William Ward Watkin

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William Ward Watkin
Born(1886-01-21)January 21, 1886
Boston, Massachusetts
DiedJune 24, 1952(1952-06-24) (aged 66)
Houston, Texas
OccupationArchitect, Professor
Years active1910 – 1952
Notable work
Founder and chair of Architecture Department at Rice University

William Ward Watkin (January 21, 1886 – June 24, 1952) was an architect primarily practicing in Houston, Texas.

Watkin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 21, 1886, and grew up in Danville, Pennsylvania, where he graduated from high school in 1903. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1908, he spent a year in Europe and then moved to Boston, Massachusetts to join the architecture firm of Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson. Watkin was then sent to Houston, TX to work on plans for Rice Institute (now named Rice University) and was the firm's representative supervisor there. Edgar Odell Lovett, the President of Rice Institute, offered Watkin a faculty position in architectural engineering when the Institute opened in 1912. He later became the head of the architecture department, a position he held until his death.[1]

In addition to his duties at Rice, Watkin designed a large number of structures, many of which are architecturally significant. He died and was interred at Forest Park Cemetery in Houston .[1]

Early life[edit]

William Ward Watkin's parents were Fred Ward and Mary Mathilda (née Hancock) Watkin. The family moved to Danville, Pennsylvania, where young William graduated from Danville High School in 1903. He entered the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied architecture with Paul Philippe Cret and earned a B.S. degree in architecture in 1908. In 1909, he joined the Boston architectural firm of Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson.[1] In 1910, the firm sent him to Houston, Texas to supervise construction of the newly created Rice Institute (now Rice University).[1]

Watkin married Annie Ray Townsend in 1914. They had three children, two daughters and a son: Annie Ray Watkin (1914-2011), Rosemary Watkin (1917-1984) and William Ward Watkin, Jr. (1919-2001). His first wife died in 1928. His second wife was Josephine Cockerel, who died in 1987.[2]


Watkin's first major assignment was to oversee construction of a new school in Houston, Texas named the William Marsh Rice Institute. Watkin had helped prepare the original masterplan drawings following intense correspondence between Cram, Goodhue, and President Lovett.[3] The initial complement of structures included the Administration Building (now named Lovett Hall), a power plant and Mechanical Laboratory, and one dormitory with a dining hall, located on 300 acres (120 ha) two miles southwest of downtown on an unpaved Main Street. The cornerstone of the Administration Building was laid in 1911.

Academic career[edit]

After the school opened in 1912, Watkin was hired by Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett, the president of Rice, to become an instructor in architectural engineering. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1915 and full professor in 1922. In this capacity, he would continue to work on newer buildings for the campus and nearby, such as:

  • Autry House (1920), the unofficial student center across Main Street
  • Rice Fieldhouse (1920)
  • Harry Crothers Wiess House (1920), later purchased by Rice and used as the President's House.
  • Chemistry Building (1925), later renamed Keck Hall
  • Robert and Agnes Cohen House (1927), which houses the faculty club.

In 1927, he became a full professor and maintained that rank until his death in 1952.

Watkins established a traveling architectural fellowship in 1928, which enabled one student per year to travel abroad while studying architecture. The fellowship was renamed for its founder in 1953 and is now the William Ward Watkin Traveling Fellowship.[4]

Commercial practice[edit]

Watkin also conducted a commercial architectural practice in parallel with his academic position. This enabled him to participate in creating a number of notable projects. Most were built in the Houston area, but a few were outside the area. For example, he designed the campus of Texas Tech University and its administration building in Lubbock, Texas.

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