Jack Preston Wood: Making an Impression in the Freeland Historic District

House designer Jack Preston Wood has apparently had second thoughts about his plan to build two 4-story townhomes where this bungalow now sits in the Freeland Historic District. The city historic commission turned down both his new-construction and demolition plans last month, and neighbors have been writing him letters and protesting every weekend since.

Freeland Historic District is a collection of 35 bungalows, marked down from the original 37, on two blocks south of White Oak Blvd. at the damp end of the Heights. There’s been no new construction in the district — which was designated just last fall — and residents have been working hard to keep it that way.

Wood tells Chronicle reporter Robin Foster that neither the Realtor nor the owner of the house told him that the house at 536 Granberry was in an historic district before he signed a contract to buy it:

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He found out about it when he tried to subdivide the lot.

Jean Taylor, who lives two doors down, recalls seeing the property listing. The house had been vacant more than a year. It was never marketed as a historic home but as a tear-down or business property and eventually as just land, she said.

Her neighbor, Gilbert Perez, who runs a restoration business, tried to buy it, but his offer was rejected as too low, Taylor said.

Wood tells Foster that one of the garage-front townhouses was meant to be a “dream home” for him and his wife. Now though, maybe not:

Even though city laws won’t stop the redevelopment, Wood said there’s no way he’ll go through with those plans after speaking with some of the neighbors. But if they aren’t amenable to something different, something he would consider compatible with the existing homes, then he may pull out of the deal altogether.

“If we can’t find a way to get our dream to fit in there, then we won’t close,” Wood said.

But Wood has plenty of experience fitting dreams onto lots.

In addition to the design work performed by his company, Preston Wood & Associates, Wood sells a wide range of house plans off his company website — and apparently works hard to promote the designs with videos and a blog that’s written in Spammish and full of SEO-friendly link text.

Presenting the house plan shown in this video, #c4169, the blog comments:

This 6226 square foot home plan is one our more popular luxury house plans. This 5 bedroom 5 1/2 bath house plan offers many features of a mansion home design such as an exercise room, library, and game room.

The custom-designed townhome featured below, #D5096, comes with 3 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, a media room, and a royalty-free soft-porn soundtrack:

But perhaps the most succinct overview of Wood’s dreamwork is provided by this short video from the Preston Wood website, which matches a slideshow of Wood’s house designs to the compelling rhythm of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain”:

Photos: Swamplot inbox

37 Comment

  • Demo permits sold in the greater Heights last year – approx 220. (zips 007,008, 009) The Chron’s real estate report showed that 25% of 2008 home sales in the Heights were new construction. And how many were built in the last 10 years? Don’t know, but for anyone who thinks The Heights has NOT been decimated, go to HAR.com to see how nearly all listings were built since 1999 or are lot value only.

    Heard a story on the radio not long ago about how people stood in line for hours to see the Bill of Rights, but when an exact replica went on display, nobody bothered.
    What does that tell us?

  • Too bad the agent was from the Woodlands and didn’t do her homework. Since the lot is so large (11,900SF) and multi-level, shall we say, next purchaser should meet with the area owners, Randy Pace, to see what could reasonably added and not look outlandish. The cottage could probably be expanded appropriately. 4-stories would have been hideous. Mr. Perez has used front-facing garages in some of his projects, so you don’t want that.

  • He should pull out and get his ernest money back based on not having been disclosed as an historic district.

    Hey people…do your research before buying in the Heights or anywhere inside the loop! There are historic districts, setback and lot size requirements, etc.

    Ask the guy on Arlington that bought a recently renovated home, tore it down and learned he could not build to the same footprint as before. He had to keep the garage as it was because with the new setbacks, nothing can be built on that sliver now.

  • Did his title report not show the historical district?

  • I don’t think he has yet closed. Would he have a title report prior to closing? (I am a real estate greenie)

  • I live near this “historic district”, I guess if they want to call it that it’s up to them & City rules, but it is a bunch of junky old houses that are in need of replacement. And frankly their ugly protest signs are worse than the thought of, shock horror, their worthless old shacks being torn down & replaced with something nice. I’d much rather effort be put into saving actually historic structures, rather than the City backing a NIMBY movement pretending to be a historic movement.

  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, CS and we behold those shabby old shacks to be beautiful.

    If you don’t like them, please don’t buy anywhere near them, for in our eyes, we probably would find what you live in as ugly too.

    Though, I don’t think historic designation requires beauty, if that were the case, many many of the world’s historic places would be flattened today.

  • TO CS:

    Pure Class!

  • I never used or implied the word beauty. You can think that neighborhood is beautiful, and that is great for you! The effort is purely a desire for one property owner, at no cost, to control the use of property they don’t own. And, unfortunately our system allows this, so, keep working it! Signs, shacks and all, cool by me. Just don’t pretend this is a historic preservation effort, it’s not.

  • CS,
    Your comments about the Freeland neighborhood were totally inappropriate and hateful. Let’s hope that your healthcare professionals don’t have your same attitude when they are charged with saving/caring for you when you are “OLD”.

  • This was deemed an historic district prior to his putting a contract on the property and yet he wants to change even though that had already occurred. Further, he hasn’t even closed on the property, so if he did not know it was historic, and it was not disclosed, he should have no problem getting out of the deal.

  • It’s not pretend CS. It is. That’s the FACT. I don’t know if you live in a world of assumptions and day dreams, but you should try getting your head out of the clouds and read the story closely. There is a reason city’s set up Historic Preservation. I am not going to repeat what EMME said. What brought YOU to the Heights in the first place? I am sure it wasn’t for all the NEW homes they had.

  • Blah blah blah, I said not one hateful thing, I don’t hate the people, you, the neighborhood. I have the opinion the signs are ugly, you have the opinion the neighborhood is beautiful. You have turned your inability to disuss the true facts into calling me names. The fact still remains these people just dont want big townhomes next to them, its not a historic effort, that’s silly, admit it. If the use of the word “shack” is offensive I’m sorry. Lets just change it to house. If we as a society want to define any structure built before WW II as historic, then this neighborhood is historic. By any classic definition of the word, no “history” took place on Granberry Street.

  • You’re so out of touch with reality it’s engrossing, and frankly I am to busy to reply to anymore of you half-wit borderline childish comments anymore. G’day.

  • CS,
    What is historic about this neighborhood is that it is composed of ALL original bungalows- ALL of the present 35 homes in the Freeland Historic District are the original bungalows. If that doesn’t qualify for historical- I don’t know what would. Whether or not they meet your visual standards is irrelevant. This neighborhood is the ONLY and LAST intact historic district in our city, maybe even the country. As far as becoming educated, please take the time to pull up and read the historical designation of the Freeland District before you launch anymore critical comments.

  • Buyer beware. Especially when dealing with a Realtor!

  • Ahhh, your stellar logic wins out in the end! Call me more names! Hey let me write the intelligent reply, and get this over with.
    Dear CS,
    You may not agree, but I think neighborhoods like the Freeland District have a charm and style that are worth preserving, worth calling historic. Although you may not like the signs, I find the efforts of the residents to preserve their neighbood to be quite noble. We have not preserved enough classic heights neighborhoods, and we have to start somewhere. This is a stand worth taking!

    There, wasnt that easy!

  • Come on children, let’s behave. Just because someone has an opinion that differs from your’s doesn’t mean it justifies infantile name calling.

  • CS Comment 17:
    Yeah that’s more like it. Why didn’t you say that the first time? Instead you called them, “junky old houses that are in need of replacement.” And I believe you said the Freeland Historic District was a, “NIMBY movement pretending to be a historic movement.” You could have saved face many comments ago if you would have given your original comment as much thought as you did to your comment to your comment.

    -Bc

  • I find it amazing when one of you guys (CS and CK) start with the name calling and ugly comments that you can’t take the same. Again, your invoking your freedom of speech, does not revoke mine.

    And by the way, you bet I don’t want townhouses next to me, however, that is not NIMBY. NIMBY is when neighbors don’t want something in their neighborhood that will benefit the larger community. Townhouses benefit nobody but the developers and those who like to live in them. They are not public service initiatives.

  • EMME: I would find it amazing if CS and CK weren’t the same person.

  • They have to be related, they share the same first initial. :)

  • I’ll never understand why developers continually mis-site buildings. There are tons of lots/teardowns in walking distance from this location that these structures could be built upon with zero resistance. Don’t these guys do any homework? Or do they just expect a rubber stamp?

  • What kind of moronic builder doesn’t do his own homework when buying a potential site? He gets no sympathy from me nor do any of the typical “private property” advocates on here who support this tool.

  • CS,
    No one has called you names- It was your comments that were insensitive regarding the homes. Good, hard working people reside in those homes and your descriptions were offensive. Not everyone has the money to make their home have all the curb appeal that one might desire, but that does not mean their home should be bull dozed and replaced with something new. That’s all…

  • to dMc & doofus:
    Didn’t you know everyone in this area is a Developer: No Background & no Smarts required – just Credit!?

  • What I have found out is that many neighbors hate someone who comes in and builds a new home, EVEN if the home that is being torn down is a non-historical abode. We found out about that in the Heights proper while involved in tearing down a old junky aluminum siding house on a slab from the 50′s. I mean a JUNK! AND, we were building a historical looking home. Okay, maybe not every time, but oftentimes it is just jealousy because people hate someone who can afford a $800,000.00 home. Don’t be a hater :-)

  • Rise High Ashby!

  • This is exposing the clear rift between old Heights (long-term residents, the renovation-minded ‘gentrifiers’, multiple generations of the same families) and new Heights (usually much wealthier and more likely to live in new construction).

    To Sheila’s comment (#1), I’d like to offer a different perspective: I have a number of colleagues who are actively wanting to move into the Heights, but do not want (and cannot afford) the high-six and seven figure new houses. These friends of mine bemoan the fact that while there are hundreds (thousands?) of well-maintained original houses still in the Heights, each time one comes on the market it is snapped up at a premium.

    So, based on this anecdotal evidence, I am not surprised that the offerings on HAR are mainly new construction and lots. The market for those two ‘products’ seems to be stable or over-supplied. The market for well-maintained original homes is under-supplied and those homes do not stay for sale for very long.

    I’d also add that those 3 zip codes are a pretty rough way of measuring the Heights, as much of the original housing stock was not built to the standards found within the original Houston Heights. From driving the area, much of the new construction seems to be happening to the west, north and south (only a small part of zip code 77007 is above I-10 – it covers the entire area along Washington Ave from Memorial Park to Downtown and spreads south of Allen Pkwy).

  • I worked hard to obtain the historic designation for my neighborhood and think it is great the Freeland Historic District was able to protect the property from demolition. Regarding CS comments, while I do not agree with his assessment of the neighborhood or his opinion of historical districts I do not think CS deserves to be attacked. It is CS’s opinion, better to use logic and information to educate and change that opinion.

  • NorhillJoe:

    I believe it was an attack, maybe not personal, but one that will be taken personal.

  • He started it (as she sticks her fingers in her ears and her tongue out).

    I know. The statement, “Them’s fighting words” comes from a place of truth. I try to stay adult, but sometimes them words just rile me up.

    I think I stayed okay this time.

  • tsk tsk tsk. I assure all of you I have nothing to do with “CS” and don’t know him/her/it from Adam. NorhillJoe said it best in that while we don’t necessarily agree with everything CS has stated, we recognize that is his/her/it’s right and we’re not going to revert back to junior high school behavior to assert our opinions. I can almost hear the seething and hand writhing. C’mon we’re all adults here. Communication can be adult and civil. Disagreements don’t have to be juvenile.

  • Why do you keep calling CS an “IT”? I am sure “IT” is a human. I will repeat myself, the comments CS made could be interpreted as very rude and as a personal attack on the people that reside in said “junky” house.

  • I think what’s interesting about this whole story is that the revised but still toothless historic preservation ordinance appears to be working as intended. Just by placing a 90-day wait period on the demolition, there appears to be a good chance the structure will not be demolished.

    It’s like when the philosophers first started talking about human rights. The skeptics pointed out that there weren’t any such things as universal rights, there were just laws. But just by declaring rights, social norms and beliefs started to change.

    CS isn’t convinced but the media and the neighborhood are using the designation to good effect.

  • I guess I missed the boat on this one and I’m not even going to get into the discussion about the meriots of the Freeland District. However to claim that it is possibly the only cluster of 37 original properties existing in the country is not only wrong, given that two have been demolished, but also patently ridiculous. Other cities clearly have large swathes of existing prooperties older than these homes.

  • Jimbo:

    Prove it.