Giles was an English architect and an unlikely Texan, but he had a
profound influence on building design in San
Antonio and helped define the architectural style best associated
with the Texas Hill
Giles was born in London in 1850. He studied architecture at King's
College but left England for a healthier climate after a bout with
rheumatic fever. The damp London air was bad for his health.
Courtesy Institute of Texas Cultures
in 1873 Giles came to Texas. He set up shop in downtown San
Antonio, at 114 West Houston Street. Over the next four decades
he designed between 90 and 100 of the most beautiful buildings in
South Texas and northern Mexico.
He designed county courthouses for Bexar, Brooks, El Paso, Gillespie,
Guadalupe, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Live Oak, Webb, and Wilson Counties.
He drew the plans for several homes in the historic King William District
in San Antonio and
the 1909 addition to the Menger
Hotel next door to the Alamo.
Giles left his mark all over the Texas
Hill Country - a place he came to love. In Fredericksburg
he designed the Gillespie
County Courthouse (now the Pioneer Memorial Library), the William
Bierschwale House at 110 N. Bowie Street, and the Bank of Fredericksburg
on Main Street (now Kowert Real Estate). He built the Morris Ranch
Giles designed the Charles Schreiner Mansion, the A. C. Schreiner
Jr residence, the Schreiner Store, and the Schreiner Bank. In Comfort
Giles designed the August Faltin Building, the Old Comfort Post Office,
the Ingenhuett-Faust Hotel, the Ingenhuett-Karger Saloon, and the
Paul Ingenhuett residence.
| The 1879 August
Faltin Building in Comfort
TE photo, 2008
Office Building: c. 1908
buildings are timeless, and yet they reflect the time and place in
which they were built. His style was Victorian with Spanish and German
His Hill Country residences, with native limestone walls, large windows,
narrow breezy rooms, deep porches, and rustic ironworks are a pitch
perfect reflection of 19th century Texas
Hill Country culture. His public buildings express strength, trust,
Giles had a deep respect for the Alamo defenders and designed a 163
foot high monument to honor them. Mrs. Maury Maverick and most city
leaders in San Antonio
supported the Giles monument, but the selection committee chose instead
(empty tomb), designed by Pompeo
Backers of the Giles' design were not kind to the Cenotaph.
J. Frank Dobie said the Coppini monument, the one that now stands
in Alamo Plaza, looked like "a grain silo."
Alfred Giles returned to London in 1885, but in less than a year he
was back in Texas. His time away from the Lone Star State made him
realize that he had become a Texan through and through. He missed
the Hill Country
and couldn't wait to get back to it.
He bought a 13,000 acre cattle and sheep ranch near Comfort.
He called it Hillingdon after his birthplace in England. He lived
at the ranch and was active in the daily operations. He was a member
of the Texas Cattle Raiser's Association and a founding member of
the Texas Sheep and Goat Raiser's Association.
When Giles traveled from Hillingdon to San
Antonio he rode a horse or a carriage to Comfort,
the Guadalupe Stage Line to Boerne,
and the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad to San
Antonio. He carried two homing pigeons with him. He released one
to let his wife know he had arrived safely in San
Antonio and the other to announce his plans for return.
Antonio City Cemetery - Alfred Giles Tombstone
photo, October 2007
photo, October 2007
Giles died at Hillingdon Ranch on August 13, 1920. He is buried beside
his wife in San Antonio City Cemetery.
He made our world more beautiful.
| © Michael
1, 2016 Column
The Handbook of Texas, Alfred Giles.
The San Antonio Daily Express, April 22, 1899, p4.
Kerrville Daily Times, December 1, 1991, p10, "Giles' Designs Dot
the Fredericksburg Stage by Michael Barr
"It was a beautiful moonlit night when the stage reached the
Gillespie County line. Giles, the only passenger, rode on top with
At 9:15 that evening, 3 and ½ miles southwest of Fredericksburg,
two bandits leaped from the brush and ordered the stage to halt."