Ayres, Robert Moss (1898–1977)

By: Stephanie Hetos Cocke

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: April 15, 2022

Robert Moss Ayres, architect, one of two sons of Olive Moss and Atlee Bernard Ayres, was born on August 19, 1898, in San Antonio. He studied at San Antonio Academy, boarded at Haverford School, outside Philadelphia, and from 1918 until 1920 attended the School of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. There he received training in the theory and method of the École des Beaux-Arts under dean Paul Philippe Cret. After leaving the University of Pennsylvania in 1920, he worked in New York City for a year for the firm of Murchison, Lamb, and French. He returned to San Antonio in 1922 to begin working for his father. Two years later the firm become known as Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres, Architects.

Ayres married Florence Collet, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, on December 2, 1925, and they had four children. His wife's numerous community activities included the presidency of the Junior League of San Antonio and Timely Topics, a lecture group. She also was a founding board member of the Miss Porter's School Alumni Association of Texas and a member of the Battle of Flowers Association (see FIESTA SAN ANTONIO).

Ayres was responsible for many significant public buildings and residences in South Texas and beyond. The publication of fourteen building designs by the firm in Pacific Coast Architect in 1925 launched his firm's reputation beyond Texas and the central Southwest. His first major public commission was the thirty-story Smith-Young Tower (1929), a neo-Gothic skyscraper that still defines the San Antonio skyline. His residence for Mr. and Mrs. Lutcher Brown (1936) in the San Antonio suburb of Terrell Hills is an outstanding suburban Neoclassical home from that era. Other projects include the Administration Building at Randolph Air Force Base, known as the "Taj Mahal" (1931), and five buildings for the University of Texas, all designed with his father.

Among Ayres's architecture-related activities was a position as consulting architect to Good Housekeeping magazine in 1936. He was president of the West Texas (now San Antonio) chapter of the American Institute of Architects. His firm was the recipient of numerous awards, including a gold medal from the AIA in 1929 for the design of the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium, done in collaboration with George R. Willis and Emmett T. Jackson. Ayres served in the cavalry in World War I. He was a member of Christ Episcopal Church and belonged to several social clubs, including the German Club and the Order of the Alamo, which he served as president. His firm remained small and ceased operation after his death on August 7, 1977.

American Architects Directory. Chris Carson and William B. McDonald, eds., A Guide to San Antonio Architecture (San Antonio Chapter, American Institute of Architects, 1986). Files, Architectural Drawings Collection, Architecture and Planning Library, University of Texas at Austin. Anne Henderson, Revival Modes and Regionalism in the Early Twentieth Century: Atlee B. Ayres's Residential Designs for Suburban San Antonio (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1986).

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  • Architects

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Stephanie Hetos Cocke, “Ayres, Robert Moss,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ayres-robert-moss.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994
April 15, 2022