TABLE OF CONTENTS
Nicholas Joseph Clayton collection
Nicholas J. Clayton was born in Cork, Ireland in 1840 and emigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio as a small child with his mother. He served in the United States Navy during the Civil War. After the war he went to Memphis, Tenn. where he studied with architect W.H. Baldwin at the firm, Jones and Baldwin. Late in 1872, Clayton traveled to Galveston on behalf of that firm to supervise construction of the First Presbyterian Church and the Tremont Hotel. He stayed in Galveston and established his own practice in 1875, making him one of the first professional architects in Texas. Clayton dominated Galveston architecture from 1873 to 1900, most prominently in the 1880s and 1890s.
While modest in personal conduct, Clayton assiduously promoted his architectural practice. From 1884 until 1902, each successive edition of Morrison & Fourmy's Galveston City Directory contained his full-page advertisement, illustrated with engravings of the architect's work. His office day book recorded the transmittal of notices on current projects to both Galveston and Houston newspapers.
Clayton was involved in the design of most building types of the period. Institutional, commercial, industrial, ecclesiastical and residential buildings all became subjects for his spirited, picturesque, eclectic treatment. From 1880 to 1900, his work, although stylistically varied, was consistently informed by a High Victorian sensibility. This entailed a richly plastic manipulation of building surfaces, deployed in aggressively mannered, renditions of the Gothic revival, the pre-Richardsonian Romanesque, and neo-Grec classicism.
Richardson's influence began to show in Clayton's work of the late 1880s and 1890s, as did the suburban Queen Anne, and the developing school of Renaissance classicism. Yet, even though these later tastes were predicted on the priority of massing and composition over ornament, Clayton sacrificed none of this exuberance in dealing with them. In contrast, his planning was simple and pragmatic. An academic distribution of space in institutional structures, and unencumbered loft space in commercial buildings were typical of his work. Only in churches and houses was his planning highly articulated.
After 25 years as the first architect of the city, Clayton, for a variety of reasons, suffered a swift and painful professional decline just after the turn of the century. When he died, in 1916, at the age of 76, his burial site was marked with one of his marble samples because his family could not afford a gravestone. Yet his bequest to Galveston and to the other cities which have retained his buildings is of irreplaceable value. His work represents a lifetime, worked out day by day under the most ordinary and circumstantial conditions, dedicated to the cause of architecture as the public art.
Fox, Stephen. "Profile: Nicholas J. Clayton, Architect." Texas Architect 26 (July/August 1976): 51-52.
Fox, Stephen. "Texas 7." Architectural Review (November 1978).
Nesbitt, Robert A. The Port of Galveston Bicentennial Appointment Calendar and Compendium for 1976. [Galveston: private printing, 1976].
The Nicholas J. Clayton Papers contain 490 drawings (some unprocessed),.08 linear feet (1 inch) of archival material and one set of specifications, all dating from 1883 to 1901, for 18 projects which Clayton designed.
Other University of Texas collections containing Clayton related material include:
Alexander Architectural Archives. Texas Architectural Archive: Church of the Sacred Heart, Palestine, St. Edwards University Administration Building, Austin (poster), University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Galveston.
Center for American History: Oral interview of Lucy Clayton (grand daughter).
Other institutions with Clayton holdings: Rosenberg Library (Galveston, Tex.) (74-0004). Papers, 1874-1915.
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Copyright interests in this collection may not have been transferred to the University of Texas. Researchers assume full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply. Additionally, the public use of material must be cited. See citation information below.
Nicholas Joseph Clayton collection, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
Transferred to the Alexander Architectural Archives from the University of Texas at Austin, School of Architecture.
Drawings are not completely processed. For more information, please contact Archives' staff.
Drawings processed by: Lila Stillson and Hugh Boren
Date: Fall 1983
Processed by: Nancy Sparrow
Date: October 1992
Unpublished inventory in Archive.
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.