Buying a property with an old house on it, tearing down the house and building your own has become trendy in this well-to-do community. But what if the old house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright?
Tear it down anyway, says the home's current owner, to the horror of Wright enthusiasts as far away as Detroit or Chicago.The house, an 1,800-square-foot parallelogram, sits on a 1.2-acre, heavily wooded lot in Bunker Hill Village, an incorporated city within Houston.
It's been sold and resold three times since Wright, one of America's most famous architects, built it for retired insurance man William L. Thaxton in 1955. Wright died four years later.
It's now owned by Brian Nevins, who owns a Houston import-export company and has never lived in the house.
The original house had redwood paneling, a swimming pool adjacent to the rear wall, and no right angles - between adjacent walls, between walls and floors or between walls and ceilings.
The angled rooms required custom furniture, including a parallelogram-shaped bed, which needed custom-made sheets.
"I started out trying to build a house for $25,000 to $35,000," Thaxton said in an interview from his farm near Hempstead. "It ended up costing $125,000 - that was a lot of money in 1955."
Land values have soared past the value of the house, real estate agents say. Nevins is asking $535,000 for the land the house is sitting on, said listing agent E.J. McCoy.
Thaxton says the prospect of demolition doesn't bother him.
He believes the house in effect was destroyed by subsequent owners, who painted over the redwood paneling, added ionic columns in the front - creating the only right angles in the building - and covered over small decorations in the outside front walls.
"The house has been cannibalized," he said. "Just destroyed inside and out so that it's almost not like the original house. If that thing is torn down, they won't be tearing down a Frank Lloyd Wright house."
Wright purists, however, say whatever he designed must be preserved. Carla Lind, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy in Oak Park, Ill., said 414 of the original 500 Wright-designed buildings are left in the world. Texas has four.