The San Antonio builder brought a feminine touch to upscale homes in the late 1920s

I live in a house said to have been built in the 1920s by Prassel Lumber. When we bought the house in 2000, my husband and I were told that it was called “le château de Prassel”. I am applying for a grant to help defray the costs of repairing and restoring the windows and tiles in the tower, but I need to fill in the details of the history of the house. I don’t know where to look for the information, and I was wondering if you would point me in the right direction. The house is in Alamo Heights on Cloverleaf Avenue, and I believe it was built in 1927 for a family named Crenshaw. I wonder if the first owner’s last name started with a C, because the wrought iron panels in the dining room and living room have what looks like two Cs back to back. I would appreciate any idea.

—Nora Walker, MD

Your house was a recurring character and even featured prominently in the real estate section of the San Antonio Light for several months in 1927, when it appeared frequently in advertising and infomercials. Its exuberant street-facing personality – cylindrical tower, pointed roofs, masses of varying heights with battlements and windows of various shapes and sizes – and its Spanish/Moorish swag have made headlines again and again. An advertisement in The Light, February 6, 1927, announcing an upcoming open house there, promised “a rare treat for connoisseurs of fine homes”.

The announcement went on to describe some of its features. The exterior was stucco over Stone-Tile (tile over concrete); inside were a “beautiful marble entrance hall, a large living room with fireplace and workshop window, a beautiful dining room in a circular shape, a breakfast room, a kitchen, a pantry , a terrace, accommodation for servants, a double garage, three bedrooms and two bathrooms”. The home was staged by Stowers Furniture, including Persian rugs and brown leather draperies. Buyers had the choice of taking the house furnished or unfurnished. The landscaping was extensive, with lawns, mature trees and flowering shrubs.

Yours was among the first of more than 20 homes built by Amye Bozarth, whose business slogan called them “Homes, Not Homes.” All of those undertaken in its early years were high-end residences. She worked in partnership with FL Hillyer, whose company financed the construction and sold building materials; and HC Thorman (discussed here May 14), developer of the Olmos Park neighborhoods where his early projects were located.

In late 1928, Bozarth’s advertisements referred to its “Building Program” for $1 million in residential construction. It was a time when real estate was a hot industry in San Antonio. Commercial construction enhanced the skyline with buildings such as the Smith-Young Tower (now Tower Life Building), the Medical Arts Building (now Emily Morgan Hotel), the Milam Building, Nix Hospital, and the former Express- News. At the same time, suburban developers were expanding residential boundaries in all directions and at all price points. In the late 1920s, you could buy a modest house for less than $1,000 or a hilltop mansion for whatever you wanted and could afford.

The Bozarths were true dream homes, at the top end of the market, situated for sweeping views and prevailing breezes. Often referred to as one of the most prominent women in town, she took advantage of her gender, noting in her infomercials that “it is logical to believe that a woman, the natural housewife, is best equipped to plan a house.

As she worked with leading architects including Atlee B. Ayres, Robert H.H. Hugman and John M. Marriott, she added her own twist to their plans “in the interest of a warm atmosphere”. This included kitchens with “every modern convenience known from modern home building”, bathrooms for each bedroom, front and back porches, indoor and outdoor balconies, butler’s pantries, closets for wraps, verandas for flowers, billiard rooms, verandas or libraries if that is what the owner wanted.

Bozarth houses also had state-of-the-art technology for their time – fans, kitchen exhaust fans, water softeners, service bells and other “mechanical servants”.

Despite her penchant for luxury, Bozarth did not come from a wealthy background.

Born in 1884 in Denison to a Danish immigrant and his wife, Amye Johnson married George W. Bozarth when she was 19. Widowed six years later, she could not really return home since her parents had divorced, remarried and moved away.

As Amye Bozarth, she appears in the 1910 U.S. Census living with her mother, who kept a boarding house in Clovis, NM, where Bozarth worked as a milliner. It was his first known profession, and it must have given him an eye for design as well as customer service skills. She then moved on from cutting hats at Foley’s department store in Houston in 1913 to her own shop in Dallas from 1914 to 1921. After a long trip to the Far East – Japan, China and Hong Kong, with a stop in the Philippines on her way home – she moved to San Antonio, where her sister Besse lived with her husband, an Army captain at Fort Sam Houston.

Bozarth first appears in San Antonio city directories in 1924 – no occupation for the first few years, but she identifies herself as “Mrs. Amye Bozarth (widowed, GW)”, and that is the surname which she kept in brief marriages to oil worker Horace C. Thompson (1928-29) and purchasing agent S.R. McAlary (1929-30) During this time she was building her corporate identity. She has made one of her model homes her residence as well as her office.

Known as the Amye Bozarth House, the Devine Road mansion overlooked the Olmos Dam and the future home of the Olmos Basin Park. Designed by Ayres and completed in 1927, it was also in the Spanish style and had a tower on the street front with circular stairs inside and a copper weather vane at the top.

“Completely asymmetrical, the house meandered through a series of 40-degree angles, numerous changes in wall planes, animated with a great variety of sizes and shapes of openings,” wrote Robert James Coote in “The Eclectic Odyssey of Atlee B. Ayres, Architect,” provided by the San Antonio Public Library’s Texana/Genealogy Room. “Unusual for Ayres, there were purely decorative vanities,” Coote observed, such as round arches, grilles stucco, dark wood shutters and balconies with flower pot holders; a two-story living room with faux beams and a circular amber glass window – “a charming series of pleasant surprises”.

At one point in 1928, Bozarth had seven residential projects in various stages of completion. But with the onset of the Great Depression, the market for plush homes dwindled. The high-flying builder has joined real estate firm Richey & Casey as an agent specializing in North Side properties.

After marrying engineer Earl Van Guyther for a fourth time, she added her last name to professionally become Amy Bozarth Guyther, and the couple embarked on house building together, building smaller and more smaller in Terrell Hills and Woodlawn. Region.

Your home – advertised as “Designed and built by Amye Bozarth” – hasn’t sold as quickly as it probably needed to, with several other projects on the way. First offered in February 1927, it had failed to sell by July of that year when it was offered for sale by sealed offer, “a sensational opportunity to buy at your own price”.

the tanker George R. Eggleston; his wife, Ora; and their two daughters were the first family to live in the house, according to city directory listings. The Egglestons moved to Houston in 1936, and attorney James W. Crenshaw and his wife, Eleanor, moved the following year. The Crenshaws, who had no children, remained in the Cloverleaf household until his death in 1978.

As a solo practitioner who also ran oil royalty and investment companies and married to a prominent clubwoman, Crenshaw and his wife might have embraced the idea of ​​a double-C monogram at some point during their 40 plus years in the house. Its ironwork was made by Théo. Voss, Artistic Scroll Metal Works Inc. (later Voss Metal Works), so the Chanel-like initials were not a maker’s mark.

Bozarth advertising has always emphasized quality materials and workmanship.

Invited to contribute to a “special Amye Bozarth Homes section”, Dick Prassel of Prassel Sash and Door (later Prassel Lumber) wrote a letter noting that “she only buys high quality joinery and installs (pays ) right now”.

If anything, Prassel said, “Ms. Bozarth builds too well. I tried to get her to use lighter posts and joists, but she insists on the best.

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