This exhibition features the contemporary photography of Janna Ireland, who explores the important contributions of architect Paul R. Williams (1894-1980) in Nevada. Williams was the first licensed African American architect to work in the western region of the United States, designing buildings in the 1920s through the 1970s. His work in Nevada spans from the 1930s through the 1970s.
Williams’ architectural contributions collectively helped to redefine the built environment of the region. Some of his most iconic structures are in Southern California, and include the Music Corporation of America headquarters, and the renovation of the Beverly Hills Hotel; he was also deeply involved in the design of the master plan for the LAX Airport and Theme building in association with William L. Pereira and Associates. Williams’ unique architectural creations earned him the name “Architect of the Stars,” as he also designed the homes of twentieth-century entertainers, some of which include Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz.
Williams’ architectural body of work in Nevada includes residential homes that were designed to enrich the lives of all community members, commercial properties, and religious institutions. His most notable buildings include the La Concha Motel (now part of the Neon Museum) in Las Vegas, and the First Church of Christ, Scientist (now known as the Lear Theater) in Reno.
Williams was first introduced to northern Nevada in the 1930s by Luella Garvey, for whom he had designed a house in Reno in 1934. This connection led to Williams’ design of the Lovelock Inn and residence in Lovelock. Other residential properties in northern Nevada include the Ranch House at Rancho San Rafael Park, the Luella Garvey Residence on California Avenue, the El Reno Apartments, and the Loomis Manor apartments.
In southern Nevada, Williams also designed the Guardian Angel Cathedral, the Royal Nevada Casino (no longer extant) and Berkley Square—Southern Nevada’s first African American suburban community.
Janna Ireland approaches Williams’ architecture from a fine arts perspective. She produces photographs that highlight the intimate interior and exterior details of his buildings, bringing her own poetic response to Williams’ work. Ireland recently completed a photographic project on Williams’ work in Southern California, which includes architectural styles ranging from Spanish Mediterranean to Modern.
This exhibition is organized by the Nevada Museum of Art and curated by Carmen Beals. We thank spokesperson Claytee White, and community partners: Our Story, Inc., KME Architects, LGA Architects, and the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Las Vegas.