River Oaks Mid-Century Preservation Turns Demolition, with Reincarnation In the Works

2 Tiel Way, River Oaks, Houston, 77019

2 Tiel Way, River Oaks, Houston, 77019The remodeling permit issued last fall for 2 Tiel Way (shown above in its previous listing portrait) was augmented by a demolition permit at the end of January, as Diane Cowen reports in this weekend’s Chronicle. The 1960s house (designed by Karl Kamrath, like a few others of the not-yet-demolished original houses on the street) was bought last July after a 10-month stint on the market; Cowen writes that the new owners had planned to restore the home, but structural issues including uncovered termite and water damage boosted cost estimates to around twice the likely cost of a rebuild.

The house was torn down to the slab and fireplace late last month, and some of the interior redwood paneling and light fixtures were salvaged. The new home designed for the site will purportedly mimic the old one to a significant extent — here’s a rendering from Robertson Design, the architecture firm of the new owners’ son:


2 Tiel Way rebuild rendering, River Oaks, Houston, 77019

Perhaps appropriate to the structure’s phoenix-like cycle of destruction and rebirth, the wood siding on the facade is swapped for Japanese-style charred wood in the replacement design, rendered above with the original listing photo apparently used as a base. The driveway and front walkway with its low patterned concrete wall are supposed to remain intact, and Chris Robertson tells Cowen that the departed house’s cantilevered living room will be recreated. Here’s what that used to look like:

2 Tiel Way, River Oaks, Houston, 77019

2 Tiel Way, River Oaks, Houston, 77019

Images: HAR (photos); Robertson Design (rendering of 2 Tiel Way)

Theseus’s Ranch

10 Comment

  • This is really sick. Replacing a historic landmark home with a nouveau-riche faux replica is a waste in so many ways. Karl Kamrath would be horrified.

  • @Henrietta: What’s the alternative? Just mow it down and put up a McMansion? Leave it to become compost?

  • I think Karl would be pissed that the house was so badly eaten by termites that it necessitated demolition.

  • I know nothing about this particular situation, but having seen some examples of this sort of renovation scene play out, I wonder whether there is a lot of anti-renovation bias that pushes the estimates beyond what they really need to be. I have family on the East Coast that have done renovations of homes built in the early 1800s. These were homes that at some point fell into disrepair and had pretty serious issues with wood rot all over and expensive foundation issues. But there was never a second thought about tearing the building down even though there was no historic protection in place. All the builders up there do historic renovations all day long and can price them reasonably. I think builders in Houston just do not have the experience and are afraid of taking on the job so they provide an astronomical bid to try to get the owner to tear down.

  • I have toured this house. The architecture is fascinating and evokes a certain Mad Men era. One can imagine the cocktail parties they must have had. Having said all that, the house was functionally obsolescent. Baths were small, for example. No telling what the electric held, and we now know about the structure itself. All told, the current owners “rebuilding” the house, presumably with some current era amenities, is the best possible outcome. Sure there will be those that lament the passing of the old structure, but they need to understand that the opportunity to save the old house passed a long time ago.

  • …not me

  • Years back, I visited 8 Tiel, another Kamrath design, a few times. I loved the house and expressed that to the owners. They agreed it was a great house in terms of design and living, but said that repairs were extremely difficult, as the construction methods were non-standard, and many areas were very hard to get to without destroying walls that would be nearly impossible to rebuild. After hearing that, I can understand why the owners of 2 Tiel decided to tear it down. There is a limit to how much folks are willing to spend on preservation.

    @Old School, those houses back East are nothing like the Kamrath houses. The houses you mention are far easier to renovate or repair. They don’t have the hidden construction features that make repairs difficult, nor do they have finishes that are an integral part of the design.

  • The same “too far gone to save” assessment of Ashland House in 2006, led to its destruction with no replacement. The semi-modern style restaurant was never built, and the purchasers ended up selling the land to a townhome builder. I still have some pieces of it in my garage. Props to Old School and to Ben Koush.

  • Yes. Galveston preservationists are laughing at your “termite and water damage.” I’ve seen at least three almost completely burned-out historic houses in Galveston completely redone to be as original as possible.

  • People speculate all you want. The previous owner(s) did little to NO termite protection / remediation . This house is mere feet from fricking Buffalo BAYOU . This street has flooded numerous times over the past decades AFTER the house was built. The last flood brought water up to the main level. The whole lower part of the house was underwater. Tiel Way IS a unique street ( for Houston) but it is in VERY close proximity to a large body of water : Buffalo BAYOU . Which will continue to over flow it’s banks in the coming years. And to think the Army Corp of Engineers wanted to channelize the bayou. That would have been UGLY as crap and would NOT have alleviated the flooding issue. My advice: get your insurance agent to pull a CLUE report ( it inventories most , if not ALL of the insurance claims for said property . ). Or YOU the homeowner can pull the report . It’s cheap and will inform you of what issue(s) you may be dealing with when buying a home or already own a home and you want /need the info. But this house easily will cost 2-3 x’s any reasonable estimate for an update of the systems, remedial work,etc. There is a house in the Memorial Villages designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It was expanded and remodeled and it is beautiful. But wood in Houston doesn’t age well at all and is a pain in the ass to maintain… I won’t buy ANY house/property near any bayou,stream or creek… Too many danger factors. And you pay much higher home owners insurance premiums. And YES 99% of builders /contractors do NOT know how to refurbish an older home while updating the systems,yet maintaining design integrity. SO they produce an outlandish estimate. Lazy and incompetence run amok…