Owned and operated by members since 1955, Westwood Country Club of Austin masterfully blends the charm of early twentieth century architecture, picturesque landscapes and modern expansions to create a facility unique among Austin country clubs. Nestled on eleven live oak-covered acres hugging the Lake Austin shoreline, Westwood Country Club or “Westwood” has been home to families in Austin for over fifty years. At the heart of the complex, located on the corner of west 35th Street and Mount Bonnell Road, is the original McClendon home, a medieval French mansion built in 1925 by Judge and Mrs. James W. McClendon.
Judge James W. McClendon was a lawyer, judge, and chief justice of the Texas Court of Civil Appeals. In 1897, he was a member of the first graduating class of the University of Texas Law School, and he began his law practice that same year in Austin. He married his wife, Anne Hale Watt, on December 14, 1904; they had two children together. Judge McClendon presided over the landmark Sweatt v. Painter case, which was overruled by the United States Supreme Court in 1950 and served as the precedent for the 1954 landmark Brown v. Board decision, which declared de jure (legal) racial segregation unconstitutional. McClendon was also a member of numerous judicial and honorary societies and served as director and a member of the board of editors of the Texas Law Review.
In 1925, the McClendon’s hired a young architect and native Austinite, George Lewis Walling, to build a Normandy French chateau-styled home inspired by his studies at Fontainebleau in Paris, France. This was Walling’s first professional architectural work. Surface limestone discovered on the property was used to build the McClendon’s home, guest house, bridge and the two pillars for the entrance gate and drive. A crew of Mexican stonemasons arrived from San Antonio to build the house in 1925. The crew brought their own tents and supplies to the job site; several families in the area actually hired these men to build their homes before the crew returned to San Antonio in 1926.
The McClendon family carefully oversaw the yearlong construction of their home, which was completed on July 7, 1926. According to the McClendon’s daughter, Mary Anne McClendon, their home “had been my mother’s from the very beginning.” Anne McClendon told her daughter that their contractor, George Walling, was “long on art and short on specifications.” Therefore, Mrs. McClendon closely supervised the home’s construction, making several changes to the architectural plans to make them “more suitable to the Texas way of life.” When asked by her friends about the design of her home, Mrs. McClendon described it as “Normandy French with a little Texas for convenience,” evidenced by the home’s limestone construction and screened-in porch.
The home’s slate roof and walls were built thick and sturdy, and attractive Mexican tile floors were prepared by a San Antonio artisan named Lozano. Architect George Walling brought in his artist friend, Miss Kingsberry, from New York City to decorate the home. Kingsberry painted the fresco that borders the top of the original home’s two-story living room walls. She decorated the beautifully preserved animals and thistles on the ceiling with stencil and then finished them with her brush. A local iron worker, Mr. Weigel, created the andirons, pokers, and banisters for the home’s circular staircases. Notably, the hardware on the McClendon’s doors is identical to those from older Normandy homes in France. A famous Austin woodcarver, Peter Mansbendel, carved two coat-of-arms on the outside of the home above the dining room window. Miss Kingsberry painted the two coat-of-arms and painted a falconer on an outside wall of the home. Unfortunately, the exterior artwork was covered up years later when the Club built an addition. The artwork presumably lies underneath this addition today.
Mrs. McClendon purchased several antique furniture pieces for the home, and a large living room table was built by the Becker Lumber Co. based on pictures George Walling brought from France. Mrs. McClendon named the home “The Towers” because of the two towers on each side of the drive. These towers joined a bridge that sat atop a driveway and served as the home’s porte-cochère. Judge McClendon named his home’s charming bridge the “Bridge of Sighs” because of its breathtaking scenic views.
By the end of World War II, the McClendon’s home was no longer entirely secluded. The city’s water filter plant was constructed nearby and residential homes were built around Lake Austin and their home. It was during this time that people in the area sought to buy property for an Austin Country Club. The McClendon’s property was prime real estate for such a venture. Arthur Fehr, an Austin architect and a charter member of the Westwood Country Club, sought to establish a club on the McClendon’s property. Fehr won the McClendon’s over when he promised to preserve much of their beautiful, unique home as part of the Club. Westwood Country Club officially bought the McClendon’s property in July of 1955.
Expansions to the original McClendon structures have added party and dining rooms, lounges, a commercial kitchen, fitness facilities, racquetball courts, a marina, a daycare center, a tennis pro shop, tennis and sports courts and a 25-meter heated outdoor pool. The original home’s flagstone walkways, Mexican tile floors, hand-painted ceilings and native rock fireplace remain and offer historic ambiance to parties and special events at the Club. Members are proud of Westwood’s incredible history and grateful that the McClendon’s agreed to share such a beautiful home with them.
Today, Westwood Country Club consists of over a thousand members and is a celebrated private club in the Austin area and a favorite gathering spot for friends and families to meet, dine, and play.