Exhibit: The Life and Work of Architect William Ward Watkin

William Ward Watkin, Supervising Architect, Rice University

William Ward Watkin, Supervising Architect, Rice University

New exhibit online & in Fondren Library!

As part of the Rice University Centennial celebration, the Woodson Research Center at the Fondren Library is mounting two exhibits profiling the architectural and academic career of William Ward Watkin and his profound effect on the development of Rice University and the city of Houston. The Life and Work of Architect William Ward Watkin is now available online, and the companion exhibit “William Ward Watkin: A Life in Images” can be found at the Woodson Research Center, 1st floor of the Fondren Library. The exhibits feature Watkin’s work at Rice, buildings and residences designed for his private practice, publications, and a profile of his eldest daughter, Ray Watkin Strange, and her support of her father’s legacy.

Watkin’s life

Born in 1886, Watkin grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated number one in his class in Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. After a year spent taking the Grand Tour in Europe and absorbing its architectural legacy, Watkin joined the Boston office of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson, then one of the most prominent architectural firms in the United States. At the time of Watkin’s employment, 1909, Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson had received the commission to produce a campus plan and to design the initial buildings of the Rice Institute in Houston, Texas. Watkin worked on the development of both the campus plan and the building plan in the Boston office, creating graceful adaptations of Neo-Byzantine architectural vernacular for the Institute; when construction was to begin in the summer of 1910 Watkin was sent to Houston to serve as the firm’s representative supervisor (see examples of Watkin’s work at the Rice Institute).

Rice Institute master plan, ca. 1911

Rice Institute master plan, ca. 1911

Watkin at the Rice Institute

As supervising architect he worked closely with Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett, President of the Rice Institute, and was offered a faculty appointment in Architectural Engineering at the Institute. Watkin became the first Chairman of the Rice Architecture Department, and began accepting independent commissions. He developed a thriving private practice in Houston and other Texas communities, designing buildings for educational institutions and other public spaces, commercial ventures, and residences (see examples of Watkin’s contributions to the community).


The original materials which these digitized versions represent are held by Rice University, Fondren Library, Woodson Research Center.

One thought on “Exhibit: The Life and Work of Architect William Ward Watkin

  1. Pingback: Architects in the Archives – William Ward Watkin (1886-1952) | What's in Woodson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s