- 403 Little John Ln. [HAR]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: STILL HOLDING UP DESPITE THE FAULTY WIRING “I was an employee of — and later a friend of — Jerry J. Moore, and was the only electrical contractor he would allow to work on this property. I know it inside and out. First, as of January 2018, it is still standing. During the early 2000s it was a bit of a maintenance nightmare. It was an old electrical system. The mechanical systems were always needing work. The interior and structure were in good shape, but to be a modern home it would need to be gutted and upgraded with more modern systems. I have many good memories of Jerry and Jean and was lucky to be their friend. I hope the main house stays, but the entire area is being rebuilt with new mansions, so it may be only a matter of time . . . and money.” [James Burrell, commenting on Is Jerry J. Moore’s Friar Tuck French Palace Ready To Be Demolished?; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 306 E. Friar Tuck Ln.: HAR
Among the big game in Sherwood Forest (the close-to-the-Loop Memorial-area neighborhood, not the royal hunting spread poached by Robin Hood) sits an updated 1965 contemporary on its third initial asking price: $4.29 million. A 2013 listing took aim at $4.995 million, which dropped to $4.39 million for a few months. Last summer, the $4.375 million ask trimmed back to $4.32 million two weeks later in a listing lasting 2 months. One wing curves its window wall around the groomed front lawn and clipped landscaping (middle). Pool, terrace, and tennis court extend from the back of the stucco home, which has a 2-story wing for the bedrooms (above).
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THEY WOULD HAVE HAD TO GUT JERRY J. MOORE’S MANSION ANYWAY “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.” [John McReynolds, commenting on 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:
Back in August, Swamplot noted that a demolition permit had been purchased for the home at 306 E. Friar Tuck, the notable former estate of strip-mall king Jerry J. Moore. Moore’s chateau was a true Houston-style original. In other words, it wasn’t your usual pretentious imitation of some old building style from some faraway country; instead, it was an imitation at least reputed to have included actual original old French building parts transported from across centuries and an ocean or 2 to Houston, and reassembled here with great care and some semblance of appropriateness. All of which has over the years allowed the entire assemblage to gain a certain authenticity — you know, in that uniquely Houston way.
Moore died in 2008. In May of this year the home was sold at a much-discounted price of $3.75 million to — appropriately enough — the CEO of a firm that helps other companies outsource their business processes. But three months later, after the property popped up in the Daily Demolition Report, Swamplot was unable to confirm the extent of the planned demo. Sure, work was already taking place on-site, but the permit was broad, and different sources were providing incomplete and contradictory information about whether the new owner planned to demolish all, some, or simply minor portions of the structures on the lot. Now, the dust has cleared enough to give us a partial answer.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE JERRY J. MOORE MEMORIAL HOUSTON CHATEAU JUNKYARD “Spoke to demo contractor and all structures will definitely be demolished, but finishes (both exterior and interior) will be salvaged and sold to be reused.” [Jonny A, commenting on Is Jerry J. Moore’s Friar Tuck French Palace Ready To Be Demolished?]
Even Later Update, 1:05 pm: A city permit official tells Swamplot she’d assume from the way the permit is written that it covers the demolition of all 3 structures on the property. But the inspector who wrote the annotation can’t be reached today.
Later Update, 10:01 am: All right, this is a little weird, but we’re going to have to retract the confirmation below. A demolition on this site is scheduled, but it’s possible it does not include all the structures.
Update, 8:50 am: We’ve confirmed it. The entire French estate (well, this one) is coming down.
As one version of the legend goes, in the mid-1960s strip-mall mogul and multi-millionaire Jerry J. Moore had this 18th-century château disassembled and shipped from the French countryside to Friar Tuck Ln. in Houston’s Sherwood Forest, where it was painstakingly rebuilt, brick by brick. Except, of course, Moore wasn’t the home’s original owner by more than a decade; and 8 years ago when he first tried to sell it (at first for $18 million, then $12.5 million), the real estate agent was careful to describe the 3-story concoction as a miniature “residential scale” reproduction of the French mannerist Palace of Fountainebleau outside Paris, as envisioned by local architect Armon E. Mabry. Oh — and the little Memorial-ish palace isn’t made of brick, anyway. Its exterior is limestone.
But that’s limestone quarried in France, “assembled with precision by French craftsmen,” Martha Turner Properties agent Marlene Rhoden explained to the Houston Business Journal in 2003. And the slate roof tiles — those came from France too!
Whatever its old-world pedigree, the home received a demolition permit on Thursday. Whether that permit covers turning the entire 12,734-sq.-ft. estate into rubble or just the whisking away of its 26-car air-conditioned garage — where Moore stored a tiny portion of his considerable antique-car collection — public records don’t say. But no renovation work has been permitted on the property, and the sewer line has already been disconnected.
Maybe the chateau is just being carefully packed up for a move to Phoenix or Atlanta, or a return trip over the pond? Nice try, but the demolition contractor hired for the job isn’t exactly known for his careful disassembly work.
It sure looks like this is it. How’d such a classic Houston real-estate legend come face-to-face with such a classic Houston ending?
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THAT MIDCENTURY MOD FUNDING PROBLEM “I can understand if a unique house such as this is torn down when it hasn’t been maintained or updated over the years. But this one clearly has. To say it’s beautiful is an understatement. There just aren’t enough mid century mod enthusiasts in Houston who have $3 million to spare. Maybe someone in LA can have it moved over there.” [Carol, commenting on A Last Look at the Old Schnitzer Home]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: MEMORIAL REAL ESTATE IMPERATIVES “The house is old. The house must be torn down. The house will be replaced by one with separate rooms for every task imaginable. The house will have a six car garage – the new four car garage. A realtor will advertise the property with ‘old growth trees’. This must be done.” [tcpIV, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Taking from Friar Tuck and Little John]
A few readers have requested a final tour of the former Sherwood Forest home of Greenway Plaza developer Kenneth Schnitzer. The home at 314 E. Friar Tuck Ln. showed up in yesterday’s Daily Demolition Report. It was built in 1970 from a design by Houston architects Neuhaus & Taylor.
Have a look around:
Some of you may be ready for a refresher: What does a $5 million teardown look like again? Here’s one answer: It looks a lot like a very large lot in a tony neighborhood that doesn’t like the land, at least, to be chopped into smaller pieces.
This 1962 estate on more than 3.3 acres in Sherwood Forest, designed by Houston society architect John Staub, showed up in Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report this morning, which means it received a demo permit on Friday. The permit report identifies the owner as developer Giorgio Borlenghi, but HCAD records indicate Borlenghi sold the property in October 2007 to an entity known as ALV Interests, Ltd.
Only 2 months after that sale, the 7,334-sq.-ft. home went on the market — at $6 million. And it’s still listed, now for $1 million less. Though these photos, included with the listing, now might be slightly out of date:
There’s trouble in Sherwood Forest: Newman Branch, a stagnant finger of Buffalo Bayou that traipses between Little John and W. Friar Tuck Lanes, had fire hydrants running full force on Friday to flush out raw sewage that mysteriously appeared in the waterway, reports Allan Turner in the Chronicle:
Houston oilman Dewey Stringer, who lives near the point where the bayou passes Memorial, said similar pollution has periodically plagued the waterway for at least five years. Generally, however, heavy rainfall dilutes the contamination.
Stringer, who was among residents to report the pollution to authorities, said the odor was so severe that he and his wife found it difficult to sleep. He had planned to relocate to Galveston this weekend and commute to work.
Stringer said he has developed eye irritation from vapors rising from the bayou and both he and his wife have developed persistent coughs.