Williams, David Reichard (1890–1962)

By: Wayne Gard

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 13, 2020

David Reichard Williams, who developed the indigenous Texas ranch-style house, was born in Childress on October 17, 1890, the son of Thomas Arnold Barlow and Rebecca (Raworth) Williams. David was the twin brother of Daniel Mortimer Williams. Most of David's early education was obtained at home and through correspondence courses, and at age fifteen he began work with the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway System, first in construction work and then in the company's repair shops in Childress. From 1912 to 1916 he studied architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also did artwork for the Cactus yearbook and the Daily Texan newspaper. In 1916, without having received a degree, he took a job as a civil engineer for Gulf Oil Corporation in Tampico, Mexico, where he planned buildings, pipelines, pumping stations, narrow-gauge railways, camps, and small hospitals. For 2½ years, between 1920 and 1923, he traveled, studied, and sketched in Europe. In 1924 he began work as an architect in Texas, with headquarters in Dallas. The distinctive type of house that Williams developed was based on his study of early Texas homes, many of which were built by Germans and Czechs. The Williams house, designed for roomy comfort, caught the summer breeze but protected against glare. This sturdy, functional type of home, designed to meet regional needs, was adopted by many other architects.

Williams was married to Louise Lyle Givens on December 31, 1934; they had one daughter. From 1933 to 1950 he worked for various government agencies as a planner and consultant. The Woodlake Cooperative Agricultural Community (in Woodlake, Trinity County), for farm families displaced by the Great Depression, was under his supervision and planning. He helped plan the Matanuska Valley farm community near Anchorage, Alaska; served as deputy administrator of the National Youth Administration; and wrote its architectural style manual, NYA Architecture: Design and Standards. He worked on the restoration and reconstruction of La Villita in San Antonio in 1939 and during World War II worked for the government designing numerous defense housing projects. After the war he assisted in United Nations work, restoring agricultural areas and fisheries in China and constructing resettlement housing for European refugees in Venezuela. His last years were spent in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he promoted the idea of a bayou-type, raised-cottage style of colonial French architecture. In 1960 the American Institute of Architects elected him a fellow. David Williams died in Lafayette on March 10, 1962, and was buried there. Most of his papers were placed in the archives of the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette. His photographs of early Texas houses, which inspired his use of indigenous architecture, are in the Alexander Architectural Archive of the University of Texas Libraries; copies were placed in the Library of Congress.

Dallas Morning News, February 26, 1949, November 11, 1957, February 29, March 11, 1960, March 11, 1962. Wayne Gard, "The Ranch-house Goes to Town," Better Homes and Gardens, June 1937. Muriel Quest McCarthy, David R. Williams: Pioneer Architect (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1984). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Architecture
  • Architects
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Wayne Gard, “Williams, David Reichard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/williams-david-reichard.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 13, 2020

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