Ayres Apparent

San Antonio’s architecture aficionados are all familiar with the work of turn-of-the-century architect Atlee B. Ayres (1873-1969).

The former State Architect of Texas partnered with his son Robert in 1924, and their successful firm created well-known works throughout Central and South Texas such as the Atkinson Residence (now known as the McNay Art Museum), the Woodward Residence (now known as the Women’s Club of San Antonio) and the Oppenheimer Residence, built is 1924 for Jesse Oppenheimer, Sr. The residence, located on Arcadia Place in Terrell Hills, is a grand English Tudor mansion that had fallen into some disrepair and risked demolition before being purchased by a couple who were dedicated to its historic reuse.

San Antonio architects Dan Wigodsky and Danny Derrick of Wigodsky & Derrick Architecture were familiar with the residence — Dan was friendly with some of Oppenheimer’s grandchildren, and when new homeowners called him to look at the project — which included a substantial addition — he knew it would take surgical attention to detail to get it right. The goal was to add a new garage, guest quarters and family room that seamlessly blended with the existing historic home.

“Most of the major timbers were rotted, the plaster in the gables had deteriorated, and the decorative brick had come loose, so we began with taking out windows and replacing all of the woodwork around the house,” shared Dan. Leaded glass windows were recreated and replaced where necessary. Additionally, a clunky stucco-clad family room addition with a window unit had been added along the way, and the entire addition needed to be removed.

The team set about finding matching brick immediately. The original home was built with red Clinker bricks. Clinker bricks originally came to be when the brick-firing kilns of the early 20th century — called brick clamps or “beehive” kilns — did not heat evenly, and the bricks that were closest to the fire emerged harder, darker and with more vibrant colors, according to the minerals present in the clay. Initially, these Clinkers were discarded as defective, but starting around 1900, they were salvaged by architects who found them to be usable, distinctive and charming. By scouring the Internet, the architects for the Arcadia House found perfectly matching salvaged brick in Iowa and had them shipped to San Antonio. The result of this effort is stunning, in that it’s practically impossible to distinguish the older portion of the home from the new addition.

The same attention to detail was paid to the roof. The original roof includes four different colors of slate tile. After removing damaged tiles and consolidating the remaining tiles to the front of the house, the designers worked with multiple quarries to find perfect matches for the balance of tiles needed. Again, old and new are virtually indistinguishable.

The interiors of the home are carefully decorated to reflect the home’s history. The interior study had an indoor pond that was removed, and as with so many other aspects of the remodel, the team was determined to hunt down the perfect match for the replacement tiles. “The tile, a Moravian tile, came from Mercer Tile Works, outside of Philadelphia,” shared Danny. “The grandson still runs the business, and he was able to find an original invoice from 1921 with the matching tiles.” (Moral of the story: save your receipts.)

Mostly, though, the downstairs interiors were repaired, freshened up and simplified where necessary. The only other significant change to the ground floor was to the living room fireplace, which did not originally have a mantel. Through a local marble supplier, the architects connected with a Florence-based sculptor, Mr. Oresanti, who painstakingly carved a massive new showpiece for the dramatic room. Upstairs, the team worked to completely re-imagine the space for the family, including a media room, generous closets and updated bathrooms.

“The clients really saved this home,” shares Dan. “Keeping the human quality of the materials and maintaining the craftsmanship was critical, and the quality is truly evident throughout.” The history of the home is magnified by the precision with which the owners and current architects restored it, and it’s safe to say that the legacy of Atlee B. Ayres is strong on Arcadia Place.u


ARCHITECT   Wigodsky & Derrick Architects

210-822-2400   |   www.wigodskyderrick.com