William Caswell House - 1904

Stacks Image 296
Stylistic influence(s): Classic Revival
Architect/Builder: A. O. Watson
Historic Use: Residence
Current Use: Office
Historical designations:
National Register of Historic Places
City of Austin Historic Landmark
Building History and Significant Persons Associated with the Building
Constructed circa 1904 by A.O. Watson of rusticated ashlar limestone in the Classic Revival style on land purchased by Louisa Caswell from Frank Brown, the second-story balcony of this home affords an excellent view of the Capitol. “From the central entrance bay is a one-story rounded portico supported by one-story composite columns projecting beyond the two-story gallery. A slightly larger one-story rounded porch projection with identical detail extends the southeast corner of the gallery. A square-shaped porte cochere also supported by one-story composite columns extends from the north facade. Each of these one-story porch extensions contains a wide entablature, flat roof and is crowned by a turned balustrade and finials. An identical balustrade is used across the second floor gallery, which has been enclosed in recent years. Originally the same balustrade also crowned the roof of the two-story gallery. The body of the house is constructed of rusticated limestone with smooth stone string courses at various levels. The large trabeated windows have a double hung sash. Creating a further picturesque quality is the irregular roofline with a profusion of gables, dormers and chimneys. The roof is basically hipped with gabled pavilions projecting from the north, west and south facades. The gables contain a single fan window or a Palladian window. The eaves of the gables, as well as those of the roofline, have wide extensions. A large hipped roofed dormer with a small central pediment projects from the roof on the main facade, while smaller dormers project from the north and south facades. An interesting feature in the south dormer is that it contains a chimney, rather than a window. At the rear of the house is a two-story hipped roofed garage which has been converted into a garage apartment.

Second son of Daniel Caswell, William T. Caswell (1877-1962) graduated from Vanderbilt in 1899 with a degree in civil engineering. He lived with his parents until his 1904 marriage to Vivian Brenizer, daughter of an Austin homeopath and a close friend of Ima Hogg, N.O. Brenizer. (One of Will’s sisters also married a Brenizer: Mrs. Willard Brenizer.) The newlyweds lived at 1608 Rio Grande (razed), where their first child was born circa 1905. William’s family resided in the Caswell House at 1502 West Avenue for over 50 years, until 1976.

Will started out as a cottonseed buyer for the family business, but after a few months started in business for himself buying and selling cotton. Besides operating the Austin Cotton Gin, known as “Big Gin,” he was president of the Capitol city Compress Company and of the San Marcos and Elgin Compress Companies. He also served as president of the Woodward Manufacturing Company in Austin. He became one of the leading cotton exporters in the United States. He also promoted real estate development and had timber holdings. He chaired the first city park commission, which acquired land for public parks. He was interested in athletics and developed the tennis center which bears his name at 24th and Lamar, donating half of the required money to build it. In 1900 when the dam broke, Will and his father hooked up the boiler at their cotton gin to the city power supply so the emergency services at the hospital could continue, and enabled the City to pump drinking water to its residents.

In 1978 Roy A. Bechtol and Corbin J. Robertson Jr. purchased and renovated the badly deteriorated residence for office use. The front door, beveled glass windows, stained glass, and inlaid oak floors in the entry are original. Handsome wainscot paneling is found throughout the downstairs. The front door, beveled glass windows, stained glass, and inlaid oak floors in the reception area are original. Minimal partitioning preserves the original floor plan.