evolved from Messer, Sanguinet and Messer in the 1890's. Alfred C. Finn similarly launched his practice from Sanguinet and Staats' Houston office in 1925. Robert M. Ayres joined his father, Atlee, in practice in San Antonio in the 1920's. Voelcker and Dixon joined in partnership in Wichita Falls. George L. Dahl joined the firm of Herbert M. Greene in 1924, to buy out his elder partners in 1943. All these firms adopted the modernistic idiom as a design alternative in the 1930's, just as their predecessors had given up the Richardsonian Romanesque for the Beaux-Arts Classic at the turn of the century, or occasionally for the Prairie School.
Despite all previous historiographic endeavors to rehabilitate the Academic Eclectic and modernistic traditions, however, this book is not really a revisionist history of twentieth-century architecture in Texas. A significant discussion has been included of two avant-garde tendencies, out of all proportion to their numbers of constructed buildings. The first of these is the Prairie School of the 1910's; the second is the Regional Modernism of the 1930's.
The Prairie School may be defined as a body of work deriving from the form conventions of Frank Lloyd Wright or the ornamental conventions of Louis Sullivan, or both. It was brought to Texas by both direct discipleship and indirect appreciation. In the former case, both Charles Erwin Barglebaugh and George Willis had worked for Wright at the Oak Park Studio before coming to Texas, where Barglebaugh found employment with Lang and Witchell, and Willis with Atlee B. Ayres. No such direct connection has been found to explain Prairie School conventions in the work of Trost and Trost or Sanguinet and Staats, who may have depended on publications of Wright's work in Western Architect and other journals. Sullivan's ornament was commercially available in plaster and terra-cotta, which explains its occurrence in the work of J. E. Flanders and in anonymous usage elsewhere. The Prairie School virtually disappeared along with other progressive manifestations of American culture in the "return to normalcy" following World War I, only to reemerge transformed in the 1930's with Wright's rejuvenated Usonian period.
Wright's rejuvenation in the 1930's is part of the complex evolution of modern architecture in that decade. Hitchcock and Johnson's definition of the International style in 1932 was premature as an exercise in art history, and obsolete as a commentary on contemporary practice, for already by that date modern architecture was evolving toward a rapprochement with tradition: traditional forms such as pitched roofs; traditional materials such as brick, stone, and wood; and a respect for site, climate, and the particular environment. These things appear in Wright's architecture of the 1930's, as they had appeared earlier in the Prairie School and California phases of his work. Although Wright built no architecture in Texas until after World War II, his manner is reflected in the work of Karl Kamrath of Houston and to a lesser degree in that of H. R. Meyer of Dallas. Wright had never been part of the International style, of course, but even those who had been--like Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, when they arrived as émigrés in America in the late 1930's--modified their styles to incorporate regional manifestations: natural materials and site-specific considerations. Chester Nagel, who studied under Gropius at Harvard in 1938, returned to Texas to transplant this modified modern style in his own house at Austin. A third tendency of 1930's modern design, distinct from the influence of Wright and the European émigrés, came from the Texas regionalists, David Williams and O'Neil Ford, who regarded the Spanish Colonial and modernistic modes with equal contempt as species of eclecticism. They sought a new point of departure in the vernacular buildings of Texas erected before the Civil War, which they viewed as uncorrupted examples of indigenous adaptation. The Texas ranch houses that they built in the 1930's may be seen as part of a general fascination with the domestic vernacular in this period. They also share with Wright, and perhaps even with Gropius and Breuer, the attempt to incorporate organic, indigenous, or vernacular qualities into an authentic modern architecture.
Domestic architecture has always been more or less a thing apart, occasionally sharing the dominant historical modes used for public architecture but more often conforming to an anonymous builder's vernacular, which eludes strict historical categorization. For that reason, it has been discussed in a self-contained chapter, although Chapters 2 and 3 do consider Shingle style and Prairie School houses along with nondomestic architecture. The chapter on domestic architecture is a drastic compression of an enormous body of material. In the fifty years covered by this study, easily 90 percent of the buildings constructed in Texas have been residential, yet only 15 percent of the monuments discussed are houses. This strange imbalance could have been avoided only by ignoring houses entirely, relegating them to a future second volume, or dismissing most of them as mere building, and not architecture. This would give a misleading impression of historical priorities in the 1990's, and therefore it was decided to be inadequate rather than misleading. Some of the houses discussed were designed by architects and reflect high styles of design, but even among such large houses for a prosperous clientele there was a tendency to draw upon the historical vernacular for sources. English Tudor and Spanish Andalusian vernacular are as common for housing in the 1920's as French Renaissance or Spanish Baroque, and before World War I such generic builders' types as the foursquare and the bungalow contend with period styles even in relatively fashionable neighborhoods. The bungalow was, in fact, the great successor to the Victorian Stick style cottage, as the symmetrical foursquare succeeded the Victorian two-story with its picturesque asymmetry. Like their Victorian predecessors, the bungalow and foursquare were often built without benefit of architect, with plans purchased by mail for execution by a carpenter-builder. Such mail-order pattern books proliferated throughout the 1920's and 1930's. It was even possible to order a complete bungalow from Sears Roebuck or other merchandisers, and have the complete kit of parts shipped by rail for local assembly. The bungalow seems to have been the true domestic vernacular in Texas for thirty years, to be killed off by the Depression and reborn after World War II as the suburban ranch house. But the bungalow was a style as well as a type, and could be extended by a variety of means to incorporate quite large houses. As a style it too changes in the 1920's to conform to the general evolution in taste toward more picturesque design, with the front chimney becoming a familiar element in the transformation.
I begin this book with 1895 rather than 1900 because the change of taste resulting from the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893 began to be experienced by the earlier date, although at first the new classicism was tinged in most cases with distinctly Victorian coloration. Hence, the second chapter deals with the relatively long survival of Victorian habits of design, which endure well into the first decade of the new century. The study ends with 1945 because a half-century seems like an organic unit of history, and because World War II, coming as it did on the end of the Depression, seems like a more significant watershed than 1950, when nothing in particular happened. The book has also, for the most part, been limited to surviving monuments, except where a demolished structure illustrated essential tendencies better than any surviving example. Architecture is taken to embrace the entire built environment, including domestic and commercial work not designed by architects. Nikolaus Pevsner's distinction between a bicycle shed and Lincoln Cathedral has been rejected in favor of a more inclusive concept of design, for the domestic and commercial vernacular were built with an eye to aesthetic appeal on the part of clients and builders, however much contemporary and retrospective critics might deplore the basis for such judgments. A corollary of this inclusivity, however, is that not every specimen included can be assigned a designer, or even, in certain cases, a precise date.
In selecting monuments for inclusion, I have made an effort to secure wide geographical distribution throughout the state. The buildings discussed range from Dalhart to Brownsville and from El Paso to Orange. Examples representing a common genre or type were selected with such distribution in mind, without overlooking outstanding specimens or unique types. Nevertheless, the book also had to reflect demographic changes in twentiethcentury Texas, notably the growth in the size of towns and the increasing concentration of population in cities. Perhaps half the architecture discussed is found in the eight or ten cities registering a population of 100,000 or more in the 1940 federal census, and a far greater proportion was designed by firms whose headquarters were in such cities. Metropolitan concentration is a fact of life in the twentieth century, and even quite small cities such as Big Spring or Corsicana affected urban pretensions through the construction of skyscrapers in the 1920's.
A definite shift in institutional morphology can also be observed in Texas courthouse towns in the twentieth century, along with a selective growth in population. Courthouses constructed after World War I become larger, requiring different formulas of classical design in the 1920's, and giving way to modernistic forms in the 1930's. The corner bank appears with a well-defined classical form before World War I, occasionally evolving into an office building of several floors in the 1920's. New post offices of classical mien appear in most Texas courthouse towns shortly after the turn of the century; some to be rebuilt at larger scale and in modernistic guise as projects of the Public Works Administration (PWA) in the 1930's. Carnegie libraries were also endowed in many Texas towns shortly after the turn of the century. Opera houses and lodge halls gradually give way to civic auditoriums and commercial movie theaters. New hotels appear in many Texas towns, catering not only to commercial travelers but, after World War I, also to the motoring public. Garages and service stations are constructed to serve the same clientele, fostered by the National Highway System of the 1920's. High schools appear early in the twentieth century as separate institutions, often dwarfing the courthouse in bulk, if not in grandeur and prominent location, and by the 1920's one-story elementary schools replace the more compact forms of an earlier day. City halls develop a strangely pragmatic morphology, as public-safety functions compete with ceremonial hierarchy in the building form. Churches display the greatest stylistic diversity, as Gothic modes compete with classic and Hispanic forms. Even within a given mode, nuance and chronological evolution are perceptible. There are several forms of Ecclesiastical Gothic, for instance. Although this study does not attempt to trace the evolution of the Texas town as such, the division of Chapter 4 by building type will suggest these changes in institutional morphology, because most of the architecture conforms to Academic Eclectic modes.
The maturity of Texas culture in the twentieth century is also reflected in the founding of new colleges and universities, and the replanning of several existing campuses. Architects of national significance established the collegiate idiom for Rice and Southern Methodist universities, and for the University of Texas at Austin, while Texas architects designed new buildings at several others. The campus, in fact, becomes the principal arena for Beaux-Arts planning in the twentieth century, despite tepid efforts at urban aggrandizement in the City Beautiful period before World War I and again under sponsorship of the PWA during the Depression. Such urban projects rarely extend beyond a single building, whereas the university eampuses reflect coherently planned ensembles.
The sources on which this book is based consist of my own investigations, compiled in twenty years of teaching and traveling in Texas, and the published and unpublished research of many other investigators. The extensive body of scholarly publication in American architecture served as the referential matrix for interpreting developments in Texas, and for occasional inclusion of Texas monuments. The relatively sparse contemporaneous publication of Texas architecture in national journals was also consulted, although not slavishly respected as indicating historical significance. As for retrospective publication, the Texas Architectural Survey, published in two volumes by Drury Blakeley Alexander in 1966 and Willard B. Robinson and Todd Webb in 1974, provided a nineteenth-century foundation on which to build. Because the present study begins in 1895, it overlaps Alexander's and Robinson's work to some degree. Robinson's subsequent book, The People's Architecture, published in 1983 by the Texas State Historical Association, extended the work of the Architectural Survey into the present century. It covered only strictly public buildings, however, and was therefore not a comprehensive history; nor was Robinson's Gone from Texas of 1981, which considered only work no longer extant. Both books were valuable sources of information, however.
Only three full-scale monographs on twentieth-century Texas architects had been published when this book was written: Lloyd Engelbrecht's and June-Marie Engelbrecht's work on Henry C. Trost of El Paso, Muriel McCarthy's on David Williams of Dallas, and Howard Barnstone's on John F. Staub of Houston. All were invaluable, despite limitations. Mary Carolyn Hollyers George's monograph on O'Neil Ford has since been published but too late for inclusion. Monographic studies in the form of unpublished theses on Birdsall P. Briscoe and George L. Dahl were also consulted, as well as a considerable body of thesis research examining other aspects of Texas architecture at the universities at Arlington and Austin. Unpublished sources also included the holdings of the Architectural Drawings Collection at the University of Texas at Austin and the nomination documents for the National Register of Historic Buildings. The latter are available for public inspection at the Texas Historical Commission in Austin, although the register alone is highly questionable as an index of historical significance. The process of nomination and approval at best filters out trivial examples; it does not promote consensus on what is most significant in twentiethcentury architecture in Texas. Some buildings on the register are included in this study on the basis of independent judgment, but others are omitted, and most of the included monuments are not registered at all.
Reasonable architectural guidebooks exist for Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, sponsored by those cities' respective chapters of the American Institute of Architects. A great deal of scholarly research on the history of Texas architecture has appeared in periodical sources, three of which stand out: Texas Architect, published by the Texas Society of Architects; Perspective, published for twelve volumes by the Texas Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians; and CITE: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston, published by the Rice Design Alliance. Each in its own way has catered to a broad constituency that includes professional and amateur architectural historians. Citations from these journals abound in the notes and bibliography.
The subject matter of this book can be bracketed conveniently between J. Riely Gordon's Waxahachie courthouse and O'Neil Ford's Chapel in the Woods at Texas Woman's University in Denton. The former represents the culmination of Victorian design in the Richardsonian Romanesque as rendered by its foremost interpreter in Texas. The latter represents the comparable maturity of Texas Regionalism of the 1930's, bound up with the revival of craftsmanship and a springboard to Ford's distinguished corpus of post-World War II design. Both Gordon's and Ford's work are relatively well known, although the substantive monographs under preparation on each designer had not yet been published when this book was written. Between Gordon and Ford lies a historical period of some thirty or forty years that is still only partially understood despite some twenty years of incremental research summarized above and included in the notes and bibliography. I felt that the time had come to attempt a synthesis of this information, and to interpret it in light of prevailing scholarship on American architecture. It may be argued that such a systematic interpretation is premature, and that the subject would benefit by another ten or twenty years of patient research. Although such reservations are certainly apt, a case can be made for the provisional thesis as a catalyst for future revision. The interpretation and conclusions contained herein will doubtless be challenged by others to follow. Indeed, if the book is deemed obsolete in ten years and is superseded in twenty, it will have accomplished its purpose.
“Written in an accessible style, Henry's work places Texas architecture in the wider context of American architectural history by tracing the development of building in the state from late Victorian styles, and the rise of neoclassicism, to the advent of the International Style.... His work provides a welter of new facts, both about the era's buildings and the architects who designed them, and he has catalogued and described most of the important landmarks of the period.”
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“...a significant contribution to the study of Texas architecture....”
Drury Blakeley Alexander, author of Texas Homes of the Nineteenth Century