HOW THAT NEW HOUSTON LOOK KEPT MAKING ITS WAY FROM OLD EUROPE “I have always felt that this North Boulevard house was the one that changed the way Houston looked at decor and antiques,” writes West U design blogger Joni Webb about a stucco mansion in Broadacres by Rice University architect William Ward Watkin, who designed it in 1923 for a drug-company executive after a 4-month inspirational European tour. The property at 1318 North Blvd. later served for more than a decade as the home of Tootsie’s founder Micky Rosmarin, who died after a heart attack last month; it’s now up for sale for $4.75 million. “Back in 1995,” Webb writes, “it was featured on the cover of Veranda and I think it was this house that marked the true beginning of the Houston Look — the white slipcover, seagrass, antique filled aesthetic whose origins I attribute to designer Babs Cooper Watkins . . . it launched Watkins into prominence.” Watkins, Webb explains, “used antiques in a casual way, her interiors were never about a hands-off approach. She mixed in religious relics and priceless antiques with vintage chairs slipcovered in inexpensive plain linen. She repurposed outside garden elements to be used inside the house. And Babs was one of the first ones who favored dramatic paint treatments that turned ordinary sheetrock into centuries old grottos.” Watkins passed away in February of last year. But Webb recalls how the home launched a store — and a whole new Old World orientation for Houston interiors: “The Veranda photoshoot not only created a new aesthetic, it also created a new partnership and the Watkins Schatte antique shop on Bissonnet was born.” The shop (still at 2308 Bissonnet, but now known as Watkins-Culver Antiques) “was an instant hit and during those days, lines would form when a new shipment was unveiled. Everyone wanted to see what Babs and Bill [Gardner] and Annette [Schatte] had bought in Europe.” [Cote de Texas; previously on Swamplot]
Noticed that striking Meyerland Mod headlining our demolition report this morning? The 1956 home at 4815 Braesvalley Dr.first came to Swamplot’s attention 9 years ago, as the site of a remarkable scene. The then-86-year-old architect Lars W. Bang, a prolific purveyor of Modern Houston homes, was driven to the property in hopes that the real estate agent listing the 4-bedroom property might confirm that he was indeed its designer. “My husband, Jim, helped him out of the car and invited him into the house,” Meg Zoller wrote, “but Mr. Bang’s knees aren’t what they used to be . . . and he just wanted to stand out front and look at the house. After some time he decided that he could not confidently say whether the home was one of his designs or not.”
Bang passed away the following year, but not before his authorship of 4815 Braesvalley was confirmed. (It turned out his name was on a set of plans kept by the Meyerland Homeowner’s Association.) Writing in the next edition of the Houston Architectural Guide, Stephen Fox labeled it a home that “rescues Meyerland from being boring.” The plan contains 3 courtyard spaces, one of them now topped by a screen roof:
On the market again: the designed-it-himself 1959 home of Ralph Anderson (who worked on the Astrodome, as well as the retooled brutalist building now occupied by the Houston Chronicle). The home is iced on its Banks St. side in cream-colored patterned concrete and contains an airy courtyard center; the latest asking price is $839,000, down from $875,000 last spring. The property was a stop on houstonMod’s May Mod of the Month tour, which took place yesterday afternoon.
Architect Paul Kweton sends his idea for a multi-deck observation tower for Buffalo Bayou Park, adding to the list of unsolicited but interesting projects dreamed up for the public space. The plans and drawings show stairs spiraling continuously upward around a central elevator shaft, enclosed only by a giant net-like facade (as well as a smaller actual net preventing visitors from exploring the exterior of the structure).
Kweton has 2 potential locations in mind — the rendering above shows the tower on the lawn in Eleanor Tinsley Park, across the bayou from the now open Cistern (the long-defunct 1920s subterranean city water reservoir turned found-art piece and potential exhibit space). The alternative spot is a little further west across Allen Pkwy., near the 1920s Gillette St. waste-incinerator sitesold last year year for redevelopment into the Broadstone Tinsley Park Apartments:
An uncovered courtyard is the centerpiece of this former home of Astrodome and ex-Houston Post building architect Ralph Anderson, who designed the 1,805-sq.-ft. space and lived there leading up to his death in 1990. The 2-bedroom 2-bath house features floor-to-ceiling windows and brick floors arrayed around the central atrium, which held a large tree until early last year. The 1959 home, now housing a much smaller tree in a courtyard planter, went on the market a week and a half ago at $875,000.
The front door is set into a patterned concrete wall:
Here’s the just-completed 250-sq.-ft. Memorial guard post recently completed in Buffalo Bayou Park. It’s right by that spot just south of Buffalo Bayou from Glenwood Cemetery where you’ll always find a cop car or 2, standing guard by the Houston Police Officers Memorial. The sculptor of that 1991 memorial, Jesús Moroles, was killed in an auto accident earlier this month. The new building, designed by Brave Architecture, is meant to allow the off-duty officers posted there to have more of a public presence as they keep an eye on the memorial through the large windows. It will also function as a small visitors center for the memorial.
“It looks amazingly shiny without the 50 years of grime,” notes the reader who late last week snapped these photos of the former Houston Post building at 4747 Southwest Fwy., tucked into the lifted right armpit of the I-69-610 intersection. The brutalist main building of the 7-building campus, designed in 1970 by Astrodome architects Wilson, Morris, Crain, and Anderson, is being powerwashed — with a significant portion of the work complete just in time for this week’s heavy rains.
Crews tore down the Mod basketball pavilion in Meadowcreek Park on Monday. Its structure had been declared unsafe last August. The pavilion and community center at 5333 Berry Creek Dr. were built in 1961, following a design by Raymond Brogniez — the architect of the River Oaks-Lamar Shopping Center and the Sylvan Beach Pavilion.
Here’s a rendering of the new employment services and care center Midtown-based nonprofit SEARCH Homeless Services is just about ready to start building on a 10,000-sq.-ft. vacant lot at the northwest corner of Congress and St. Emanuel. The site is one block east of the Hwy. 59 overpass, at 2015 Congress Ave. Arch-Con Construction will begin construction on the design by Studio Red Architects after a groundbreaking ceremony next Monday. The nonprofit plans to leave its current HQ in the fifties Mod building at 2505 Fannin St. in Midtown for this new East Downtown perch. In addition to offices, the smaller, 27,105-sq.-ft. facility will include a chapel, training rooms, workspaces, and a terrace.
The U.S. Postal Service plans to end all retail operations at its flagship Downtown Houston post office next Friday, May 15th. And that’ll be it for the Barbara Jordan Post Office in the 5-story 1962 building with concrete fins at 401 Franklin St. All P.O. box and caller services at that location have already ended; they stopped on May 1st. And the post office boxes themselves have been gently extricated as well, leaving this scene inside:
New photos posted to the listing of the dollhouse-like townhome under construction 2 blocks west of the Eastex Fwy. in Midtown appear to capture some sort of floral delivery in progress, a reader who’s been monitoring it notes. Between the arrival photo (above left) and the ready-to-go image next to it that appears to be the next in sequence, 5 new flower baskets appear on the grid masking the structure’s prominent garage forehead. The design by architect Martin James Lide morphs a shotgun house plan into a 2-story townhome configuration that manages to fit 3 bedrooms in 2,425 sq. ft.:
The craggy terrain backing Buffalo Bayou in River Oaks near the neighborhood’s decorative gates at Shepherd Dr. sprouted several Usonian-design inspired homes by the architecture firm of MacKie & Kamrath back in the fifties. One of the modernist properties that still remains on the Tiel Way loop landed on the market Monday — and it’s in near original shape, right down to the redwood siding and built-in furnishings. A 1957 structure noted in architectural circles for its angles, wedges, cantilevered terraces, and detail-layered ceilings, the bayou-view home on a ravine lot now bears a $2.5 million price tag.
When architect Tom Wilson designed a contemporary residence for himself in West U back in 1977, he divvied the lot down the length, giving home and extensive poolscape each narrow side-by-side footprints. Twenty years later, the current owners took over, paying $535K for the privilege. Last week, the property popped up on the market with a $1.45 million price tag. Architectural guides peg the design as “a low-key medium tech house” engineered with steel and panels of metal and wood. The “front” door is on the side; it lies inside the porch and privacy screen (above) facing the street, which is located south of University Blvd. and west of Buffalo Speedway.