Born London, England, May 23,1853 - died, Hillingdon Ranch, near Comfort, Texas, August 13, 1920
"In 1873 Giles immigrated to the United States and, for health reasons, settled in Texas. He worked for three years in the office of John H. Kampmann, a successful San Antonio contractor, from whom he acquired skill in the use of locally available building materials, especially stone.
"When Giles established his own firm in 1876, the dreary period of Reconstruction was coming to an end. Ranchers and farmers grew prosperous, and San Antonio became a focal point of commerce and amusement for a vast area.
"Indeed, the Victorian period (ca. 1840-ca. 1900) was characterized by rapid changes of style, and Giles's work reflected a great variety of styles derived from architectural forms of the past, usually in more or less new combinations. Giles's own means of expression, however, always took precedence over novelty of fashion.
"Giles died at Hillingdon Ranch on August 13, 1920. He is buried beside his wife in City Cemetery Number 1 in San Antonio."
Mary Carolyn Hollers George, "GILES, ALFRED," Handbook of Texas Online
The 1890 newspaper advertisement above identifies Giles with his business partner, Henri E. M. Guindon. According to the Texas Historical Com-mission's online Historic Sites Atlas, Guindon was a partner of Giles' from 1889-1891, when he left the state for Chicago. He then returned to San Antonio in 1893, and ... resumed his partnership with Giles in June of 1893." (from the THC Atlas entry on the Goliad County courthouse)
Alfred Giles designed a number of Texas courthouses. The exact number is problematic because of questions regarding attribution of some courthouses. It is certain Giles designed courthouses for Bexar (I don't have an image of this building), Brooks, El Paso, Gillespie, Guadalupe, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Live Oak, Webb and Wilson counties. Of these eleven court-houses, seven are still standing. The Bexar County courthouse was a significant alteration of an existing building, including a new façade. It was demolished in the late 19th century. The Guadalupe, Kerr and Kimble courthouses were complete buildings. Each of the three was demolished long ago.
Two courthouses, Caldwell and Goliad, are of almost identical design and were built in 1894. "Giles claimed Caldwell County as a building designed by his firm, although he
was not the actual designer. Investigations of the drawing and lettering styles of both men give added support to this version of events. The style of both the Caldwell and Goliad County drawings match that of Henri E. M. Guindon." (from the THC Atlas entry on the Goliad County courthouse)
In 1883, Alfred Giles was hired by Dimmitt County to design a courthouse in the new county seat of Carrizo Springs. For some reason, the county then changed its mind and hired another San Antonio firm, J.C. Breeding & Sons to design the building. There is a suggestion that Breeding used the design prepared by Giles for the courthouse.
Finally, there is the question of who designed the Presidio County courthouse in Marfa of 1887. Although many attribute the design to Alfred Giles, it is not at all certain that he actually designed the building. In fact, the building's cornerstone does not include the architect or the contractor. The Texas Historical Commission's online Historic Sites Atlas states "In February 1886, the county contracted with James H. Britton to construct a courthouse for sixty thousand dollars on land provided by the county. Britton had been the contractor on the now demolished El Paso County Courthouse designed by Alfred Giles. The Marfa courthouse is similar in style and massing to its El Paso counterpart, but it is not as intricately detailed and lacks the ornate porches of the El Paso courthouse." Now, it is entirely possible that Giles did design the Presidio courthouse, but took no credit for "political" reasons. There is a long story behind this and it begins with the El Paso County courthouse and a series of questionable legal events that resulted in the arrest of Alfred Giles. He was subsequently exonerated of the charges of fraud, but at the time, he was not exactly looked upon with favor in these regions of far west Texas. For the complete historical account of the El Paso courthouse story, read the excellent article by Chris Meister "Alfred Giles vs. El Paso County: An Architect Defends His Reputation on the Texas Frontier" published in Volume 108, No. 2, October 2004 of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, published by the Texas State Historical Association. You can find it on www.jtor.org