Atlee B. Ayres (1873-1969)


Ayres, Atlee B.

Personal Information

Birth/Death:    1873-1969
Occupation:    American architect
Location:    San Antonio, TX

This record has not been verified for accuracy.

AIA Affiliation

Member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 1912-
Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) 1931

Biographical Sources

American Architects Directories:
Biographical listing in 1956 American Architects Directory
Repeat of 1956 biographical listing in 1962 American Architects Directory
Biographical information:
Contributed by the Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas:
Atlee Bernard Ayres was born in Hillsboro, Ohio in 1873 to Nathan Tandy Ayres and Mary Parson Atlee Ayres. He moved to Houston, Texas in 1879 with his parents and two sisters, but eventually settled in San Antonio in 1888. In 1892, at the age of 19 years, Ayres worked in the San Antonio architectural office of architect B.F. Trester as a draftsman. From 1892 to 1894, he attended architecture classes at the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art's school (under the supervision of Columbia University) where he received a typical Beaux-Arts education. He also attended the Art Students League and took painting lessons from Frank Vincent Dumont.
Ayres returned to San Antonio in 1894 to establish his own practice and teach in the San Antonio Art League. After marrying Olive Moss Cox in 1896, they moved to Mexico City where he was employed by George E. King. He again returned to San Antonio in 1898, working for himself until he formed a partnership in 1900 with C.A. Coughlin. The firm of Coughlin and Ayres was dissolved in 1905 upon Coughlin's death. During the early years of his own practice, from 1905 until 1921, Ayres designed numerous homes in the Colonial Revival style, as represented by the William Negley House (1901) and the Roy Hearne House (1910). After he established an independent practice, he began to experiment with other revival styles including the Renaissance Revival (David Strauss House of 1922) and Tudor Revival (J.D. Oppenheimer House of 1923). His firm was one of the few in Texas that explored the Prairie Style of Frank Lloyd Wright in homes for Frank Winerich (1913) and Lonnie Wright (1914). George Willis, a former designer for Frank Lloyd Wright, was employed by Ayres at this time, which may explain this sudden interest in Wrightian forms. Finally, Atlee Ayres formed his third and last partnership with his son Robert Moss Ayres between 1921 and 1930.
Ayres was also successful at obtaining large commissions for public buildings. While still in partnership with Coughlin, the firm was hired by The University of Texas to design a master development plan for the campus in Austin. Although their plan was never implemented, the firm designed the Woman's Building (1903; destroyed by fire in 1959) and the Engineering Building (1904). In 1908, after Coughlin's death, Ayres designed the Law Building (1908; demolished in 1972). All three of these buildings were designed in classical revival styles.
Ayres was a notable civic personality in San Antonio which earned him not only big residential and commercial commissions but some rather honorable appointments. In 1913 he appointed to the San Antonio's Beautiful Commission by Mayor Gus Jones. Ayres received other large state commissions when he was appointed State Architect by Governor James E. Ferguson in 1915. During his tenure with the state, he designed buildings for the State Land Office (1916 now the James Earl Rudder State Office Building), the State School for the Blind (1917), and made modifications to the mechanical systems of the State Capitol (1915-16).
Ayres' most important accomplishment was the development of a regional style that accommodated the Spanish heritage of San Antonio. Although his previous suburban residential work drew from the precedents of Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance, English Tudor Style, and even the Prairie Style, Ayres and his son were most remembered for their Spanish influenced style. Ayres became interested in Spanish sources as early as 1905 when he designed a Mission Revival house for L.J. Hart. In 1925, he traveled to Mexico to obtain photographs for a book published the next year entitled Mexican Architecture: Domestic, Civil and Ecclesiastical. In 1926, he travelled extensively in California where he photographed hundreds of Spanish inspired houses. It seems as though he was even considering moving his practice to California, as he obtained a license to practice in that state in 1925. Ayres' adaptation of the Spanish Revival architecture popular in California is evident in numerous houses, including the Thomas Hogg House (1923), the Amye Bozarth House (1927), the Dr. D.T. Atkinson House (1927 - now known as the Marion Koogler McNay Museum), and the John Brown House (1931) in Oklahoma City. He applied this style to public buildings as well, including the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium (1924; designed in association with Emmett Jackson and George Willis) and the Martin Wright Electric Company (1928). Between the years of 1924 and 1929, he authored several articles on both the missions of San Antonio and his Spanish-influenced designs.

Ayres led a very active social life and was involved in numerous civic activities throughout his lifetime. In 1937 he attained state licensing for architects and he served as the president of the Fiesta Association from 1911 to 1918. He achieved local and national recognition through many architectural Publications. Despite this he was still considered a practical man who worked well under the constraints of the client, climate, and the site to produce architecture with a strong sense of design and composition.

Ayres also made numerous contributions to the profession of architecture in the state. He was instrumental in obtaining state licensing of architects in 1937 and received license #3 from the State. Ayres played an influential role in bringing the first national convention of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to Texas in 1931. In addition, he was a charter member of the Texas Society of Architects and the West Texas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He was chosen as a Fellow of the AIA in 1931.
Atlee Ayres died on November 6, 1969. He was survived by his second wife, Katherine Cox Ayres and his two sons, Robert Moss Ayres and Atlee Tandy Ayres.

Related Records

Robert M. Ayres

Atlee B. & Robert M. Ayres (firm)

Archival Holdings

The American Institute of Architects Archives
      Membership file may contain membership application, Fellowship nomination, related correspondence. Contact the AIA Archives at archives@aia.org for further information.
Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas
Ayres and Ayres Papers, see Atlee B. & Robert M. Ayres (firm)