Weil Brothers Cotton Brokers

I passed by this simple little California Mission Revival at 1639 Gilmer Avenue lots of times before it caught my attention. Belatedly, I determined that it was built by Alvin B Weil, of the renowned family that constituted Montgomery’s internationally known Weil Brothers Cotton Brokers. Isadora Weil, who immigrated from Bavaria, founded the company, and his sons Emil, Adolph and Lionel joined the firm as they came of age. A century or so ago, Adolph and Emil had heralded mansions on South Perry (one block over), probably Lionel as well. I think Alvin was a grandson, the first of the next generation to be taken in, but being the junior, he probably had a limited budget for this house endeavor. Nevertheless, being a Weil, he was able to secure the services of eminent architect Frank Lockwood. I cannot resist speculating on the chemistry that took place between young Alvin and the great Lockwood.

I suspect that Lockwood was taken aback at having to design a Weil residence with such a budget restraint. In response he proposed the simplest possible Mission Style roof line, and covered it with red clay roof tiles. Beneath that, on the left, he placed a small arcaded entry porch, almost Moorish in feeling; in the center he inserted 9-over-9 shuttered Georgian Colonial windows, and on the right he introduced fenestration in a Gothic motif. Who but Lockwood could combine those elements and keep a straight face? Who but Lockwood could make it look good?

Finally, I could not help but point out that Alvin’s little house was built in the side yard of the Lucian Loeb home at 1623 Gilmer. Lucian was the much admired remnant of the failed Winter-Loeb Grocery Company, the man whom the elder Weils called on in the 1920s to run their cotton biz until the next generation of Weils came of age. If you chance to drive by, observe that the two houses sit side x side, rather like a mentor and his pupil, which, of course, were the roles that occupants Lucian and Alvin once filled in the long ago.

-Charles Humphries

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