When building the Elbert Williams residence on McFarlin Boulevard around 1933, architect David R. Williams sought to inject Texas flair into a landscape dotted with European-imported styles.
Local architects argue it remains the most important house built in Texas.
The Park Cities Historic and Preservation Society published a book, A House for Texas, documenting the home’s history with text by Dallas architect Larry Good and photos by Charles Davis Smith to raise awareness and support for the home at 3805 McFarlin Blvd.
It was built in 1933 for then University Park Mayor Elbert Williams (no relation to the architect). In 1983, the Texas Society of Architects polled their membership about the 20 most important buildings in the state. They included the Alamo, Highland Park Village, the San Antonio Riverwalk – and the Elbert Williams house, the only private residence selected.
“(David Williams) wanted to identify what would make an honest, Texas regional house, one that was not derived from Europe, and other times and places,” Good said. “For his inspiration, he went to the vernacular houses that the pioneers built in central Texas and south Texas in the 1800s… the Elbert Williams house is his masterwork. It’s the purest expression of that search for a modern Texas regionalism.”
Good said the Elbert Williams home bears a lot of resemblance to the Carle house and store in Castroville.
“In…this beautiful living room and virtually every other room in this house, David did these fabulous, skillful ways of letting the breezes come in and be vented out,” he continued. “In the era before air conditioning, he did about as much as anybody could do to create a comfortable house.”
Smith said the house retains many of its original details.
“This house is not only about generous proportions, well-proportioned rooms, but it’s the details, it’s the materials that were used, it’s how the materials meet differing materials, the craftsmanship, the woodwork,” he said.
The Elbert Williams home was the last private home the architect designed. David Williams went into public practice working on affordable housing with the government during the Depression soon after.
The home’s future is in doubt as it’s up for sale and doesn’t have landmark protections.
“The salvation of this house is either going to be an owner savior who comes in and has the intention not to tear it down, or it would be the formation of some sort of Friends of the Elbert Williams house nonprofit of some sort that would raise the money to purchase it and preserve it,” Good said.
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