One of my favorite architectural books is Old American Houses, 1700-1850 by Henry Lionel and Ottalie K. Williams. Henry and Ottalie Williams were a Bloomfield, Conn. couple who restored and lectured on old houses at a time when the idea of restoring old houses for their intrinsic value was fairly new.
Like HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, Henry and Ottalie Williams created a cottage industry around their restored houses, which appeared in magazines and books, and inspired many thousands to restore an old house themselves. While the word shiplap is not used, the couple both restored houses and collected furniture and regional objects, just like the Gaineses.
Henry Lionel Williams (1894-1974) was a native of England who, alone and with his wife Ottalie, wrote over 50 books on buildings and furniture. He was interested in a vast number of subjects, including aviation. His 1974 New York Times obit described that his works even extended to two histories of the head-shrinking Jivaro Indians of South America. With his wife Ottalie Kroeber Williams, he wrote books on historic houses, both practical and picture. Henry Williams was also an advocate of maintenance of houses, contending that a few minutes each week would save money. Ottalie was described in the overleaf as an authority on architecture and antiques.
One of their biggest books also pre-figured another current area of cable tv fascination, the tiny house. The couple in 1964 published America’s Small House, a coffee table book feature the glories of the little residence. Houses included those of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Chorley of Colonial Williamsburg, antiquarian Hatfield Ellsworth and interior designers Mrs. Truman Handy, Elmo Avet and Michael Greer.
Most fascinating in the book is the stylish one-room log cabin retreat of television entrepreneur John W. Kluge from his Virginia farm. This one room building may or may not be part of the current Trump Winery; we hope someone can fill us in what happened to it.
There has not been much research work on the work of the two together, though I did find that they had a daughter, Mrs. John C. Sellars, who was mentioned in Henry Williams’ New York Times obituary after his Jan. 11, 1974 death. Continue reading