On Second Thought, Nevermind: The $5 Million Gut-and-Flip of Jerry J. Moore’s Little French Castle in Houston

If, when the place was up for sale last year, you only liked what you saw of the legendary ornate sorta-replica French palace in Sherwood Forest that Houston strip-mall king and car collector Jerry J. Moore pieced together for himself from actual French parts, you’ll absolutely love the home in its latest incarnation: The 12,734-sq.-ft. interior has now been gutted completely. And, the home’s current owners hope, you’ll be willing to pay about $5.15 million more for it in its current condition than they were when they bought it about this time last year for just $3.75 million — you know, when the interior had things in it like floors and walls and ceilings, not to mention functioning electricity and plumbing. Also swept away by demolition crews for today’s more sophisticated, imaginative, and demanding buyer — Moore’s famous 26-car garage at the back of the property, with the “treehouse” quarters above it, as well as the poolhouse. Listing agent Diane Kingshill of Martha Turner Properties tells Swamplot both of those structures were in poor condition and had mold.

But if any mold was also hiding in the marble flooring, chandeliers, or extensive wood paneling of the main house, it’s clearly gone now. All that sweat equity put in by the current owners has many more benefits — certainly enough to justify the $8.9 million asking price with which the home has returned to this year’s much stronger market. Just see what interior vistas have been opened up, in a home once full of visual obstacles:


Where once there was this:

there now is this:

What used to look like this:

now looks something like this:

What used to be this:

is now this:

What happened here? Just the completion of the demolition phase of what was intended to be an extensive interior remodeling project.

The home’s current owners “spent considerable time (and money) working with an architect to create a plan that would transform the house into more of a family home,” reports Kingshill. “They desired something open and less ornate than the way the house existed when they purchased it.” But after all that hard work, there was a change of heart: “Ultimately, the family decided that it was in the best interest of their young children to purchase a home that they could move into immediately rather going through the time of restoring the Friar Tuck home. . . . It was a very difficult decision for them.”

The homeowners are opting instead for a home in Tanglewood. What comes next is up to you! This former miniature Palace of Fountainebleu lookalike can now be your own little Chateau Table Rase. The skeletal remains of Jerry J. Moore’s obsessive Houston Francification project covers 2.7 acres backing up to Spring Branch Creek. Still intact: the home’s French limestone exterior and slate-tile roof, and that 10-ft.-tall wall around the property. As well as the legend that the whole thing was transported piece by piece from France in the 1960s, to be reassembled here — and then taken apart again, almost 50 years later.

33 Comment

  • What happened was that the homeowners saw the oil prices rising, looked at how much they would have to spend the complete the remodel, and figured they could flip it as is and make more money that way. It may well be worth more now but it will be interesting to see whether it’s worth that much more.

  • note: only one home has been desecrated for the purposes of this posting

  • Someone has finally lost her mind. But HAR of course will use this to “play with” when they attempt to convince everyone that the market has recovered.

    As for the owners, they will be lucky to get their money back. Might have helped had they “saved” all the panelling and flooring for the “restoration.”

    What comes next? Probably a bulldozer and a new Tuscan “Yeeee-hawwwww Lookie How Rich I Am” monstrosity.

  • I guess this proves even rich people are stupid when it comes to bad remodels.

  • Oh, it’ll be fun to see how bad a condition it is next year when it comes back up “for sale”. I imagine the animals that will soon inhabit it will apreciate the lack of drywall impeding their progress to their nests in the walls and celings.

  • Oh, those whimsical white people!

  • Strangely–as I read this, Rue St. Vincent by Yves Montand plays in iTunes… it’s given me the heeby-geebies. I’d love to walk through these before and afters though.

  • Why oh why…

  • Lets be creative and tear it down and build a stucco house!

  • that’s amazing!
    [I wonder whether the whole house had leaks, this gutting was necessary, and the reno story was avoid the dreaded Mold House label]


  • this post just hurts looking at it again after lunch.

    what’s the appropriate response from an interior decorator for a project like this? how do you tell the buyer they’re retarded and should just buy a different house?

  • Isn’t there a shell of a home somewhere on I-35 north of Dallas (on the west side of the road) in a similar state of completion – the “after”, that is – and has been like that for years, if not decades? Perhaps the owners are related . . .

  • Am not a member of the standard preservation choir, but this just pisses me off.

    “They desired something open and less ornate than the way the house existed when they purchased it.”

    Then go buy something else!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Let’s get real. What probably happened is the hubby’s biz went South over the last year and this “public” story is an attempt to save face or having to turn in the trophy wife’s Maserati.

  • that wouldn’t explain the $5MM jump in price like he has all the time in the world to wait this one out though.

    besides, wasn’t this the dude that owned some outsourcing firm. his business is probably blowing up in revenue with all companies looking to cut as many american jobs as possible to eek out whatever gains they can in the short-term. maybe he just stripped the house and built a whole new french palace in ghangzhou.

  • The owners sold their business. Most likely the Toons are going to take their millions and millions and leave Houston forever……

    EquaTerra was founded in 2003 by Mark Toon, Mark Hodges and David Karabinos. EquaTerra was acquired by KPMG effective February 18, 2011.

  • From bozo:
    The owners sold their business. Most likely the Toons are going to take their millions and millions and leave Houston forever……


    The Toons bought a house in Tanglewood which no doubt they are also in the process of “restoring” and judging from the photos of the “restoration” on Friar Tuck apparently they don’t bother talking to an architect until they have taken a house down to the studs and then discover that silly things like beams and walls really can’t just be removed to give one the “open and less ornate” look they desire. Maybe they should just build a house. Or go “renovate” a warehouse. They’re a joke.

    But so is the broker who believes people are so stupid as to believe that a house that now really does need to be “restored,” although “finished” is a better term at this point, has increased in value and is now worth $5.15 million more than it was a year ago. Particularly if indeed there was mold which might explain why the house was taken down to the studs and why it sold for $3.75 million a year ago. And if there was no doubt the broker made sure it is on the seller disclosure. Maybe. Personally I think the Toons just simply didn’t and don’t know what they’re doing.

  • And I was just thinking, how Looney!

  • The owners must be poster childs of the term douchebag. I have been inside this joint when everything was still intact. Much of the original interior was imported french antique as well, and worth a fourtune.

    As for the pool house, I didn’t detect any mold. Hell, it was much nicer than my pad!

  • If a buyer does not appreciate authentic French construction or understand the architecture and passion involved to complete a showplace like this, keep moving. The basic bones are French and a crime to strip the beauty from it. It will never look right French rooms are meant to be ornate, lots of specialized woodwork, and rooms always separated from others.
    I know I just sold my parents authentic French home that took 4 years to build and 4 years on the drawing board. Every detail was studied and nothing too small to compromise the integrity of the house. They enjoyed the home for 15 years. I was privileged to live there and watch the delight on people’s faces as they toured the home.
    My point, a true French home only shines when it is in it’s original state. renovation of course. My parents loved Jerry Moore’s petite chateau. Keep it french

  • In all honesty, it is the current Owner’s house and he is fully capable of doing anything and everything to it as he pleases; HOWEVER it doesn’t mean that knowledgeable people won’t call him out. If you see a duck.. and it looks like a duck.. and quacks like a duck.. it’s surely a DUCK. Current owner is a qaucker and Jerry Moore would have b-slapped him for this fiasco. You guys just dont get it, this house was owned by the largest car collector in the WORLD. Not in town or in the state…or even on our continent, the WORLD was his oyster! You want a history lesson?! He owned a bugatti limousine that the Bugatti brothers hid in a basement when the Nazis invaded France. This is a Houston legend.. an automotive and business icon who loved this town and made it famous. He is to be respected and remembered.. not his treasures destroyed and attempted to be “restored” by amateurs.

    It’s one thing to enhance and sell for a profit.. its another to demo and sell for a 5 million upcharge for less than what it was in its original state… :::shakes head::: Don’t hold your breath on that one mate!

    DAMN shame I say…

    History lesson was on the house, Long live J. M.

  • How can people with so much money be so stupid? For ruining a property like that, the people (I use the term loosely) responsible should be removed from Texas. They might buy something else and ruin it too!!!! People with no sense of historical value are dangerous, in a stupid way.

  • It shows an open house today. Anyone cares to visit and guestimate how much it would take to complete the remodel back to marble floors and wood paneled walls?

  • This home was originally belonging to French consulate. Before Jerry j ever bought it. True they brought it herevpiece by piece from France.
    The new owners bought this home because they were acquaintance of Jerry j. Who had dementia but not obvious at time. Jerry j told them he had millions stashed in the walls and safe of money under floors they bought it for this reason. Destroyed the home searching for millions. Maybe they our and maybe they did not. But only they will know. I actually witnessed them tearing up this house midnight one night I am friends with the previous home staff and they verify this.
    How terrible to destroy this masterpiece or greed

  • There are many stories about this house. Few are true. My family bought this house in the 70’s and completed it. I lived there 7 years. We sold it to Jerry J. Moore. The giant “M” in the gates was actually originally a “W” for Walters, the original owner. It was later inverted to an “M” since the next two owners shared that initial. It is quite sad to see it gutted. As a former builder, I know there is little chance that it could ever be duplicated in its original splendor.

  • By the way, I still have the interior room keys to that house. Each was unique and labelled in French. Plain nickel plated keys for the utility areas, bronze keys for the secondary bedrooms and elaborate sculpted gold keys for the formal areas. It was quite a unique place.

  • The Seller’s Disclosure claims no knowledge of foundation, termite, flooding, meth, wood rot, etc.

    Also, seller claims they have no inspection reports from when they bought the property (less than 4 years ago). If I had a buyer client for this property, I’d certainly press that point, as that seems unlikely, and they are required to provide it to the prospective buyer.

  • At this point, that place will go for lot value and scavenge rights.

  • From John McReynolds:
    It is quite sad to see it gutted.


    It’s just another example of how people with money sometimes have no taste. Or any sense of aesthetics. The thought of what the Toons would have ended up doing is almost as scary as what they did which was to destroy a work of art.

  • What is truly a loss is that the European continent has literally thousands of every type of architecture for homes, cathedrals, buildings, etc. In other words, they have a reverential touchstone to their past. Very deep roots. But here in America with our few centuries of architectural construction, majorities (with political or monetary motives) want to demolish, renovate, or modernize. Architectural History seems to always get trumped, no matter how loud those of us who fight for and are trying to keep our history scream and yell. But America can call itself progressive, brilliant, and land of beauty and opportunity. Sad, sad, sad.

  • Not everyone sees beauty where there is beauty. The seeing & meaning of beauty is different for everyone. One person’s beauty is stupidity to another. Most of us see $$$’s, what will the profit be. I don’t know the reason for the demolition. But, to detroy this property, whether looking for money, mold, termites, etc. I say there had to be good reasons for the owners to do such damage. Before name calling, try asking WHY ? No doubt this is a historic beauty. Call me crazy but, if I could afford to restore the property back to it’s former glory or close to it, I would.