In 1929, Dr. Annie Webb Blanton, a professor at the University of Texas – only the third female professor ever at UT – called together women educators of all types to form Delta Kappa Gamma to support each other and women educators everywhere Prior to founding DKG, Dr. Blanton was already a trailblazer, having won statewide elective office – the first woman to ever do so - as Superintendent of Public Schools, and running for Congress in 1922, just two years after women first received the right to vote. Although she was not elected, she was satisfied because she wanted to set an example that women should run for all public offices. Dr. Blanton named the organization DKG in an effort for the organization to appear as a sorority as this was a time when women faced extraordinarily high professional barriers. To that end, the first meeting of DKG was held in secret near UT campus, and even used a pseudonym and a P.O. Box to hide her identity. After this first meeting, DKG created a constitution. This constitution called for the group to promote cooperation among women educators, confer distinction, secure legislation for better schools and just conditions for women teachers, secure equal representation and recognition, and give financial aid to women preparing themselves to be teachers. These have been the founding principles of DKG ever since. Over several years, the organization grew and in 1953, the organization officially became an international non-profit. In 1956, DKG relocated its’ office to downtown Austin at the Northeast corner of San Antonio St. and 12th St. This location served as DKG’s headquarters for 65 years. To pay homage to the DKG organization and their fearless founder, Annie Webb Blanton, the new residential tower will be named Annie B and incorporate a public facing commemorative garden at the corner of San Antonio St. and 12th St.
Arthur Osborn (A.O.) Watson was born in Washington County on March 10, 1864. Watson studied architecture at Texas A&M in 1881. At the time, Texas A&M was the only public university in the state and had only opened in 1876, making A.O. Watson one of the first classically-trained architects in Texas.
After Watson graduated, he moved to Austin. Austin was experiencing rapid growth as a result of the new state Capitol and booming oil industry. The Capitol building, publicized as the seventh largest building in the world at the time, was completed in 1888. Popular architecture during this time included styles such as Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Queen Ann, and Richardsonian Romanesque, which all shared asymmetrical plans, a variety of materials, intricate detailing and cross-circulation patters. As Austin grew, architects, like A.O. Watson, flocked from all over the state for a chance to compete for business. A.O. Watson and his partner Jacob Larmour first designed the Val Verde County Courthouse in 1887. Below is a table of buildings constructed and designed by Watson from the 1880s to the early 1900s.
|Title of Building||Year of Completion||Style of Building|
|Val Verde County Courthouse||1887||Second Empire, Classical Revival|
|Comanche County Courthouse||1890||Renaissance Revival|
|Badu House (Private House)||1891||Renaissance Revival|
|Grimes County Courthouse||1891||Italianate|
|Llano County Courthouse||1892||Romanesque Revival, Italianate|
|Haskell County Courthouse||1892||Renaissance Revival|
|Cumberland Presbyterian Church (Austin)||1892|
|Milam County Courthouse||1893||Renaissance Revival, Romanesque|
|Taylor National Bank (Williamson County)||1894||Renaissance Revival, Romanesque|
|Waller County Courthouse||1894||Romanesque Revival|
|Gohmert-Summers House (Private Home in DeWitt County)||1895||Victorian, Italianate|
|Hopkins County Courthouse||1895||Richardsonian, Romanesque|
|Caswell House (Austin, West St. and 15th St.) (Still in use)||1895||Victorian, Colonial Revival|
|Dewitt County Courthouse||1896||Romanesque Revival|
|Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Building (Austin)||1899||Romanesque|
|All Saints Episcopal Church (Austin, 27th St. and Whitis) (Still in use)||1899||Gothic Revival|
|Austin High School (Austin, 9th St. and Trinity)||1900||Classical Revival|
|Christ Episcopal Church of Temple||1904||Gothic Revival|
|Bartlett Grammar School (Bell/Williamson County)||1909|
|Alpine Grammar School (Brewster County)||1910|
A.O. Watson married Miss Minnie Pope in 1893, and together, they built their home in downtown Austin. The Watson’s home, dubbed the “A.O. Watson House” was built in 1894. Their home exhibits many elements of the styles Watson used in all his designs: composed of wood, the exterior exhibits much of the fine detail and use of arches that define the Victorian Era. Inside, ornate fireplaces and woodworking give the house a unique touch.
During much of the 20th century, the A.O. Watson House did not stand alone. Instead, a similar residence was built adjacent to the A.O. Watson House and directly on the corner of 12th St and Guadalupe St. This second house was built to accommodate the sisters and family members of Mrs. Watson. Later in life, A.O. Watson was wheelchair bound and installed a bridge connecting the two houses. This bridge extended from the second floor of his office to the second floor of Mrs. Watson’s sister’s house. This bridge allowed A.O. Watson to visit his relatives and provided a respite from his residence. Unfortunately, the house located at 12th & Guadalupe burned down, and the bridge connection was severed to save the A.O Watson House from the fire. The bridge connection was not the only innovation A.O. Watson dreamed up; constantly on the road for work and inspired by Michelangelo’s “Flying Machine,” A.O. Watson dreamed of one day placing a helicopter pad on the top of his home and designed a flat space above his office accordingly.
These two houses were certainly grand and elegant; however, they were not alone. In the early 1900s, not unlike today, many wealthy families called Austin home and built mansions in the area. However, most of these early mansions were later demolished in the 1970s to make way for new buildings and more space efficient designs. The A.O. Watson House remained following the passing of Mr. and Mrs. Watson in the 1930s; the house was passed down to Maggie Watson, Watson’s daughter, who transformed the interior by adding bathrooms and bedrooms. In addition to interior renovations, Maggie added a flower garden in the back of the house. As Maggie grew older, she passed the house down to A.O Watson’s grandson, John Watson, who transformed the house into his office. John was an architect himself and relished the opportunity to office out of the building from his childhood. Now, repurposed as an office, the second-floor conference room is the same room that connected A.O. Watson by bridge to the second family house and is the same room that the helicopter pad was to be constructed upon. The room was also used as the office for two generations of Texas architects and the place where A.O. Watson drew his last breath.
Attribution: The above summary is a modified and condensed version of an extensive research report created by Carah Beth Bass during her undergraduate education. In addition to Carah Beth’s countless hours of historical research, she was also able to gain a more personal understanding of the real character of the A.O.Watson House by conducting a lengthy personal interview with A.O. Watson’s grandson, John Watson.