Author Archive

Purcell-Cutts House, 1913, Purcell & Elmslie. Photos by Stephen Fox.

“Baronial in Scale”: Stephen Fox Does Instagram

Stephen Fox, architectural historian and Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, led a Rice Design Alliance (RDA) tour of Minneapolis and St. Paul during the first week of June. Fox is the author of several books including forWARDS: Ten Driving Tours Through Houston’s Original Wards. Now you can experience his inimitable tour of the Twin Cities through Instagram @RDAHouston. Below, OffCite brings you his photos and words about the Purcell-Cutts house.

One of the highlights of the tour involved the smallest building we visited, the spatially ingenious house that architect William Gray Purcell designed for his family in 1913. The living room and upstairs bedrooms face southeast, toward the street.

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Buffalo Soldiers National Museum (formerly the Houston Light Guard Armory) by Alfred C. Finn, 1925. Photo: Peter Molick.

forWARDS: A Driving Tour of Houston’s Third Ward, Part 3

This is the fifth in a series of 10 self-guided driving tours of Houston’s original six wards, written by architectural historian Stephen Fox. All the tours are collected in a limited-edition zine, forWARDS, that was published in conjunction with RDA’s 40th annual architecture tour. The zine, designed by Spindletop Design and illustrated with photography by Peter Molick, can be purchased for $15. Call 713-348-4876 or email rda at rice.edu.

Start on Elgin Avenue and Chenevert Street. Pass Elizabeth Baldwin Park, the second oldest public park in Houston. The section of Third Ward east of Texas 288, now called Midtown, was historically known as the South End. The South End was Houston’s most elite residential neighborhood before development in the Montrose area began after 1905. Pass the Moran Center at 1410 Elgin (2011, Leslie Elkins).

Turn left onto Caroline Street, then left onto Holman Avenue. The South End Junior High School (now Houston Community College’s San Jacinto Memorial Building) at 1300 Holman was erected in 1914 (Layton & Smith; modernistic wings by Hedrick & Gottlieb, 1928, and Joseph Finger, 1936) and terminates the axis on Caroline. Brown Reynolds Watford just restored the monumental classical building. The Learning Hub and Science Center to the left of the main building is by Kirksey (2007). The 10-acre campus site is another undivided Holman outlot.

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The ex-Douglass Elementary School (1926, Hedrick & Gottlieb). Photos: Peter Molick.

forWARDS: A Driving Tour of Houston’s Third Ward, Part 2

This is the fourth in a series of 10 self-guided driving tours of Houston’s original six wards, written by architectural historian Stephen Fox. Click for Fox’s tours of First and Second wards and the first of his three-part tour of Third Ward. All the tours are collected in a limited-edition zine, forWARDS, that was published in conjunction with RDA’s 40th annual architecture tour. The zine, designed by Spindletop Design and illustrated with photography by Peter Molick, can be purchased for $15. Call 713-348-4876 or email rda at rice.edu.

Start at St. Emanuel and Grey Street below the I-45 / US 59 interchange. Head south into what is most commonly thought of today as Third Ward. The Houston Police Department South Central Patrol Division at 2202 St. Emanuel bounds the edge of the neighborhood. At the Hadley Avenue-St. Emanuel intersection is the Hadley complex of eight shotgun ranch houses, a post-war form of the “row house” complex at 2102 St. Emanuel. At 2501 St. Emanuel and McIlhenny, the Chua Dai-Goac Buddhist Temple occupies a rustic compound.

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Harris County Courthouse (1910, Lang & Witchell). Photos: Peter Molick.

forWARDS: A Driving Tour of Houston’s Third Ward, Part 1

This is the third in a series of 10 self-guided driving tours of Houston’s original six wards, written by architectural historian Stephen Fox. Read Fox’s tour of First and Second wards here. The tours are collected in a limited-edition zine, forWARDS, that was published in conjunction with RDA’s 40th annual architecture tour. The zine, designed by Spindletop Design and illustrated with photography by Peter Molick, can be purchased for $15. Call 713-348-4876 or email rda at rice.edu.

Of Houston’s six wards, Third Ward had experienced the most extensive territorial expansion by 1905. Consequently it encompasses a wide variety of landscapes, although these are now split by Interstate 45, U.S. 59, and Texas 288.

Because of the way traffic is routed, this tour starts on Preston Avenue at Main Street, one block south of the Main-Congress intersection. Courthouse Square, one of Houston’s two original public squares, lies in Third Ward. It is occupied by the fifth Harris County Courthouse (1910, Lang & Witchell) to be built in the square; the courthouse was spectacularly restored in 2011 (PGAL and ArchiTexas).

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Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church (1924, Frederick B. Gaenslen). Photos: Pete Molick.

forWARDS: A Driving Tour of Houston’s Second Ward

This is the second in a series of 10 self-guided driving tours of Houston’s original six wards, written by architectural historian Stephen Fox. Read Fox’s tour of First Ward here. The tours are collected in a limited-edition zine, forWARDS, that was published in conjunction with RDA’s 40th annual architecture tour. The zine, designed by Spindletop Design and illustrated with photography by Peter Molick, can be purchased for $15. Call 713-348-4876 or email rda at rice.edu.

Second Ward retains much more of its historic residential fabric than does First Ward. It extended almost all the way east to the Navigation-Lockwood intersection, the east city limit line of Houston in 1905.

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Jefferson Davis Hospital (now elder street Artists Lofts) at 1101 Elder Street. Photo: Peter Molick.

forWARDS: A Driving Tour of Houston’s First Ward

This year, the Rice Design Alliance is publishing a limited-edition book as an accompaniment to afterWARDS: An Architecture Tour of Houston’s Wards and Beyond, its 40th annual tour, taking place Saturday, April 11, and Sunday, April 12, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Architectural historian Stephen Fox was commissioned to write self-guided driving tours of the wards. Titled forWARDS, the book, designed by Houston’s Spindletop Design and illustrated with photography by Peter Molick, will be sold for $15 during the tour at five cashier locations.

First Ward illustrates what became one of the political problems of the ward system by the turn of the twentieth century. Its residential population was much smaller than that of Third, Fourth, and Fifth Wards. But like the other wards, it elected two aldermen to the City Council. Consequently, residents of more populous wards felt they were not getting their fair share of representation.

At the Main-Congress intersection, going south on Main street, turn right on Congress.

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The Menil Collection. Perspective drawing of the north entry court.

Stephen Fox: A Clapboard Treasure House

Last Saturday, September 22, the Menil continued the celebration of its 25th anniversary with ice cream, treasure hunts, and music by the Kashmere Reunion Band. More great events are to come. At OffCite, we are marking the occasion by posting articles from our archives about the Menils and the Menil collection. The following piece by Stephen Fox appeared in the first issue of Cite 30 years ago—one post, double the celebration—and reviews what were then only drawings and models for a building that is now difficult to imagine Houston without. Ten paragraphs in, Fox wonders if the building will be “overwhelmingly non-monumental” and notes some disappointment from others who saw Piano present the plans. Be sure to read the whole review.

On 2 December 1981 at a public presentation held at Hamman Hall on the Rice University campus, Mrs. John de Menil announced the planned construction of a seventy-thousand-square-foot museum and art storage building to contain the Menil Foundation’s extensive collection of art and anthropological artifacts. The museum, to be known as The Menil Collection, will be located on Branard Street between Mandell and Mulberry, to the west of the Rothko Chapel and the University of St. Thomas. The museum will consist of a two-story-and-basement range along Branard containing office, storage, curatorial and mechanical zones, and a one-story range to the north of this containing public exhibition spaces. It is estimated that construction will cost $10,000,000. The museum is scheduled for completion in 1984. The building will be of steel-frame construction. External wall panels are to be made of wood clapboarding. The roof system will integrate structure, natural and artificial illumination and environmental controls. The architects of The Menil Collection are Renzo Piano of Genoa and Richard Fitzgerald and Partners of Houston. Tom Barker and Peter Rice of Ove Arup and Partners of London are structural and mechanical engineers, respectively.

Like previous work by the architect Renzo Piano, the proposed Menil Collection Museum is volumetrically uncomplicated, its supporting structure is exposed and its roof consists of a systematic integration of structure, mechanical services, and artificial and natural illumination.

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An excerpt from David Dillon's article in Texas Architect September 2009

David Dillon 1941-2010

David Dillon, architecture critic of the Dallas Morning News from 1981 to 2006, died suddenly of heart failure at his home in Amherst, Massachusetts, on 3 June 2010. He was sixty-eight years old.

David Dillon came to Dallas in 1969 as an assistant professor of English at Southern Methodist University. After leaving SMU in 1976, he worked as a freelance journalist and then became associate editor of D: The Magazine of Dallas. This was how he found his vocation: he wrote the cover story for the May 1980 issue of D called “Why is Dallas Architecture So Bad?” Dillon’s critique was electrifying. Although he did list the best new buildings in Dallas (and offered Houston as a case study of enlightened architectural patronage to which Dallas should pay attention), Dillon’s story revealed the important social role an architecture critic could play as a public intellectual. The next year the Dallas Morning News hired Dillon as its full-time architecture critic. Until his retirement in 2006, David Dillon was the only newspaper journalist in Texas whose only job was to write about architecture and urban development—and to write critically. Nearly thirty years later, the difference Dillon made is measurable. It’s now Houston that looks enviously at Dallas when it comes to ambitious architecture and imaginative civic spaces (see Cite 78, Spring 2009).

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2145 Southgage, Charles B. Thomsen (architect, 1965) / Kellie Mayfield (architect, 2008) [Photograph by Eric Hester]

Southgate: An Urban Oasis

Rice Design Alliance presents its 2010 Architecture Tour, “Southgate: An Urban Oasis,” this coming Saturday and Sunday, March 20-21, 2010, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. The tour is open only to RDA members and guests. You can join and buy tickets there. For more information visit ricedesignalliance.org and call 713 348 4976. And enjoy Stephen Fox’s write-up below of houses on the tour.

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