Believe it or not, but Texas has an early Richard Neutra, way down south in Brownsville!
George Kraigher was a Pan Am pilot and manager of South American operations stationed in Brownsville who noticed a uniquely-designed house while landing a plane in Los Angeles. After finding out that Richard Neutra was the architect, Kraigher asked Neutra to design a house for him in 1936, the first house Neutra designed outside of California since emigrating to the United States.
Kraigher had a sizable piece of land outside of Brownsville where he raised horses when he wasn't flying the friendly skies. Neutra designed the house and then left construction to a local builder, A.W. Neck, and a local architect, Frank L. Godwin (Neutra didn't visit the house until 1951). The 1,600 square-foot house was completed in 1937 for the sum of $5,000.
The Kraigher house is the first International Style house in Texas and only the second International Style structure in the state (the first being the Magnolia Lounge by William Lescaze up in Dallas for the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition [photo at end of post]).
The house fell into disrepair after many years as a rental and then as a unofficial flophouse for the homeless. Finally, the City of Brownsville and The University of Texas at Brownsville joined forces to restore this Texas Modern gem.
We were able to visit the Kraigher House this past weekend. Disturbingly, the house appears to be abandoned again, empty with boarded windows (with evidence of broken glass about it). However, it's still in good shape, and someone comes to cover the graffiti when it gets tagged. While idyllically located in its youth, the house has seen Brownsville extend around it, and not in a house-friendly way. It's address, 525 Paredes Line, is along a retail street with plenty of opportunity for ill-informed youthful goofiness.
While I'm not a big fan of Neutra (I find his stuff a little too soulless...), there are some houses of his I find gorgeous (the Von Sternburg and the Kaufman Desert houses), and this one is one of my faves. A classic that I hope will shine again in the near future...
Note how the overhangs expertly shade the windows. Well done, Mr. Neutra, well done.
When I first saw these slats, I thought: "Cool: Metal!", but upon closer inspection, they are wood painted to look metallic. Neutra called this "dematerializing". It was also a big cost saver.
My favorite elevation of the house, which is also the front street-side face. Simply gorgeous.
Here are photos of the house by KC Modern soon after its restoration and opening:
Also, here and here are two excellent KC Modern posts on the house.
Here are some photos by Daniel Cavazos showing what a mess the house was before restoration:
Since we mentioned it, here's the Magnolia Lounge, the first International Style structure in Texas:
It still exists! So we need to go check it out sometime...