Villa Finale was the home of Walter Mathis, a leading preservationist in San Antonio, Texas. Walter Mathis is widely recognized as the catalyst for the revitalization of the King William neighborhood, now a National Register Historic District. In addition to his work in King William, Walter Mathis was an advocate for city and statewide historic preservation, as well as a civic and cultural leader.
In 1967, when Walter Mathis purchased his home at 401 King William, the neighborhood was in an advanced state of disrepair. Stately mansions had become poorly-maintained rooming houses, some altered almost beyond recognition. After spending nearly two years meticulously restoring Villa Finale, itself a former boarding house, Mr. Mathis turned his attention to the neighborhood outside his door. One by one, he bought a dozen houses in King William, performed essential preservation work on them, and then sold them to preservation-minded individuals who would continue their restoration.
In addition to his preservation work, Walter Mathis was also a prodigious collector of artifacts of nearly every type; these collections fill Villa Finale. Throughout his home, one finds beautiful examples of European furniture, and fine and decorative arts. Mr. Mathis particularly enjoyed collecting memorabilia relating to the life and death of Napoleon Bonaparte. Mr. Mathis’s interest in Texas art is represented in the collection by such artists as Mary Bonner, and Julian and Robert Onderdonk. In addition, there is a wide range of Texas decorative arts, such as Bell silver, Texas furniture, and Texian campaign ceramics.
The home and its collections were given to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2004, so the home could become the first National Trust Historic Site in Texas.
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