Written by Sandra Smith
Earlier this month, Villa Finale held the first in a series of hard hat tours.
For those who don’t know, Villa Finale is the newest National Trust Historic Site, located in San Antonio, Texas. Villa Finale was the home of Walter Mathis, a leading preservationist widely recognized as the catalyst for the revitalization of the King William neighborhood, now a National Register Historic District. In addition to his work in King William, Mr. Mathis was an advocate for city and statewide historic preservation, as well as a civic and cultural leader.
Mr. Mathis’s legend took root when he restored 14 houses in King William after 1967 and before his death in 2005. It’s this legacy that forms the basis of Villa Finale’s mission in neighborhood preservation.
Since 2006, the Villa Finale staff has been working hard to plan and prepare for a restoration of Villa Finale. Much of Mr. Mathis’s excellent 1967 restoration of the home must be renewed, and the ideal time for such an undertaking is before we are fully open for business.
As part of our mission to teach neighborhood preservation, the Villa Finale staff is inviting the public into the house to see the restoration work in progress. The project includes:
- Windows and doors. All exterior windows and doors will be repaired and weatherstripped in order to be more efficient and to maintain a better interior environment for the collection.
- Exterior woodwork. The wood of the porches will be examined and replaced as needed.
- Interior restoration. The interior of the entire second floor will be repainted or re-wallpapered, interior moulding repaired or replaced, and a water-damaged ceiling repaired.
- Accessibility. The addition of a lift will make the first floor of Villa Finale accessible. The Carriage House will be made accessible as well, particularly with the addition of an accessible restroom for visitor comfort. Paths throughout Villa Finale’s grounds will be leveled to eliminate tripping hazards.
- Creation of collections storage and curatorial workshop. The garage portion of the carriage house will be adapted to be a collections storage area, including a dedicated HVAC system, and workstations will be added for the care of the collections as well as public workshops.
- Masonry evaluation. An evaluation of the entire masonry structure to develop a plan for its long-term care.
- Landscape. An efficient irrigation system will be installed, the formal garden restored, and volunteer trees removed.
Each hard hat tour will be different, depending on the progress of the restoration project. Accompanied by the Buildings and Grounds Manager and the Curator, visitors will have the opportunity to learn all the details of this complicated project – made all the more complicated by the fact that Mr. Mathis’s extraordinary 12,000-piece decorative arts collection will remain in the house!
We look forward to sharing our work with you – please join us! Dates and details of the tours are available on our website, including information on our Spanish-language tour next month.
Sandra Smith is the director of Villa Finale.