Texas Archival Resources Online


Collection Summary

Biographical Sketch of Alfred Giles (1853-1920)

Scope and Content of the collection


Index Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

References to works by or about Alfred Giles (1853-1920)

Description of Series

Series: Drawings

University of Texas, Alexander Architectural Archive

Alfred Giles drawings

Collection Summary

Creator: Giles, Alfred, 1853-1920
Title: Alfred Giles drawings
Dates: 1878-1907
Abstract: Architect Alfred Giles (1853-1920) was born in London and emigrated to the United States, starting his own practice in San Antonio in 1876. He opened a branch office in Monterrey, Mexico and extended into Northern Mexico, while maintaining his practice in Texas. Giles is known for his designs of county courthouses, public buildings, and private residences he designed in central Texas and Mexico. While the majority of the materials documenting his career were lost or destroyed, the collection contains a small selection of drawings for a few projects.
Identification: GILES 1985002
Quantity: 29 drawings
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Biographical Sketch of Alfred Giles (1853-1920)

ALFRED GILES (1853-1920). Alfred Giles, son of Thomas and Sophie Brown Giles, was born at Hillingdon, Middlesex, England, on May 23, 1853. He attended the Proprietary School at Gravesend, Kent, for four years, beginning in January of 1864. A member of the Church of England, he had a boyhood ambition to enter the ministry. Upon finishing school at seventeen, Giles chose his life's work and was apprenticed to the architectural firm of Giles and Bivens in London. The senior partner, John Giles, was not related to Alfred. As part of his training, he attended classes in the arts of construction at King's College, University of London. Upon completion of the two-year term of apprenticeship, Alfred Giles was employed by the firm for a brief period. In 1873, the young architect immigrated to the United States and, for health reasons, settled in Texas. He worked for three years in the office of John H. Kampmann, a successful San Antonio contractor, from whom he acquired skill in the use of locally available building materials, especially stone. When Giles established his own firm in 1876, the dreary period of Reconstruction was coming to an end. Ranchers, farmers and merchants grew prosperous, and San Antonio became a focal point of commerce and amusement for a vast area. The advent of the railroad in 1877 greatly expanded the choices of building materials, and returning travelers brought with them newly acquired tastes for novelty. Indeed the Victorian period was characterized by rapid changes of style, and Giles' work reflected a great variety of styles derived from architectural forms of the past, usually in more or less new combinations. Giles' own means of expression, however, always took precedence over novelty of fashion. The sobriety and simplicity with which he adapted and combined these stylistic elements suggests that he exercised strong control over his work and that he preferred restraint. A reserved use of ornament and a strong feeling for symmetry, even in asymmetrical compositions, characterize his approach.

Giles produced unpretentious domestic residences and showy mansions, as well as commercial and institutional structures for clients who were the makers of San Antonio, especially the Mavericks, the altruistic developers of Alamo Plaza and Houston Street for whom Giles designed twenty major structures, and the Terrell family for whom he designed at least seven. Indeed, San Antonio was a Giles town with forty structures to his credit in the central city alone by 1900. Families in other Texas towns were also loyal clients, especially Captain Charles Schreiner of Kerrville and the Faltin and Ingenhuett families of Comfort.

GILES' MONTERREY OFFICE: At the turn of the century, a brilliant architect named Atlee Ayres began to claim most of the prestigious jobs in San Antonio. Giles' response was to open a branch office in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico and extend his practice throughout Northern Mexico, while maintaining his practice in Texas. Again it was a propitious move and the architect known there as Alfredo Giles was an immediate success. The dictatorial Mexican president, Profino Diaz (1877-1911), gave preferential treatment to foreign interest as a means of bringing his country into the modern epoch. In concert with the industrialists who were his clients, Giles designed eight major buildings within four blocks in downtown Monterrey, as well as eleven building in the state of Chihuahua for General Luis Terrazas who quite literally owned the state.

The Revolution of 1910 curtailed Giles' practice in Mexico, but he continued to find work there until his death in 1920. His buildings in Mexico, interestingly enough, have long been a source of great pride and most have been maintained in a better state of preservation than their counterparts in the U.S.

SERVICE TO THE PROFESSION: Despite his far-flung enterprises, Alfred Giles served his profession well, presiding at the organizational banquet of the Society of San Antonio Architects on August 6, 1908. He was also chosen chairman of the Texas State Association of Architects when they reorganized in 1908 in Austin. Both of these attempts to organize failed. In 1928, the state group finally formed a lasting alliance, and another San Antonio architect, Ralph Cameron, was elected its first president.

FAMILY MAN: On December 15, 1885, Alfred Giles married Annie Laura James, daughter of John James, surveyor of Bexar County. They had eight children of whom only survived to adulthood.

VISIONARY RANCHER: After 1885, with the proceeds of his inheritance (extensive real estate holdings in London) the architect began purchasing land near Comfort, Texas. His partner in land ownership was his brother-in-law, Judge John Herndon James. The ranch, named Hillingdon after the family seat in England, soon comprised 13,000 acres where horses, mules, registered Aberdeen-Angus cattle and Angora goats grazed. Giles was a founding member of the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers' Association and a member of the Texas Cattle Raisers' Association. He instituted progressive land management practices that have been continued by his family to the present day. [Hillingdon Ranch was featured in the March 1999 issue of National Geographic in an article by John Graves.]

On August 13, 1920, at Hillingdon Ranch. Alfred Giles died. He is buried beside his wife, who died in 1909, in City Cemetery Number 1 in San Antonio.

-Entry prepared by Mary Carolyn Hollers George

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Scope and Content of the collection

This record group contains 29 drawings for two buildings (1878-1907): the August Faltin Store in Comfort, Texas and the Sullivan Carriage House in San Antonio.

The 7 representations of the original August Faltin Store (1878) are drawn in ink on linen. The one set of blueprints is for the ca. 1907 addition to that building.

The 15 drawings of the Sullivan Carriage House (1896) are photostatic copies. Included are photocopies of this project's specifications (supplied by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library).

Giles' office in the Soledad Block of San Antonio was entirely destroyed by fire in the spring of 1892. Materials from Giles' practice 1892-1920 were lost in the 1940s.

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Policies Governing Use and Access

This collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using archival materials. As all or portions of this collection may be housed off-site, advance notice of at least three working days is required for retrieval. Certain items may require additional time for flattening or humidifying before they can be viewed. Access is by appointment only. Please contact the archives' reference staff for further information.

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasions of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person).

The Alexander Architectural Archives operate in accordance with applicable federal or state laws and regulations, providing unrestricted access to university records not covered by state and federal right to privacy acts.

The Alexander Architectural Archives, The University of Texas Libraries, and The University of Texas at Austin, assume no responsibility for infringement of literary property rights and copyright or for liability to any person for defamation or invasion of privacy that results from a researcher's use of collections.

Researchers agree to indemnify and hold harmless The University of Texas at Austin, and their officers, employees, and agents from and against all suits, claims, actions, and expenses arising out of use of collections held by the libraries. Please alert staff if anything inappropriate is found during research.

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.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Texas Online Catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Giles, Alfred, 1853-1920
August Faltin Store (Comfort, Tex.)
Sullivan Carriage House (San Antonio, Tex.)
Commercial buildings
Stables--Designs and plans
Architecture--United States
Richardsonian Romanesque
Romanesque revival (Architecture)
Comfort (Tex.)
Document types:
architectural drawings (visual works)
working drawings

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Related Materials found in the Alexander Architectural Archives

The Ayres and Ayres Records in the Alexander Architectural Archives also contain two sheets of blueprints of the Kendall Inn in Boerne, Texas (ca. 1910).

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Administrative Information


Alfred Giles drawings, Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

Processing Information

Drawings processed by: Lila Knight, 1980, 1985

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Other Finding Aids

Unpublished inventory in Archive.

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References to works by or about Alfred Giles (1853-1920)

Note: This select bibliography was compiled by Mary Carolyn Hollers George. For a full bibliography, refer to George's book listed below.

Alexander, Drury Blakeley. Texas Homes of the 19th Century. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1966.

Archdiocese of San Antonio 1874-1949. San Antonio, Texas, 1949.

Art Work of San Antonio 1894. Chicago: W.H. Parish Publishing Co., 1894.

Barnes, Charles Merritt. Combats and Conquests of Immortal Heroes. San Antonio: Guessaz and Ferlet Co., 1910.

Bennett, Bob. Kerr County Texas 1856-1956. San Antonio: Naylor Co., 1956.

Broaddus, J. Morgan. The Legal Heritage of El Paso. El Paso: Texas Western College Press, 1963.

Chabot, Frederick C. With the Makers of San Antonio. San Antonio: Yanaguana Society, 1937.

Corner, William, ed. San Antonio de Bexar. San Antonio: Bainbridge and Corner, 1890.

Coursey, Clark. Courthouses of Texas. Brownwood: Banner Printing Co., 1962.

Davis, Richard Harding. The West from a Car-Window. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1892.

Falvella, J.W. A Souvenir Album of Laredo. Laredo: J.W. Falvella, 1917.

George, Mary Carolyn Hollers. Alfred Giles: an English architect in Texas and Mexico. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1972.

George, Mary Carolyn Hollers. The Architectural Legacy of Alfred Giles: Selected Restorations. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2006.

Hagner, Lillie Mae. Alluring San Antonio. San Antonio: Lillie Mae Hagner, 1940.

Haley, J. Evetts. Charles Schreiner, General Merchandise. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1944.

Handy, Mary Olivia. History of Fort Sam Houston. San Antonio: Naylor Co., 1951.

Harris, August Watkins. Minor and Major Mansions. Austin: August Watkins Harris, 1958.

Higher Publicity League of Texas. Greater San Antonio The City of Destiny and Your Destination. San Antonio: Higher Publicity League of Texas, 1923.

List of Architects and Classified Directory of First Hands in the Building Trades. Holyoke: Clark W. Bryan and Co., 1885.

Martinez, Ignacio, Jr. Apuntes Historicios del Banco de Nuevo Leon. Monterrey, Mexico: Banco de Nuevo Leon, 1959.

Mason, Herbert M., and Brown, Frank W. A Century on Main Plaza, A History of the Frost National Bank. San Antonio: Frost National Bank, 1968.

Morrison, Andrew, ed. Historic San Antonio, her prosperity and prospects. n.p.: Metropolitan Publishing Co., 1887.

Morrison, Andrew. The City of San Antonio, n.p.: Engelhardt, 1891.

Newcomb, Pearson. The Alamo City. San Antonio: Pearson Newcomb, 1926.

Norton, Charles G., ed. Men of Affairs of San Antonio. San Antonio: San Antonio Newspaper Artists' Association, 1912.

Pratt, Richard. House, History and People. New York: M. Evans and Co., Inc., 1965.

Ransleben, Guido E. A Hundred Years of Comfort in Texas. San Antonio: Naylor Co., 1954.

Reilly, J. S. San Antonio -- Past Present and Future. n.p., 1885.

San Antonio and Your First National Bank Through the Years. San Antonio: First National Bank of San Antonio, 1953.

Woolford, Sam and Bess. The San Antonio Story. San Antonio: Joske's of Texas, 1950.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series: Drawings

Series Abstract
Entries in the Drawings Series are indexed in alphabetical order by Client's name. If the client is not identifiable, the field will remain blank. Entries without client names are sorted by Project Name and listed before those that provide client's names. Furthermore, similar projects are sorted in chronological order by date. Project names are supplied by the cataloger, as title blocks on the drawings prove to be inconsistent and many drawings are not labeled. Dates are offered if they can be derived from the drawings or gathered from other authoritative sources. The term "drawing" includes both original works (such as pencil on trace paper, or ink on tracing clothe) as well as copies (such as sepia prints, blue line prints, etc.).
Project name: Store for August Faltin.
Date on drawings: 1878 - 1879
Primary archt/firm: Alfred Giles
Faltin, August
Project name: Store and office building for Faltin Brothers.
Date on drawings: 1907
Primary archt/firm: Alfred Giles
Faltin Brothers
Main and 7th Streets
Project name: D. Sullivan stable (carriage house). Working drawings.
Date on drawings: 1896
Primary archt/firm: Alfred Giles and Guindon Architects
Sullivan, D. Esq.
San Antonio

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