Tuesday, February 5, 2013


In honor of Black History Month, I present to some and introduce to others Mr. Paul R. Williams, the first African-American Architect/Designer. 

Paul R. Williams
(1894 - 1980)
Paul Revere Williams was born in Los Angeles in 1894. When Paul was 2 years old, his father died and 2 years later his mother died. He and his brother were placed in separate foster homes. Paul was fortunate to grow up in the home of a foster mother who devoted herself to his education and to the development of his artistic talent.

Williams studied at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design and at the LA branch of the New York Beaux-Arts Institute of Design Atelier. He went on to attend the University of Southern California School of Engineering, designing several residential buildings while still a student there.  Williams became the first African American certified architect in 1921.

Young Williams c. 1920s

During the 20s and 30s, his great success was in designing homes for wealthy clients in the elite hillside subdivisions like Bel Air, Brentwood and Beverly Hills.  Sought by entertainment industry leaders, Williams became known as "Architect to the Hollywood Stars."

Williams' Residence in Los Angeles 
Interior of Williams' Residence
Interior Architecture

Although residential design remained an important aspect of his practice, commercial and institutional commissions became increasingly significant. Over the course of his five decade career, Williams designed approximately 3,000 buildings including the Hollywood YMCA, The Golden State Mutual Insurance Building and the Theme Building at the LA Airport.

Hollywood YMCA built in 1928
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building built in 1949
Theme Building at LA International Airport built in 1961

In 1957, he was the first African American elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.  He ran his practice until he retired in 1973. He died in 1980 leaving a rich history of amazing architecture as his legacy.

Great work, Mr. Williams...

Peace and Blessings,