By Alex Colvin
In 2006, a $6.8 million private-public funding project formed to restore and renovate the aging Georgian Revival-style Clayton House in the Houston Museum District. Today the structure serves as a library and meeting space for the Houston Public Library’s Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research. Visitors to the home are immediately struck by its polished entryway exhibiting artifacts and family mementos, its museum-quality display serving as testimony to the family who built the home in the early twentieth century. Many of these items praise William Lockhart “Will” Clayton, the cotton magnet who redefined how the United States conducted cotton trade and who became a key architect of the Marshall Plan following World War II. Yet the home, a symbol of the Claytons’ prosperity, represents neither the beginning nor the end of their family narrative. This profile places Clayton House within the larger framework of the Clayton family’s history, a trajectory that established their place in Houston’s historic identity.
In 1917, Houston boosters trumpeted that an amazing “17 railroad lines meet the sea” from Houston. They also boasted that some half-dozen depots around town – the largest being Grand Central Station on Washington Avenue – served a full twenty-five rail lines. Visitors unaccustomed to Houston weather who arrived by train noticed something the minute they stepped onto the rail platform – the heat. Yet, by the time they reached their destination, they realized it is not really the heat; it’s the humidity. One could find partial refuge inside the terminal or a downtown skyscraper.
Visit the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research website and learn more about their collections, services, and information on how to start genealogical research.
Shown left to right are Director of the City of Houston Building Services Department Issa Dadoush, President of Clayton Library Friends Nick Sorensen, Council Member Ada Edwards, 2nd Vice Chair of the Houston Public Library Foundation Harriet Calvin Latimer, Director of the Houston Public Library Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson and Clayton family representative Susan Clayton Garwood at the launch of the Clayton Library’s renovation.
Listen to clips of an interview conducted by author Alex Colvin with Susan Clayton Garwood:
Recalling memories of staying with her grandparents at the Clayton House
Remembering family dinners at Clayton House
On being photographed at Clayton House