Notes and Documents
The House Sam Houston Never Built
AMONG THE ANNOYANCES THOMAS U. WALTER FOUND IN HIS WORK
as Architect of the Capitol in Washington (1851-1865) was the
frequent pressure to design houses gratis for senators and congress-
men. One such project was drawn in the winter of 1859 for Sam Hous-
ton, then nearing the end of his thirteen years in the United States
Senate. Copies of the drawings and related materials for this Texas
house, which was never built, are among the extensive Thomas Ustick
Walter Papers recently acquired by The Athenaeum of Philadelphia.?
Walter, architect of the Capitol expansion program of the 185os and
186os, is best known for his design of the great cast-iron dome that is
the Capitol's most conspicuous feature. Though not brought to com-
pletion until after the Civil War, construction of the dome was under
way in 1859, when Senator Houston conferred with Walter about
building a house in Texas. The two men provide interesting con-
trasts and similarities. Each was a rough-cut, self-made sort: Walter
having begun his career as a bricklayer and mason; Houston, a tough-
ened son of the backwoods. Walter had become one of the most fa-
mous architects in the United States, with such buildings to his credit
as Philadelphia's Girard College and now the expansion of the Capitol;
Houston, who responded very little, if at all, to the visual arts, had
led a life of adventure filled with military and political achievements
*William Seale is a historian who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. He is currently writing
a two-volume history of the White House for the White House Historical Association in
1The papers containing the Houston project were discovered in Colorado in 1972 by
Robert B. Ennis of Philadelphia, in the course of his extensive research on Thomas U.
Walter. In 1979 The Athenaeum of Philadelphia held a major exhibition of Walter's
drawings and related materials, under the direction of Ennis, who at this time is pre-
paring a selected catalogue of the Thomas U. Walter Papers.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/. Accessed April 26, 2015.