Surely the spirit of Walter Nold Mathis still roams the dazzling rooms and lovely grounds of his beloved Villa Finale, a grand 1876-Italianate home in San Antonio’s King William neighborhood. Even if his spirit doesn’t ramble around, his essence definitely lingers on through his immense collection of fine and decorative arts.
One of the reasons that I love attending estate sales is that you gain a window into the person or persons who lived there. (And, frankly, the possibility of finding a hidden treasure or two doesn’t hurt!)
Though the Villa Finale is definitely not an estate sale—it happens to be the first National Trust Historic Site in the State of Texas—Mathis left plenty for visitors to peruse: Napoleonic memorabilia, including a death mask of the French emperor; snuff and match boxes; letter openers; Greek and Russian religious items; sterling silver coffee and tea sets; pewter plates, mugs and serving pieces; prints by the artist Mary Bonner; bronze statues; Italian paintings; more than 2,000 books; English Wedgwood; and on and on. Mathis was definitely not a minimalist.
Visitors are not allowed to take photos inside of the home. Karina Serna, Villa Finale’s visitor services and museum shop coordinator, photographed the indoor shots above. (Thanks, Karina!) I’m sorry that I don’t have photos of each of the main rooms’ fireplaces to show you. Framed by symmetrical windows, the fireplaces are my favorite features of the first floor. You’ll have to visit to see for yourself. The scale of the rooms feels cozy, despite the grandeur of the home’s 14-foot ceilings.
Though I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Mathis, who died in 2005, I know I would have liked him. Anyone with a “Count none but sunny hours” sundial in his back yard seems like a good sort. Plus, he purchased and restored 14 homes in the area, revitalizing one of the Alamo City’s most beautiful neighborhoods.
Villa Finale, located at 401 King William on the San Antonio River Walk, is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. Check out its website for hours and prices. Two-for-one tickets into the Villa Finale and the Steves Homestead are now available.