J. L. Wees:
An Inventory of his Drawings and Papers, 1909-1983
"Outstanding Paris Buildings Work of J.L. Wees, Veteran of Architecture"
Paris News, Sunday, August 28, 1938
Responsible for many of Paris' beautiful buildings is J.L. Wees, local architect.
Wees came to Paris from St. Louis in 1916 to help rebuild the city after the big fire. Some of the principal jobs he drew plans for and supervised construction of are Paris Library, what is now Caddel's store, the Scott residence on South Twenty-second street that is now being remodeled into a funeral home, and the fountain on the plaza.
Architecture has been Wees' life work. Born in southern Germany, he made up his mind to be an architect or artist at an early age. After finishing high school he started studying his chosen trade in Paris, France, when only 18 years old. At the conclusion of his first year of study in Paris, Wees came to the United States.
His first job in this country was in a sewing machine factory at Bridgeport, Conn. While working at the factory he attended art school at night. Seeing some of his work, a friend got him a job with an architecture firm at Bridgeport, Conn. While working Wees was transferred to the firm's New York office.
Wees soon tired of New York and quit his job to journey to St. Louis and stay with a friend. Luck was with him as he landed a job as an architect in St. Louis the day after he arrived from New York. After working for the firm four years he was promoted to the office of head-draftsman. Soon after his promotion his parents came to America and spent the rest of their lives with their son in St. Louis.
Another four years and Wees was taken into the firm as partner. A couple of years later his partner retired and Wees was made head of the firm. He has worked for himself ever since.
While working at St. Louis Wees planned and supervised construction of the following structures and many smaller jobs too numerous to mention: Packard building; Cadillac building; eight-story office building on Washington avenue; nine-story office building; giant swimming pool; ball parks for both the American and National league cubs [sic]; factory for the National Biscuit company; and several churches.
Before he moved to Paris Wees built the Scott residence on South Twenty-second street here. Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Scott were planning to build when they went to St. Louis to visit friends. The house they visited in St. Louis was built by Wees and, liking it, they immediately contacted Wees to design a house for them. He made several trips here to supervise construction while work was in progress.
The day after the Paris fire Scott wired Wees to come to Paris. Wees immediately left St. Louis to come here and help rebuild the city. Since 1916 he has made his home here.
His first job here after the fire was to plan and supervise construction of the Scott buildings that occupy most of the block surrounded by Twenty-first, Twenty-second, Houston and Lamar avenue. At night he worked on drawings and supervised work during the day. Not having an assistant he was required to do his work alone.
Wee's second major job here was to build what is now Caddel's store at [the] northeast corner of the plaza. He went in competition with a dozen other architects for the American National bank building and was awarded the contract.
Next he went in competition with four others for the city hall and fire station and again his plans were accepted. In the summer of 1921 the coliseum at the fair grounds was built according to his plans. As work was rushed to have the structure ready for the 1921 fair, Wees was again forced to draw plans at night and stay on the job during the day.
Plans of numerous houses and smaller buildings were drawn by Wees during the next four years. In 1925 the [sic] designed the cenotaph at the corner of Twenty-second and Lamar avenue.
The late J.J. Culbertson had Wees design a small fountain for Tulsa, Okla. Culbertson liked the plans for his gift to Tulsa so well he requested the architect to plan a larger fountain for Paris. The result is the plaza and beautiful fountain that now decorates the center of this city. He also designed the clock on the plaza.
Wees planned the Edith Musselman Day Nursery before he started on plans for the library. He supervised construction of the library while it was being built in 1931.
The Paris architect later worked for the state parks department near Tyler. In 1936 he enrolled in the CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] camp near Tyler where he served as a foreman and taught art for 20 months. Since returning to Paris he has designed the entrance for the Silver Cross cemetery [sic] which will soon be built by the King's Daughters organization on the golf club road.
Wees explains he always supervises the jobs he draws plans for as he wants the work done right and no substitutions used. Results of his careful attention is shown in the many buildings he has designed here. Wees considers no job too large or too small, as he can plan anything from a dog house to a palace.
The veteran architect is always glad to have people come to his studio, 3 1-2 North Twenty-second street, and talk over the[i]r architectural problems with him. Wees spends his spare time studying to keep up with changes in architecture. By doing this he is prepared to plan as modernistic a building as the builder requests. Wees considers Paris his home and hopes to remain here the rest of his life.
An account of his works is given in the book, "Art and Artists of Texas." A copy this book is kept in the Paris library.
The best description of Wees possible is given in his honorable discharge from the CCC Camp. "J.L. Wees, LEM, taught a class in the reading of blueprints and made drawing[s] for the camp paper. His work is excellent."
The company supervisor added this to the paper: "This man was of much help in the education program. He is an architect of high standing and an artist of considerable ability. He [is] very courteous and agreeable and is liked by all."
Next time you stop to admire the fountain or other beautiful buildings, stop to think of the work Architect Wees put in to give Paris these structures.
Reports, an interview, abstracts, specifications and newspaper clippings (together measuring.25 linear feet), and 118 drawings provide information about buildings that architect J.L. Wees designed for Rufus F. Scott in Paris, Texas. The specifications are original, dating from 1909-1911. The other documents give historical background about Rufus F. Scott, the person, as well as descriptions of the residence. They date from 1938 through 1983.
This material is possibly the only original work left from J.L. Wees' practice. According to Julius Hunter's book, Westmoreland and Portland Places, "after Wees' death his original linen drawings `were washed until white and suitable for making pillowcases,' a grandson... recalled."
Source: Hunter, Julius. Westmoreland and Portland Places: the history and architecture of America's premiere private streets, 1888-1988. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988, p 188.
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J.L. Wees (1861-1942) Drawings and manuscript material, 1909-1983 Paris, Texas, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
Drawings processed by: Lila Knight
Other material processed by: Ardys Kozbial
Date: June 1993
Processing is not completed. Please see Archive's staff for more information.
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Unpublished inventory in Archive.
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