Ford was born in Pink Hill in 1905. The family moved to Denton,
Denton Co., Texas in 1917 after his father's death. O'Neil
enrolled in North Texas State Teachers' College in Denton for two
years. Financially burdened, he was forced to abandon his efforts
towards a formal education. Instead he earned an architectural
certificate by mail from the International Correspondence Schools.
In 1926 he began his partnership with regional architects and
opened his private practice in 1936. He, being a strong
preservationist, built structures composed of bricks, glass and wood
that were strongly tied to their settings. His brother, Lynn
O'Neill, who was a master carver and sculptor, was enlisted to create
custom doors, screens, and louvered grates.
Ford resided in San
Antonio until his death in 1982 at the age of 76. In 2001 his
widow, Wanda Graham Ford, donated his drawings, sketches, and
photographs to the Alexander Architectural Archived at the University
of Texas at Austin.
O'Neil Ford's (1905- 1981) only formal architectural training was from
The International Correspondence Schools of Scranton, Pennsylvania, he
has a reputation as being one of the best-unknown American architects
of the 20th century.
of Ford's style come from his being a man of the American frontier who
was raised on a farm near Sherman, Texas. Ford was one of the
last architects who reflected self-learning and natural instinct for
form without a self-serving attitude toward his work. It has
been said that the style of Ford is "fundamentally pragmatic, durable
and rich without the fuss."
Ford began his architectural experience as a draftsman in the Dallas
office of architect, David R. Williams. During the
construction of the Drane House in Corsicana, Ford laid the foundation
for his trademark Texas Modern style of the Wouthwestern architecture
by using and discovering native materials. His vernacular
approach to building, while dictated by climate and site, is combined
with several principles of modernism such as simplicity and honesty of
form. Ford's ability to use natural and local materials and
still maintain a sense of sleek modernism was what set him apart from
others. At a time when Dallas was not a part of the modern
scene, Ford was able to establish a contemporary sophistication with
His volume of work in Dallas began to mushroom between 1946 and 1960
with a plan to create a regional modernist style that reflected rural
Texas. With the influences of Alvar Aalto and California
modernists, Ford highlighted this design not only for houses but also
for commissioned works for universities in Texas and nation wide.
He considered himself a pre-modernist whose buildings
remained honeset and lasting. As a designer, Ford worked with
a plan that began with central space and moved to the outside of the
structure, and finished with the design of rooms and court yards.
Rather than follow his contemporaries and use modern building
materials, Ford heavily utilized stone and wood in his designs.
Ford designed his first solo project in 1929 for artist Jerry
Bywaters. The house site was a cliffside in the Bluffview
neighborhood overlooking Bachman Creek. It was demolished in
2003. Among othewr neighborhoods he built houses for
prominent families in Bluffview, Lakewood, the "M" Streets and in the
Park Cities working to create and maintain the beauty of each area.
* Fuller, Lary Paul. The American Institute
of Architects : Guide to Dallas Architecture.
Dallas. McGraw-Hill. 1999.
* George, Mary Carolyn. O'Neil Ford, Architect,
Vol. I. Texas: Texas A&M U Press. 1992.
* Dillow, David. The
Architecture of O'Neil Ford Celebrating Place.
Austin. U of Texas Press. 1999.
Text by: Allyson Armstrong and Laura Flores
Edited by: Michael Hazel
O'Neil Ford : The Search for an Authentic Modern Response
Chapel in the Woods ~ Texas Women's University, Denton
Fowler Library ~ Denton, Texas
Museum of Western Art ~ Kerrville, Texas
of the Americas ~ San Antonio, Texas
Elaine Nall Bay