The William R. Nash House is an early 20th century "Colonial Revival" house that employs the juxtaposition of two scales of Corinthian columns as its major architectural motif. The grand entrance portico, marked by two pairs of collossal columns and a highly-decorated and prominent attic- level pediment, is superimposed over balustraded porches on both the 1st and 2nd stories. The house is a 2 1/2-story modif fed rectangular block of wood-frame construction with a hipped roof and projecting gables. It sits on a 3/4 acre lot in the Houston neighborhood of Westmoreland, amid other large, early 20th century houses.
The houses on Westmoreland Street sit close to the sidewalk behind small yards. Balancing the grand proportions of the homes is a wide landscaped strip between the sidewalk and the street. The lots are flat with cultivated lawns and large trees. In front of the Nash House, at the street curb, is the original carriage stone inscribed with "Nash." From the street a wide concrete walk approaches the front steps of the house, which flare at the bottom. A gently curving, cast stone retaining wall frames these steps. Two large palm trees grow in the front yard, framing the house. Two large pecan trees tower over either side of the house and shrub- like plantings surround the foundation. A driveway at the west side of the lot leads from the street to a porte- cochere, and culminates at a 2-story carriage house in the northwest corner of the property.
The Nash House is a grandly-scaled, single-family house facing south on two lots at 215 Westmoreland Avenue between Garrott and Flora avenues. It has two primary stories, plus a finished attic and half basement. The house is a modified rectangle in plan with a 2-story semi- octagonal bay on the east side at its north corner, and a 2- story ell extending from the north side at its the west corner. A 1-story back porch, screened with latticework, spans the width of the ell. Between this shallow wing and the main block is a 1-story conservatory. A porte-cochere extends midway along the west side. The front (south) elevation has two identical bays framing the central portico. The two levels of porches extend across the facade and wrap the house on the east, culminating at the protruding bay. The first floor has four principal rooms around a grand entrance and stair hall, with kitchen and service facilities in the ell. On the second floor the bedrooms are arranged around a central semi-circular hall.
The house is set on a high, brick pier-and-beam foundation over a partial basement. It is of wood-frame construction covered with narrow milled (#117) cypress clapboard, painted uniformly white. The roof is hipped with projecting gables, and is covered with asbestos shingles. The focus; of the principal (south) facade is a centered portico which extends to the roof, terminating at a deep end- gable supported by four colossal fluted Corinthian columns. Above the capitals an unusually high and prominent entablature supports a molded and denticulated cornice. The cornice extends around the perimeter of the house, its wide eaves supported by closely spaced scroll brackets. The molding, dentils and brackets also extend along the raking cornice of the pediment and a lunnette hopper window is centered in the gable. The frame of this window is fancifully ornamented with a stylized keystone at the apex and feather carvings at the base on each side.
Beneath the pediment the 2nd-floor porch is gracefully bowed, adding drama to the entrance below. The rest of the 2nd-floor porch is unsheltered. At both porch levels, closely spaced, turned balusters are connected by a heavy handrail. At the first level the handrail rises before every connection to the small Corinthian columns which support the upper porch. At the 2nd level the balustrade is punctuated by squared, capped waist-height posts set in line with the columns below. Echoing the reduction in scale of the columns, other details on the first floor are purposefully reduced, bringing the pretentious scale of the portico down to a more comfortable human scale. In a witty contradiction, a single, over-scaled ornamental scrolled bracket extends over the entrance, beneath the bow of the porch.
The entrance doors are set within a columned alcove framed by squared Corinthian pilasters and segmented by two additional, even smaller, rounded Corinthian columns. The double front doors are heavy wood frames containing beveled, leaded, cut glass. They are matched by fixed side lights identical in size and design to each door, visually forming a 4-part entry. Above the doors a double-width transom is flanked by single-width transoms, all similar to the intricatelypatterned glass pieces below. In each of the outer bays a large-paned, floor-length window into the front parlors is capped by a transom light matching that over the front doors. On the 2nd floor, set directly above these windows are smaller double-sash (16/1) walk-through windows providing access to the upstairs porch from the front bedrooms. Carved wooden garlands drape over these 2nd-floor windows. They flank a semioctagonal projecting bay sheltered beneath the portico. A pair of diamond-paned Wrench windows with a decorative surround is set in the front face of the bay, and a walk-through double-hung window is in either return face. Capping the front elevation are two attic dormers set behind and on either side of the portico pediment. Corinthian pilasters and Baroque scrolled pieces frame the pedimented dormer windows which are detailed as a smaller version of the entrance portico.
On the east elevation a 2-story projecting bay is surmounted by another wide pedimented gable similar to that over the south entrance bay. In the left (south) side of the bay is a secondary entrance off of the 1st floor porch with a stairway leading to it from the side yard. The door is half lit with a plain transom above it. An elongated art glass window is set in the outer face of the bay at the first level. At the second level the bay is lit by three 1/1 double-hung windows. A miniature Palladian window is cut into the gable end. Another attic dormer window extends from the main hipped roof at the left (south) of this pedimented gable. A plastered chimney rises on the exterior wall to the left of the bay and is flanked by windows on both levels. These and all of the non-ornamental windows in the house are 1/1 double-hung sash capped with a simple entablature molding.
The rear (north) facade is dominated by the 2-story ell with a 1story room placed in the elbow of the L accessed by a small back porch. The conservatory is to the left (east) of this room adjoining the dining room. A 1-story porch, screened with latticework, extends from the rear of the ell. Hipped-roof dormers are set in the main roof mass and that of the ell. Plastered chimneys rise at the intersection of the ell and at its northeast corner.
The west elevation of the Nash House is dominated by a balustraded porte-cochere whose roof provides a small balcony with a recessed porch off of the west-facing bedroom on the 2nd floor. The porte-cochere is supported by Corinthian columns on stone piers and has a cornice molding with dentils. A door into the house is sheltered beneath the portecochere. To the left (north) of the porte-cochere is a tripartite window, the central sash of which is leaded art glass. All other fenestration on the first and second levels follows the regular 1/1 pattern. At the attic level another pair of dormers, ornamented with Corinthian pilasters like those on the main facade, have diamond-paned, double-hung windows.
On the interior, the focus of the first floor is the grand entrance, separated from the stair hall behind by two fluted Corinthian columns set on paneled bases. The curving staircase embraces a built-in oak bench that curves out into the stair hall. On axis with the entrance, at the first stair landing, is a richly-colored, art glass window depicting a goddess-type figure amid floral designs. All rooms on the first floor have 14-foot ceilings and plastered walls. Floors are narrow oak boards, except in the conservatory which has drained, tile flooring.
Flanking the entrance hall are front parlors, each separated from the hall by large pocket doors. The east parlor, or library, has a massive brick fireplace with variously molded decorative brickwork, including an egg and dart design. Pocket doors separate the library from the dining room behind. The dining room has two art glass windows in deep blue and green tones: one centered high on the east wall in the projecting bay; the second and larger one set as a semi-circular transom into the arched doorway leading into the conservatory. In this doorway double, wood- framed beveled glass doors are flanked by fixed beveled glass panels. The ceiling of the dining room is decorated with deep, paneled false beams which have been painted. On the west wall of the dining room are doors leading to the stair hall and to the butler's pantry and kitchen. In the northwest corner of the house are the side entry hall from the porte-cochere, a service stair to the basement and a powder room (still with original fixtures).
On the 2nd floor, the main staircase from the entrance hall enters a semi-circular hall around which three bedrooms, two sitting rooms and two bathrooms are centered. Ceilings on this floor are 11 feet high, walls are finished with plaster and the floors are oak. The back staircase leads from the main floor to the attic level, a large open area originally used as a billiard room.
The 2-story carriage house in the northwest corner of the property echoes design features of the main house. The walls are sheathed in narrow clapboard (#117), painted white, and the hipped roof is covered with asbestos shingles. A pedimented gable is centered in the roof, flanked by gabled dormers. The other windows are 1/1 double- hung sash. The carriage house contains three generous-sized servants' rooms over stalls for horses and a carriage. It is being converted to a 2-car garage with storage and work rooms.
The Nash House was completed in 1907 and has had no additions or significant alterations, with the exception of the kitchen, which was remodeled in the early 1970s. The small, multi-paned windows of the conservatory were replaced with large, fixed panes. A swimming pool, added on the east side of the house, does not interfere with the original structure. The house is currently undergoing a careful rehabilitation.
The William R. Nash House is the most intact example of an elaborate, classically-influenced "Colonial Revival" house still occupied as a single-family residence in Houston and is the best extant example of the work of the Houston architectural firm of H.C. Cooke & Co. It is also one of the most prominent houses in the Houston subdivision of Westmoreland, which was the first "private place" subdivision planned in Houston (1902). The property, therefore, meets National Register Criterion C as a fine example of its architectural style and for the urban planning qualities of its setting. In the early 1930s the Nash House was the residence of Mrs. John Wesley Graham Jr. who was responsible for the establishment of Houston's first opera company, and provided lodgings for Uriel Nespoli, the first resident conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. The Nash House is being nominated at the local level of significance in the area of Architecture. Contextually it relates to the Colonial Revival architectural trend in Texas from about 1900 to 1914.
During the first two decades of the 20th century the Colonial Revival style was widely adopted by wealthy Texans for the construction of their new homes. The grand scale and classical iconography provided a strong statement of wealth and stature in growing Texas cities. The Colonial Revival, as used in this sense, refers to large houses in which frontal symmetry and use of classical detailing were emphasized. These houses tended to repeat the large scale of their Victorian predecessors with high ceilings, extremely large plate glass windows and elaborate entrance doorways. In place of turrets or towers, vertical emphasis was achieved with a central, double-height portico, often supported by paired columns. Inset below the portico often were double-level porches, supported by classical colonnettes joined by railings fitted with turned balusters. It was not unusual for porches to extend across the front and around one or both sides of the house. A porte-cochere was another recurring feature. These houses were heavily influenced by the Classical Revival style, but incorporated elements which were perceived to have early American associations, and so was popularly dubbed as "Colonial Revival."
The Philadelphia Centennial of 1876 stimulated a surge of interest in American colonial architectural forms. The firm of McKim, Mead & White was largely responsible for fostering this interest and designing the first prototypical residences in the style. In 1877 Charles McKim led a study tour of New England's colonial houses to establish academic precedents for the architectural movement he championed. Ultimately the Colonial Revival house of the late 19th century was a vast departure from the archeologically correct colonial house. Probably the greatest change was the attachment of prominent porches to the Colonial Revival house. Of course, porches and porticoes offered a real convenience that the late-Victorians were not willing to give up. Furthermore, it has been suggested (McAlester, p. 346) that Mount Vernon, with its full-width gallery added in 1784, provided the most familiar popular image of a colonial house and thereby perpetuated the false association of the classically-derived porch with colonial architecture.
The Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago further blurred the line between Colonial Revival and Classical Revival houses. The Virginia state pavilion was a copy of Mount Vernon, bringing once again before the public eye the image of the classical porch overlaid on a Georgian House. Several state pavilions used full-height entry porches, and the Connecticut pavilion had a full-height portico over a full-width porch. Tim Matthewson (formerly Curator of Education and Interpretation at the McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont, speaking at the McFaddin-Ward 1987 conference "The American Home in Transition") identified the Connecticut State Building as the prototype for the classically derived Colonial Revival houses that became popular throughout the U.S. The Nash House conforms to this prototype quite literally.
The earliest house in Texas to exhibit Colonial Revival components and detailing was built about 1887 by San Antonio architect James Riely Gordon as his own residence. Gordon was directly influenced by architectural trends on the east coast in the late 19th century, and specifically by the work of McKim, Mead & White, the preeminent American Beaux- Arts practitioners. While Gordon introduced the Colonial Revival style to Texas with the construction of his own house, it remained a rarity for more than a decade. Not until after the turn of the century in Texas did asymmetrically-massed and towered Victorian house types give way to houses in the more formal, only slightly quieter Colonial or Classical Revival style.
The Colonial Revival style was introduced in Houston in 1902-03 when the J.S. Rice House was built at 2304 Crawford. The Rice House had no pediment but was topped instead with a rather baroque dormer. The design has been attributed to H.C. Cooke & Co., but S.A. Oliver became the architect of record. In the decade following construction of the Rice House most large residences constructed in and around Houston were of monumental proportions with classical gestures described at the time as Colonial Revival. The Edward R. Richardson House, built in 1903, represented an early local attempt to be more authentically colonial, reflecting a broader recognition after the turn of the century of the archeologically correct elements of colonial construction. In Texas, however, the preference remained for the grandiose amalgamations of classical and Georgian elements know as Colonial Revival. The Rice House was demolished in 1933, and the Richardson House was moved to a new site in 1924 and is no longer in residential use. The Robert Crews Duff House (1911) at McGowan and Milam streets is the only extant Colonial Revival house that approaches the decorative complexity of the Nash House. However, it has been moved from its original site, has lost its portecochere wing, and stands vacant in a deplorable condition. Two Colonial Revival houses survive in the Courtland Place Historic District (NR 1980): the James L. Autry House and the J.J. Carroll House. Both were constructed in 1912 in a much more subdued and horizontal version of the Colonial Revival, reflecting their late construction date.
The McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont (1906, NR 1971) is strikingly similar to the Nash House, and both appear to have been based on the prototype of the Connecticut State Building. Other less closely related variations on the Colonial Revival house were once numerous, appearing in most Texas cities. However, because most were constructed in neighborhoods developed before the institution of comprehensive restrictive covenants or zoning codes, Colonial Revival houses have been all too often demolished or remodeled for multiple occupants or nonresidential use. In Houston, where more than 50 large houses of this type were constructed between 1903 and 1914, fewer than 10 remain. Still on its original site and occupied as a single- family residence, the Nash House is architecturally significant in Houston as the best surviving representative of a once-popular, large, elaborately detailed house type.
The Nash House was designed by H.C. Cooke & Co., a Houston architectural firm. Henry Collier Cooke (1852-1920) received his architectural training in his native England and in Italy. In 1890 his family immigrated to the United States, first to Iowa where they lived for one year before coming to Texas in 1891. Cooke practiced in Galveston, then in Corsicana before establishing himsell in Houston around 1900. His son, William A. Cooke, also an architect, joined the firm in 1905. Extant Houston examples of H.C. Cooke & Co. work are two sections of the Houston Ice and Brewing Company (Magnolia Brewery) at 110 Milam Street (1906, NR 1985) and 719 Franklin Avenue (1912, NR 1985). The Macatee Warehouse also survives at 103 Austin Avenue (1905-06, NR 1984). Other notable Cooke projects in Houston that have been demolished include the Macatee and Milby Hotels, the Beatty Building, the Central Fire Station, the Waddell Building, the Prince Theater, the Magnolia Dairy Products Co. Building, four Reisner warehouses, and the Stephen F. Austin School. Cooke & Co. also designed the rambling Colonial Revival house of Camille G. Pillot in 1910 (now demolished). A modest house that H.C. Cooke built for himsell but occupied only briefly still stands at 116 Hawthorne in Westmoreland. H.C. Cooke was specifically identified with the production of ornate, classically detailed buildings in Houston and the Nash House is the only remaining example of this facet of his career.
The Nash House occupies two lots on Westmoreland Avenue, the principal street in Houston's Westmoreland addition. Westmoreland was the first Houston subdivision to be patterned after the private places of St. Louis. "Private places" were small planned subdivisions with a designed landscape, often focused on a broad Boulevard set off by decorative gates or walls. They used large lots, design controls and restrictive covenants to achieve the effect of grandeur desired in these urban enclaves. Westmoreland was developed by the South End Land Co. whose president, W.W. Baldwin, was a Burlington, Iowa, railroad executive. He retained Julius Pitzman (1837-1923), the St. Louis civil engineer responsible for most of St. Louis' private place neighborhoods, to design Westmoreland in 1902. In St. Louis Pitzman had designed Benton Place (1868), Vandeventer Place (1870), and Forest Park Addition (1888) comprising Portland and Westmoreland Places. Houston's Westmoreland, named for its St. Louis predecessor, deviated from the standard St. Louis profile. Its main thoroughfare had no landscaped median. Instead, extremely wide setbacks substitute between the curb and sidewalks. Originally piers and street gates defined the entrance of Westmoreland Avenue as in the St. Louis prototype, but these have been demolished.
The 44-acre tract laid out as Westmoreland Place was at the terminus of the south end streetcar line and developed after the turn of the century. The first large house to be erected in Westmoreland was that of Mrs. J.P. Waldo. It was built in 1886 at another location, but was dismantled by her son Wilmer, an engineer, and reconstructed and redesigned at 201 Westmoreland between 1904 and 1905, next to the site of the Nash House. Side by side the Nash and Waldo houses indicate the level of domestic grandeur that characterized Westmoreland when it was first developed. The Nash House, with its size and elaborate detailing, is the most readily recognized landmark in this neighborhood.
William Rufus Nash (1860-1930) was born April 20, 1860, in Watertown, New York, and adopted by E.D. Nash, a merchant, and his wife Catherine. By the time Nash was two months old the family was residing in Brazoria County, Texas, according to the 1860 U.S. census. He grew up in Brazoria County, where he became a successful rancher and cattle breeder. He was vice president of the First Capitol State Bank of West Columbia, and vice president of the Houston Agricultural Credit Union. Nash had extensive oil holdings in what is known as the Nash dome, part of the Nash Ranch in Brazoria County where oil was found in 1902. He was also a member of several civic organizations in West Columbia and Houston and donated land for construction of the Armstrong Memorial Methodist Church in West Columbia in 1913.
In 1885 W.R. Nash married Ina Young (1865-1933). They had one daughter, Katherine. Finding it desirable to have a city residence in Houston, the Nashes purchased lots 14 and 15 of block 4 in Westmoreland on December 20, 1906, from Dora Young and Frank B. Weeks. Mrs. Weeks was Mrs. Nash's sister. The Weeks' had apparently purchased several lots in Westmoreland and resided nearby. A construction contract between the Nashes and contractor Albert Baring was signed on December 28, 1906, perhaps indicating that H.C. Cooke had been at work on the plans for the house before the site was selected. The building permit was issued on January 8, 1907, for a "twelve-room house and barn" costing $10,000. The house was completed the following year and the Nashes moved to Houston from their Brazoria Ranch.
With his increasing oil interests, Nash probably found it advantageous for business reasons to have a permanent residence in Houston. However, the lengthy report of Kitty Nash's elaborate wedding in 1909 reveals that a wealthy family with an eligible daughter needed such a base for social reasons as well. Headlined "Brilliant Wedding," lengthy Houston Daily Post article of December 9, 1909, announced the wedding of Kitty Nash to growing Groce. It gave a detailed account of the house on Westmoreland, which the article named "Sowania," where the reception took place after the wedding at Christ Church.
During two periods the Nash family returned to their ranch in Brazoria County and leased the house on Westmoreland. In 1917 and 1918 J. Frank Cullinan lived there while he was president and manager of operations for the Producer Oil Company. Cullinan had come to Texas with his brother J.S. Cullinan at the turn of the century and formed the Texas Fuel Oil Co., which grew into the Texas Company, later named Texaco. William P. Hobby, Governor of Texas from 1917 to 1921, leased the house in 1926 after he moved to Houston from Beaumont to become editor of the Houston Post- Dispatch.
When W.R. Nash died of a heart attack in 1930, Mrs. Nash and her widowed daughter moved to the Nash Ranch permanently and leased the house again. After Mrs. Nash's death three years later, Mrs. Groce continued to lease the house for the next 12 years. Mr. and Mrs. John Wesley Graham, Jr. lived in the Nash House from 1930 to 1933. Mr. Graham was president of the Graham Hat Company. Mrs. Graham was a well-known music patron. She was listed in the "Who's Who" section of the Standard Blue Book of Texas and was one of the very few women in "Men of Texas" biographies in the 1926 edition of the New Encyclopedia of Texas. She was president of the Texas Music Teachers Association and founder of the Houston Civic Opera Company, which became the Texas Grand Opera Association. In 1933 she staged "Aide" at Chicago's Century of Progress for more than 60,000 people. Most significantly, Mrs. Graham was instrumental in bringing the preeminent Italian conductor Uriel Nespoli to Houston. Nespoli lived with the Grahams as their guest and used one room of the Nash House as his studio, perhaps the third floor billiard room, where Houston's first grand opera auditions took place. Between 1930 and 1931 Nespoli put together an orchestra of 47 professionals and amateurs that eventually became the new Houston Symphony Orchestra with Nespoli as its conductor. The Symphony had been organized in 1913, but was discontinued during World War I; with Nespoli's arrival in Houston under the sponsorship of Mrs. Graham, the Symphony was revived.
From 1934 to 1936, O.H. Carlisle leased the Nash House and from 1936 to 1939 attorney Frank C. Jones was the renter. In 1941 June L. Beckley and his wife Pearl leased the house until they were able to purchase it from Mrs. Groce in 1945. Beckley was president of B&J Spring Company. The Beckleys lived in the Nash House until their deaths without making any alterations to the house. They did purchase additional land (lots 13, 16 and 1/2 of 17), more than doubling the size of the property. Helen B. Boehler, the Beckleys' daughter, inherited the house and sold it in 1969 to Caroline and John Delaney. The Delaneys updated the mechanical systems and added the swimming pool, but did not alter the house. At this time two lots were sold off from the property. In 1975 the Nash House was sold to Rebecca and Charles Zeller who remodeled the kitchens and redecorated the house. The Nash House was purchased from them in 1979 by Judge and Mrs. Roy H. Hofheinz who intended to restore the house. (Hofheinz had been county judge of Harris County and mayor of Houston from 1953 to 1955. In the 1960s he was responsible for the construction of the Astrodome.) Judge Hofheinz died shortly after purchasing the Nash House. It was tied up in his estate until July, 1985, when it was purchased by the current owners, Carolyn and Ronald W. Crockett. The house is currently undergoing a careful rehabilitation.