See O'Neil Ford's Alternative Tower Of The Americas Designs At Trinity Gallery

Sep 17, 2014

A chance find in a basement has cast a new light on San Antonio’s not-so-distant past. It started out with an e-mail received by Trinity University Assistant Professor Kathryn O’Rourke.

“Kathryn, you’re not going to believe this. We have made this amazing discovery. I can’t even tell you over e-mail what it is, it’s so exciting.”

An intern named Jason had been sent to the basement to archive old files.

"Pretty typical intern grunt work, frankly,” said O'Rourke.

But O'Rourke says he found some sketches there that gave him pause.

“Jason opened this and said, 'Oh my gosh, what is this?' " O'Rourke said.

That basement was at Ford, Powell and Carson’s Architecture offices. The sketches he found were those of people working there, and of O’Neil Ford.

“Ford himself is widely regarded as Texas’s most important 20th century architect,” said O'Rourke.

Ford designed Trinity University and, she said, one of San Antonio’s two most recognizable structures: The Tower of the Americas.

The drawings the intern had found were extensive — everything from furniture and fixtures for the La Villita re-design the firm did in the 50s, to other interesting designs: “Murchison Tower here at Trinity University, the University of Dallas tower as well,” detailed O'Rourke.

I'd heard of another key find and asked her about it: "There’s also alternative versions of the Tower of the Americas.”

“Yes! Yes, and that’s really exciting as well," she said. "We see radically different alternatives for the top of the tower.”

O'Rourke says these newly discovered designs are going to be exhibited at Trinity University.

“The exhibition opens this Thursday, September 13,” she said.

During the course of the interview I stumbled across this surprise about O’Neil Ford:

“He was not actually formally educated and yet did a great deal of work for educational institutions," she said.