Iconic San Antonio, Texas, Historic Home and Decorative Arts Collection, Villa Finale Will Open October 2

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Villa Finale Will Open Doors to General Public for the First Time

Photo by Carol Highsmith

It is a center for community preservation where visitors and San Antonio residents can come to discover the rich history of the surrounding historic district and to learn how preservation applies to their lives and communities.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today the opening of Villa Finale, the newest of 29 National Trust Historic Sites. Once home to one of Texas’ pioneering preservationists, Walter Nold Mathis, Villa Finale is the first and only National Trust Historic Site in Texas. The National Trust has spent the last five years meticulously preparing the Italianate mansion and renowned decorative arts collection, which will open to the general public for the first time on October 2, 2010.

“Our first historic site in Texas, Villa Finale, is much more than a house and museum,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “It is a center for community preservation where visitors and San Antonio residents can come to discover the rich history of the surrounding historic district and to learn how preservation applies to their lives and communities.”

The House
Construction began on the Italianate mansion now known as Villa Finale in 1876. It was a part of the then-thriving King William neighborhood, originally settled mostly by German immigrant families, many of whom became prosperous as merchants and bankers. By 1967, when Walter Nold Mathis bought the home, it was a rooming house and, like the neighborhood surrounding it, had settled into a decline. Mathis spent eighteen months restoring the home, and after the exhaustive work was done, he dubbed the house Villa Finale – his last home. In 2004, Mathis gave the 1876 home and his extensive collections to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, so the home could become the first National Trust Historic Site in Texas.

The Man
Walter Nold Mathis was a leading preservationist and businessman in San Antonio, Texas. An advocate for city and statewide historic preservation, Mathis was also a civic and cultural leader and a member of one of San Antonio’s original founding families with roots reaching back to the Canary Island settlers of 1731. Although Villa Finale was Mathis’ last personal residence, it wasn’t the last house he owned; he purchased another fourteen houses in King William and invested his own time and money to undertake essential preservation work on them before selling them to individuals who would continue their restoration. Mathis is widely recognized as the catalyst for the revitalization of the King William National Historic District.

The Collection
Villa Finale is overflowing with Mathis’ 12,500 piece collection which includes distinctive examples of European furniture, ceramics, silver, and fine art. Mathis particularly enjoyed collecting memorabilia surrounding the life and death of Napoleon Bonaparte. The collection also includes a number of prominent Texas artists such as Mary Bonner, and Julian and Robert Onderdonk. Additionally, there is a wide range of Texas decorative arts, such as Bell silver, Texas furniture, and Texian campaign ceramics.

Special Programming
The National Trust intends to continue Mathis’ neighborhood preservation leadership by using Villa Finale as a place where visitors and residents of San Antonio’s many historic districts can learn to care for their homes and neighborhoods through hands-on training and educational workshops. The Villa Finale Visitor Center features special exhibitions, an outstanding museum shop and bookstore, along with important displays related to Villa Finale. A neighborhood cell phone tour, created by Villa Finale, features many of the properties once owned by Mathis and may be accessed by anyone with phone service.

For more information, please visit http://www.villafinale.org.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation (http://www.PreservationNation.org) is a non-profit membership organization bringing people together to protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them. By saving the places where great moments from history – and the important moments of everyday life – took place, the National Trust for Historic Preservation helps revitalize neighborhoods and communities, spark economic development and promote environmental sustainability. With headquarters in Washington, DC, eight regional and field offices, 29 historic sites, and partner organizations in 50 states, territories, and the District of Columbia, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to a national network of people, organizations and local communities committed to saving places, connecting us to our history and collectively shaping the future of America’s stories.


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