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Twentieth Gallery
  Texas Architecture: A Visual History
Early 20th Century c. 1900 - 1941 View Gallery
 

The early 20th century in Texas saw an increase in industry and technology resulting in a changing architectural landscape. Growth in the cotton, lumber, cattle and oil industries sustained continued development of towns and cities, while technological advancements facilitated the construction of skyscrapers. In design, architectural styles were employed according to two different philosophies the return to classical ideals competed with the attempt to create a truly modern and distinctly American style.

The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago promoted the return to classical design elements and forms as taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This elite school of architecture educated several of America's budding architects and inspired the City Beautiful Movement (Henry 1993, 74). In Texas, this movement was expressed by architecture that combined the eclectic revival styles of the late 19th century with classical forms and details.

Meanwhile, the first distinctly American style of architecture was developing in the Prairie School. Without historical precedent, the Prairie School style was derived primarily from the principles of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and emphasized designs that incorporated the landscape. At the same time, the Craftsman (or Bungalow) style became particularly popular in Texas, featuring one-story houses with low-pitched roofs and porches supported by square columns. In Texas, both of these styles were seen chiefly in vernacular residential building and were spread by pattern books and carpenter's guides.

Yet another unique style, commonly referred to as the Texas ranch house, was developed by David R. Williams. A proponent of the regionalist movement, Williams emphasized a response to the environment with designs based upon his study of indigenous architecture in Texas. (Alexander Architectural Archive, s.v. "David Reichard Williams," February 2005). Among his successors was O'Neil Ford, who further developed these ideals by integrating elements of the English Arts & Crafts movement to create an architecture that blended function with visual art (Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Architecture," February 2005). Ford and Williams worked together designing several houses in north central Texas, including the Hugh Drane residence in Corsicana (Alexander Architectural Archive, s.v. "O'Neil Ford," February 2005).

Architects designing skyscrapers in major cities in Texas took advantage of improved technology developed in Chicago and New York. The 22-story Amicable Life Insurance Co. Building (1911), designed by Sanguinet and Staats of Fort Worth and Roy Lane of Waco, was briefly the tallest building west of the Mississippi. In Fort Worth, the Trans American Life Building, designed by Wyatt C. Hedrick in 1930, boasted 16 stories, and the Dallas Power and Light Building, designed by Lang & Witchell in 1931, was an 18-story steel-welded structure.

Also reflected in commercial and civic building was the emerging Art Deco movement, inspired by the 1929 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Like the Prairie School and Craftsman Styles, Art Deco also attempted to break from historical precedents, using industry and technology to create a modern aesthetic. Outstanding Art Deco-style buildings in Texas include the State Highway Building (1933) in Austin, designed by Adams & Adams and Lang & Witchell, and the Fort Worth Federal Building (1933) by Paul Philippe Cret and Wiley G. Clarkson.

References:

David Reichard Williams, the Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas at Austin.

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Architecture,"
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/view/AA/cmask.html (accessed January 17, 2005).

Henry, Jay C. Architecture in Texas 1895-1945. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1993.

Lang & Witchell, the Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas at Austin.

O'Neil Ford, the Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas at Austin.

Sanguinet, Staats and Hedrick, the Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

 

 
Timeline of Texas ArchitectureSpanish Colonial / MexicanRepublic/AntebellumVictorianEarly 20th CenturyModern
 
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