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FRIES, JOHN M. (ca. 1818–?). John (Johann) Fries, early architect and builder, was born in Bavaria, the son of Johann Moritz Fries, a veteran of Napoleon's Russian campaign. While he was still a youth, his family immigrated to America and settled in Dayton, Ohio. In 1846 Fries moved to Texas. The ship on which he was traveling was wrecked near Galveston, and he spent a brief time in the area before moving on to San Antonio around 1847. There Fries, trained as an architect and builder, settled and opened a practice. Over the course of the next several decades he designed and constructed numerous buildings and residences in and around San Antonio, including the City Market House (1858; razed 1926), the Menger Hotel (1859), the James Vance house (1859; razed), and the Nat Lewis and Tunstall homes. Fries also served as a contractor for the construction of the State House in Austin in 1854. In addition, he is believed to have been responsible, along with Edwin Burr Babbitt, for rebuilding the badly damaged Alamo in 1850, when its famous curved parapet was added.

Fries was active among San Antonio Germans and was engaged in many civic projects. He was married to Salome Enderle, a native of Germany from Castroville. Their son, Louis Fries, later became an official in the Pierce Fordyce Oil Association. Around 1860 Fries moved to Gillespie County, where he and his son operated a sheep ranch. In 1870 he was living in Maverick County; he apparently died before 1880.


Files, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio. Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Jim Steely, "Remembering the Alamo," Texas Highways, March 1985.

Christopher Long


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

Christopher Long, "FRIES, JOHN M.," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 29, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.