PaperCity Magazine

Round Top Winter 2021

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A REMEMBRANCE OF CLOVIS HEIMSATH ARCHITECT, ARTIST, PRESERVATIONIST, COMMUNITY BUILDER By Catherine D. Anspon. Photography Jack Thompson. W e've had him on our radar for several years now, with every Round Top spring and fall edition — Clovis Heimsath, the elder statesman of Fayetteville and the architect responsible for the rare feat of getting this charming Czech-heritage town listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But other stories always intervened. Then, during this spring's antiques show, after a hearty meal at the Grand Fayette Hotel and visit to the Red & White Gallery, Joan and Jerry Herring, who own both the gallery and hotel, went over their fall exhibition schedule, and Heimsath was the gallery's headliner for December 2021. An interview was planned. We made pilgrimages to Clovis and Maryann Heimsath's late-19th- century cottage that rims the town square of Fayetteville. Those initial visits just touched on the background of their small-town chapter. There were countless earlier chapters — well, more like books — beginning with their meeting at Yale (he, BA in architecture 1952, MA in architecture 1957, while she holds a BS from Bryn Mawr and MS from Yale, both degrees in microbiology). That era was followed by a Fulbright Scholarship and time in Rome for the then-young family (two of their five children had arrived), architectural stints in Manhattan, seminal work in San Antonio at the firm of O'Neil Ford, then the founding of Heimsath's Houston practice and an assistant professorship at Rice. The year of decision was 1974. Heimsath Architects had swelled to a size of 25, building a reputation for sensitive ecclesiastic commissions designed for diverse denominations including temples and synagogues, preservation of historic homes (farmhouses to log cabins and stately Victorians), and eloquent, understated contemporary houses. The couple dissolved this flourishing Houston practice to pack up five kids, leave the historic late-Victorian Waldo Mansion in Montrose (their home, which Heimsath had restored) and head for greener acres. That would be a simpler life, and the gentle terrain of Fayetteville, a destination where the couple had been leasing a weekend home. A 1983 Texas Homes article by architecture critic Lisa Germany documents their decampment to the Texas countryside, including a photo of the farmhouse the couple acquired for $100. Germany's feature focused on the Heimsaths' commitment to their newly adopted town; the headline read "Clovis Heimsath: Community Renewal," with discussions of an Arts and Crafts approach to the firm's commissions, including tapping Maryann for stained glass work for churches as well as home interiors, and enlisting Texas ceramicist Pat Johnson, whom the Heimsaths back in that day gave free studio space to cajole her to settle in Fayetteville. When we sat down to chat, the Heimsaths were approaching their 65th wedding anniversary, co-creators in life and art. These endeavors in Fayetteville encompassed both an elevated architectural practice (Maryann stepped up as bookkeeper and business manager while raising the children) and the communal and prosaic running of Country Place Restaurant and later, Country Place Hotel, both in the 1900 Zapp Building on the town square (now reborn by the Herrings and Mary and Evan Quiros into the Grand Fayette Hotel). In those early days, the restaurant (open Fridays and Saturdays, a popular destination for regulars from Houston, Austin, and San Antonio) and hotel shared space with the couple's architectural practice. The Heimsath hospitality biz improbably flourished, no doubt because it was a hands-on labor of love, with Clovis as maître d' and Maryann showing off her culinary acumen with farm-fresh ingredients including homemade cottage cheese from their own cows. O ur dialogue took place at the couple's final Fayetteville home, the historic Spacek House, where they moved in 2015. A prim and tidy turn-of-the-century frame home of diminutive proportions it was kept immaculately by Maryann, a model for surrounding oneself with books and well-edited treasures. The vibe was Shaker like. In person, the Heimsaths were warm, down-to-earth, and welcoming, and we galloped into conversation convivially. Like long- married couples, they had an ease about them, with Clovis often deferring to Maryann to confirm recollections as to The Last Interview + a Preview of the Heimsath Retrospective at Red & White Gallery, Fayetteville 46

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