One of the most fascinating stories on King William Street surrounds the Alfred Giles house at 308 King William. Alfred Giles designed and built the house. His granddaughter, Amy Dreiss Scott, appeared in the driveway in 2001 and told Margaret Leeds, the current owner, that she was born in the house eighty years to the date and that her niece had driven her down from Comfort to drive by and see the old place. She said that her grandfather was Alfred Giles and that she grew up in the house.
She was born in the front bedroom just after the 1921 flood. Alfred Giles told her stories about the flood when she was older. He told her that the wooden front steps had floated down the street along with numerous pianos and front porches from other houses. King William Street became an actual river. When he went searching for the steps, he encountered two ladies who thought the steps belonged to them. He entered the evidence that he had supervised the building of the steps and that he could show them the saw cuts in the board, which he did. The ladies were convinced and let him have the steps.
An Alfred Giles house deserves a fascinating resident, and the current owner of this house, Margaret Leeds, certainly meets that requirement. Before moving here from California, she says, “We had a Lloyd Wright house designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) for silentscreen movie star Ramon Navarro. The house was in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright and was in the Hollywood Hills. Diane Keaton owned and lived in it at some point after us.”
The house had also been the home of actress Meda Magnifico (her stage name). When Margaret and Charles bought this house, there was an elderly Japanese servant who had worked for the actress for many years. He had lived there so long that he didn’t want to leave, so Margaret let him stay even though she wasn’t sure what to do with a full time servant. His name was Roy Suyehiro. He was a “Paper Son." He had been sending money home to his family for many years though never getting to see them. When a relative of Roy’s got married in Japan, he went home to his country for this big wedding. The family had rented a beautiful kimono for the event. It was an expensive item, but the family pooled their money and bought it for Roy to bring back to Margaret. Today it is proudly displayed in the dining room of her house in King William. Years later, Roy Suyehiro moved to Japan when he was 90. Margaret got to see him again when she went on a trip around the world, which took her to Japan in l970.
“I fell in love with King William when I visited Charlie and Abbie Cotrell, who lived in the Schugs' carriage house behind 222 King William. Abbie is Margaret’s sister and had moved here to work at Hemisfair. Her sister was a friend of Robin Raquet who also worked at the fair,” Margaret said. When Margaret moved to King William in l998, she bought the Alfred Giles house from Michael and Jessica Casillas.
In the parlor is a beautifully restored fireplace and a Victorian organ. The organ was given to Margaret’s grandmother when she was eight years old. Margaret’s grandmother Belle and great uncle Jim were known as the Shrum Children. They were clairvoyants and performed at the Dallas Fair. They were known as “children who could see with their eyes shut.” Belle and her brother had been ”born with the veil.” A small oval photo of Belle sits on an organ shelf.
On the front porch is a wonderful glide type porch swing. It was made by Margaret’s brother Charles using a swing made by their grandfather, Joseph Albert Massey, as a pattern. Be sure and sit in it during the King William Fair. It’s a treat. It’s a very smooth ride. Now, let’s not forget Walter N. Mathis and his touch. The brass hardware in the house was carefully replaced by Walter to match existing. He restored the original floors and fireplace mantels beautifully. He added a porch-like balcony element to the front parlor window using matching turns from the main porch. The eyebrows over the windows are original and match the ones next door. In the pantry is another Mathis touch where he took an old fireplace mantel and turned it into a beautiful detail over the pastry shelves. The screened-in porch had been converted into a den and the servant’s room into a large bathroom. Beaded lumber cabinets in the kitchen are beautifully restored and additional ones hide more modern appliances. Margaret has some wonderful things from Japan in the dining room,” but most of my things come from all over the world...Tibet, China, South America, New Guinea, Egypt....”
It’s a great cross-cultural mix. This Alfred Giles masterpiece shines like a small private museum, the Margaret Leeds Museum.