Coastal Bend History


Watsonia - A unique Ocean Drive house

Posted at 4:08 PM, Jun 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-29 19:23:02-04

One could say that an Ocean Drive address is still the city's most prestigious.

The tax office must think so, as land values on Ocean Drive are unbelievable, and often far exceed the value of the home that rests on the lot.

The homes on Ocean Drive are among the city's most palatial, most beautiful, most distinctive, and most unusual.

Almost every architectural style is represented along Ocean Drive.

That being said, there is one house that almost defies description.

It's the home that sits on the corner of Ocean Drive and Louisiana. At first glance, it appears to be in the Pueblo style, common in New Mexico and the Southwest, though it lacks many of the most common features of that type of architecture.

To some, it is the most beautiful house in the city. To others, it is ghastly and out of place.

The house was built in 1938 by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Watson and was called "Watsonia". Mrs. May Watson was the daughter of Thomas Henry Mathis, co-founder of the huge Coleman-Fulton Pasture Co. (later known as the Taft Ranch). And, yes, the city of Mathis is named after him.

The Ocean Drive house was designed by noted architect, William Doty Van Siclen.

Watsonia - 02
This photo, taken by Bunk Spence (owner of Bunk’s Cafe) in 1939 shows the first phase of construction of “WATSONIA”

It was constructed with 55,000 adobe bricks, each weighing twenty pounds. The bricks were made and fired on site from clay dug out of the bluff across the street.

Mr. Watson died in 1947, but May Mathis Watson lived in the house until her death on June 21, 1966. The house was then sold.

Love it or hate it, the old Watson house just might be the most unique home in the city.

Robert Parks is a special contributor to KRIS 6 News. Parks was a history teacher at Carroll High School for 19 years and is now retired. His knowledge of Corpus Christi history makes him a unique expert in the subject.