Preservation Magazine, Winter 2017

Villa Finale's Collection Uncovers Victorian Owners' Romantic Side

Object Lesson A Little Romance Villa Finale Calling Card with Inscription To One I Love

photo by: Mark Hiebert

Contemporary Valentine’s Day cards can’t compete with the delicate charm of the Victorian-era calling cards in the collection of Villa Finale, a National Trust Historic Site in San Antonio. The Italianate house—built in 1876, expanded between 1880 and 1904, and purchased by civic leader Walter Mathis in 1967—has more than 50 of the 2-inch-long cards on permanent display in its Green Sitting Room.

Sylvia Gonzalez, manager of collections and interpretation at Villa Finale, says the cards were likely owned by a member of the Mathis family and passed down to Walter Mathis, who loved the formality of the Victorian era. “There were very, very strict guidelines about courting,” Gonzalez says. “The cards were an acceptable way of letting somebody know how you felt.”

Calling cards of this size were used by men and women, as they fit in both jacket pockets and the small purses popular at the time.

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.

@mdrueding

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