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A page out of history

Historic Preservation Manual Historic Landmark form


10 Tips: Restoring vs. Rehabilitating Your Historic House

10 Tips
integrate modern touches with care and caution

In a previous toolkit series, we walked you through the steps of finding and buying a historic house. Now the search is over, and you're the proud owner of a new old home. Congratulations! Sooo ... now what? As you'll find out, historic homeownership brings with it a unique set of questions, decisions, and goals. Let's address one of the most basic questions first: Should you restore or rehabilitate your house? Your decision will influence the house's finished character, the project cost, and the amount of time it takes. It will also impact how much of the work you take on yourself and how much you'll hand off to professionals. With that said, here are 10 things to keep in mind when determining which approach will work best for you: Read more...

13 Things You Should Know About Retrofitting Historic Windows

Historic Windows
Retrofits for historic windows perform comparably

Windows are the most visible, yet most commonly underappreciated, components of older and historic homes and buildings.

In addition to adding beauty and character, original windows serve a great purpose—they connect the outside of the building to the inside and, as an integral part of the architecture, offer invaluable clues to a building's history.

Despite this value, however, historic windows often get the blame for a building’s energy loss. Most often, people jump to replace their historic windows because a) companies promise that their replacement windows will save clients time and money, and b) it’s promoted as the "green" thing to do. In fact, a thriving industry has grown around this perceived need to replace rather than restore. Read more...

Historic designation bestowed upon the David House, the Heights Theater, the James A. and Margaret Wiess Elkins House and 308 Main

Magnolia Cemetery
308 Main

On July 22, 2015, Houston City Council designated the David House and the James A. and Margaret Wiess Elkins House as historic landmarks. Council also designated the Heights Theater and 308 Main as Protected Historic Landmarks making them exempt from demolition and inappropriate alteration.

The building at 308 Main Street was built in 1880 following a fire in July 1879 that destroyed half of the 300 block of Main Street. Designed in the Italianate style, 308 Main Street is one of downtown Houston’s last remaining Victorian commercial buildings. The three buildings now addressed as 308, 306, and 304 Main Street were constructed at the same time by the same owner, although they appear as three separate buildings today with distinct facades, and are under separate ownership. 308 Main Street retains many of its original Italianate features, such as its heavy ornate sheet metal cornice, ornate iron window hoods, and iron sills. The wall surface of the upper floors is clad in plaster styled to appear as rusticated stone facing. The building was restored in the 1990s. The building is a contributing structure in the Main Street Market Square National Register Historic District.

Heights Theatre
Heights Theater

Originally built in 1929 with a Mission-style stucco façade, the exterior was updated in 1935 into the Art Moderne style that it still maintains today. The building was owned and operated as a neighborhood cinema by the Wygant family until 1958, when John Scott purchased the theater and continued to operate it as a neighborhood cinema. A full renovation took place in the late 1980’s and it reopened in 1989 as a performance venue and art space. It also housed an antiques store for a time.

David House
The David House

The David House at 1807 Wroxton Road, completed in 1971, was designed in 1969 by the noted architect and landscape architect Charles Tapley, FAIA. The David House was designed for Grace David and her husband Henry David. In the 1960s and 1970s, Grace David was known in Houston as a discriminating art collector, astute business woman, outstanding hostess, and sophisticated owner of the Bookman bookstore and the David Art Gallery. Grace David was close friends with author Larry McMurtry, who based the character of Aurora in his novel Terms of Endearment on his observations of Grace David and her colorful life. Her husband Henry David was a drilling-mud pioneer and self-made tycoon. The David House is located in the Southampton subdivision. The David House is an exceptional example of contemporary Houston architecture of the late 1960s and early 1970s influenced by modern architecture and experimentation with modern forms.

David House
3405 Meadow Lake

The James A. and Margaret Wiess Elkins Jr. House at 3405 Meadow Lake Lane was designed by John F. Staub and John Thomas Rather, Jr. The house at 3405 Meadow Lake Lane was built in 1947-1948 for James A. and Margaret Wiess Elkins Jr., and was later owned by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bellows. The two-story brick residence at 3405 Meadow Lake Lane was built in the Modern style. The residence features decorative brick banding and an inset entrance with a decorative wood entry door. The residence was renovated in 2013 and again in 2014. As part of the renovation, the roof was restored to its original condition with a cedar shake roof covering and all of the non-original metal windows were replaced with new metal awning style windows that match the original metal awning windows.

Magnolia Cemetery receives historic designation

Magnolia Cemetery
Magnolia Cemetery

On June 10, 2015, City Council approved the Magnolia Cemetery, located at 816 Montrose Boulevard at the intersection of Montrose Boulevard and Allen Parkway, as a historic landmark. It was established in 1884 by members of First German Methodist Church of Houston (later known as Bering Memorial Methodist Church) for use of its congregation. The original name of the cemetery was Magnolia Graveyard. Burials were opened to nonmembers of the church in 1892. With more than 3,800 interments today, Magnolia Cemetery Corporation operates as a non-profit perpetual care cemetery insuring proper care and maintenance for all future generations.

The cemetery originally extended north to the south bank of Buffalo Bayou. When the City of Houston paved Allen Parkway in 1929, all cemetery property north of Allen Parkway was ceded to the city. Today, the cemetery is walled off from the heavy traffic along Montrose Boulevard and Allen Parkway, giving it a park-like setting.

While the burials in Magnolia Cemetery are a good mix of solid, hard-working citizens, the most well-known is Gus Sessions Wortham, co-founder of American General Insurance. Wortham told his friends that he hand-picked his last resting place so he could "keep an eye on things," alluding to the business at American General, which is located adjacent to the cemetery.

Mad about Mid Century?

Mid-century ranch home
Mid-century ranch home, with a sputnik light fixture.

Welcome to the Glenbrook Valley Historic District! Established as Houston's historic district in 2011, Glenbrook Valley is a planned community of 1,254 homes in Southeast Houston. It was developed by Fred McManus between 1953 and 1962. McManus noted that the area was situated on Sims Bayou, similarly to how River Oaks is situated to Buffalo Bayou and he set forth to replicate the older neighborhood in southeast Houston. He even hired the famous landscape architecture firm Hare and Hare (the same firm that designed River Oaks and many of Houston's city parks) to lay out the neighborhood. McManus may have fallen short of his goal, but not by much. From its inception, Glenbrook Valley received national attention as a great place to live. Most notably, Better Homes and Gardens magazine featured it as a Neighborhood of the Future.   Read more ...

High First Ward Historic District established.

High First Ward Historic District established.
High First Ward Historic District established, May 28, 2014.

On May 28, 2014, the High First Ward becomes the City's 22nd Historic District.

The High First Ward Historic District is located in Houston's First Ward. Today, the term "First Ward" has come to refer to the area bounded by Washington Avenue to the south, I-10 to the north, I-45 to the east and Sawyer Street to the west. According to longtime residents, the sections of First Ward to the east and west of Houston Avenue were known as the Low First Ward and High First Ward, respectively. The main corridor of High First Ward Historic District consists of Crockett Street between Johnson and Henderson Streets, taking in sections of Shearn, Spring, and Summer Streets as well.   Read more ...

Bigger is not always better.

Bigger is not always better.
The renovated duplex bungalow in the Norhill Historic District.

Just ask Chris Ferguson. Through Ferguson Home Group, Chris has been building and remodeling residential and commercial properties for 7 years. He prides himself on having an eye toward emerging trends. One such trend he sees is a desire to live with affordable urban luxury - simple, but with high quality.

Case in point: The renovated duplex bungalow at 4017 Michaux Street in the Norhill Historic District. Bucking the idea that the square footage of a historic bungalow must be tripled in order to make it saleable, he chose to add a manageable amount of space and place it all under the existing roof. Additional detailing inside and out such as the Cararra marble, the lux master bath and the peacock blue front door make this home special.   Read more ...

Profile of a District: Avondale East and Avondale West

House in Avondale
Avondale is a cozy community full of beautiful historic homes.

Located in the heart of the eccentric Montrose neighborhood, Avondale is a cozy community full of beautiful historic homes.

It was designed to compete with other upscale neighborhoods, such as Courtland Place, Montrose, and Westmoreland. Avondale would become one of Houston’s preeminent upscale “Streetcar Subdivisions.” Today, the original Avondale neighborhood includes two historic districts: Avondale East and Avondale West, which were developed in the early twentieth century.   Read more ...

Rafter Tales: Telling the stories of historic Houston

Craftsman home with rafter tails
A Craftsman home displaying its rafter tails. 2013

Welcome to Rafter Tales, Houston’s newest blog dedicated to historic preservation. Like the people who call it home, Houston has an incredibly diverse built environment. From the cottages in Norhill, to the mansions on Courtlandt Place, to the mid-century moderns in Glenbrook Valley, Houston’s historic fabric illustrates a vibrant and thriving history. In the entries to come, we will be exploring and celebrating Houston’s past through the buildings and neighborhoods that have endured.

What can you expect from Rafter Tales?

  • Profiles of historic districts, neighborhoods and buildings
  • Stories about the people and organizations making positive contributions to Historic Preservation in Houston
  • Photos essays showing how Houston grew into the city it is today
  • Musings on the state of historic preservation.
  • Practical advice about living in and maintaining a historic home
  • Descriptions and definitions of jargon used in historic preservation
Continue reading ...

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