Here's some recent news from the Houston Business Journal about the city's only Frank Lloyd Wright House, the William Thaxton House, which was once in danger of being torn down and is currently for sale. Read more after the jump...
The only Houston home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is up for sale. The gated house on 1.2 acres in Bunker Hill Village is listed for $3.5 million. The home made news in 1991 when a dentist couple paid $540,000 for the property to prevent a developer from tearing down the revered architect’s work.
Alan Gaw, a pediatric dentist, and his wife Betty Lee, an architect-turned-dentist, heard about the contemporary home through very public attempts by preservationists to save the landmark dwelling constructed in 1954 at 12020 Tall Oaks St.
Gaw and Lee ultimately preserved the structure by purchasing it as a family abode.
Gaw says the 1,200-square-foot house was in major disrepair and way too small for the family.
He estimates the couple spent “millions” over the next five years to completely restore the original house and connect a 9,500-square-foot addition to the structure. The family finally moved into the home in 1996.
The original cinder block and wood house is an example of Wright’s “Usonian” houses — small abodes designed to be economical. The homes came complete with some built-in furniture to save the occupants money. Gaw says some of the built-ins were removed over time, but a mini-bar that pulls out of the wall and a built-in entertainment center remain.
The Kirksey-Meyers architecture firm designed the addition to complement Wright’s original blueprints.
“It’s not a copy of the original house, but it blends in with the original house,” notes Gaw.
Kirksey architect Bob Inaba, who designed the addition, says this is the only time he has ever worked on such a project.
Inaba designed the two-story addition to create a U-shaped house upon connection to the original L-shaped structure. Placing main corridors of the addition inside the U-shape kept the original house visible to people walking from room to room.
“We turned the original house into a piece of sculpture you look at,” says Inaba. “We designed it in a relatively Frank Lloyd Wright kind of style.”
The mansion is on the Harris County tax rolls at 8,072 square feet, although the owner and architect say it’s between 10,000 and 11,000 square feet in size. Kathy Wetmore with John Daugherty, Realtors Inc., who has the listing on the property, says a portion of the square footage includes sleeping lofts built into some of the bedrooms.
This is a coming-out party of sorts for the famous house in Bunker Hill Village. Gaw and Lee were extremely private following their purchase in 1991. There have been no major news reports on what became of the storied house, but the family has found it difficult to maintain a low profile, seeing how the distinctive domicile has a life all its own.
People wanting to see the home have contacted the family over the years. Gaw says travelers from Europe have asked to stop by while in the States. A photographer who took pictures of every Wright house in the United States included it in a book.
Gaw says his neighbors tell him that people come to the gate and take pictures of the house all the time. “It hasn’t been a paparazzi thing,” Gaw says. “It’s very respectful.” The house that was too small at first, is now too big for Gaw. The two children are grown and living in California. So the house awaits its next chapter.
Potential buyers might be drawn to the angles Wright included in the original design. Others might say the addition flawed the home’s true character. Listing agent Wetmore recognizes the debate as part of the sales process. “For Frank Lloyd Wright aficionados, you either love it or you hate it,” says Wetmore. “That’s why it’s controversial.”
Terry Greiner, executive vice president with Kirksey, expects the buyer will want to live there. “I can’t imagine someone tearing down the only Frank Lloyd Wright in Houston,” says Greiner.
Hopefully a new owner will be found who will be able to take this flawed gem and perhaps return it to its former glory. Houston is a growing and dynamic Southern city, they should embrace this work of art in their midst.
Image and article text via bizjournals.com