Karen Hudson, granddaughter of the late architect Paul Williams, has been busy in recent weeks, sifting through the stack of mail she received in answer to her plea for information on Williams-designed houses.
Hudson was the subject of a Times story July 23, detailing her efforts to write a book on her grandfather, the first black member of the American Institute of Architects, who designed dozens of movie-star mansions and other buildings.
To date, Hudson has had 370 letters and phone calls.
"Many wrote that they knew my grandfather's work but had no idea he was black," Hudson said, "and others wrote that they were annoyed to learn that many people had never heard of him."
From the readers, Hudson learned that her grandfather designed 40 instead of 20 homes in Hancock Park, 35 instead of 10 to 15 homes in La Canada Flintridge. "And I had to make 40 additions to my Beverly Hills list," she said. She had thought he designed about 1,000 mansions, including 400 on the Westside.
Some readers offered personal accounts of living in Williams-designed homes 40 to 50 years ago, and one couple wrote that they have been restoring a La Canada Flintridge home he designed that they are hoping to occupy by Christmas.
"Some architects phoned that they were going to tear down some houses he designed until they read the article," Hudson said.
Actress June Lockhart phoned to say that she was married years ago to an architect who took Hudson's grandfather for lunch to a popular Sunset Strip restaurant, where they were told to leave because Williams was black, Hudson said.
Another reader told Hudson that he and her grandfather bought a Beverly Hills office building with plans to move their offices there. The reader, who was white, said he moved in, but Williams couldn't, because the deed was written so a black could not occupy the building.
"This was a rude awakening to me," Hudson said, "because my grandfather never talked about racism. . . . For all his grace and charm, my grandfather suffered, as did all black men of his time. As I begin to visit some of the homes he created and think of all he had to endure on a daily basis, his feat becomes even more of an inspiration."
Among those already inspired is a black girl in the 10th grade who volunteered, after reading the article, to help Hudson sort through Williams' plans. The youngster commutes Saturdays from Long Beach to Hudson's office at 4501 S. Broadway.
"She looks at my grandfather as a role model," Hudson said, "because she wants to be an architect."