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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fort Worth's historic Eldred W. Foster House

I recently received the following press release from Quentin and Laurie McGown, owners of the first Fort Worth, Texas, mid-century home to be listed in the National Register of Historic places. The McGowns have owned the house since 2010 and are currently doing a thoughtful and faithful restoration of the structure. Not only is inclusion in the National Register a great honor, but it also protects the home in the future. Please join me in thanking them for their contribution to preserving architecture from the period.

Fort Worth Mid-Century Modern House Listed in National Register
of Historic Places

Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas – September 21, 2012. On August 28, 2012, the National Park Service, U.S Department of the Interior, officially listed the Eldred W. Foster House in the National Register of Historic Places. Located on the southwest shore of Lake Worth, the house was built in 1951 by Eldred W. Foster (1908-1995), then a design engineer at Consolidated Vultee, a predecessor of Lockheed-Martin. Plans for the house were published in the January, 1948, issue of the Woman’s Home Companion Magazine, which at the time had a national readership of close to four million. Before it ceased publication in 1957, the magazine introduced its post-World War II readers to modern architecture through a series of articles featuring designs by some of the leading architects in the country.

The Foster House was built from plans created for the first modern home featured in the magazine series. It was designed by the firm of Raymond & Rado, a New York and Tokyo based firm founded by Antonin Raymond (1888-1976), an associate of Frank Lloyd Wright, who served as Wright’s chief designer for Tokyo’s 1920’s era Imperial Hotel before launching a career in Japan that would eventually lead to his recognition as the father of modern architecture in that country. The Foster House design was a collaborative effort of Raymond, his wife Noemi, and Raymond’s chief designer at the time, David L. Leavitt (b. 1918), a Princeton and Rome Prize winner whose own body of international work includes the National Historic Landmark, Manitoga, in Garrison, New York.

Raymond’s design for his “Expandable House for the Woman’s Home Companion” incorporated Japanese building traditions adapted to the post-war housing market in the United States and anticipated many of the features now identified with the mid-century modern movement, including open living space, a central hearth, sliding room dividers and a strong linkage to surrounding outdoor space. A key element of Raymond’s design, common to many of the Companion houses in the series, was the provision to expand the structure as families grew and budgets allowed. Taking advantage of that concept, Eldred Foster completed two expansions of the house around 1958, matching the original materials and finishes.

Foster owned the house until 1983, when he sold it to his former tenant, Regina Payton. While both owners lived in the house for a time during their respective periods of ownership, the house spent many years as rental property. Foster and Payton carefully preserved the house so that most of its original interior and exterior features remain intact sixty years after its initial construction. Payton sold the property to Laurie and Quentin McGown of Fort Worth in 2010. Restoration of the house is being guided by the original plans as well as architectural renderings of the project completed by David Leavitt in 1947 and housed in the Raymond Collection at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvaia.  Mr. Leavitt’s ongoing advice and suggestions are also providing invaluable direction as rehabilitation of the house continues.

The Foster House is the first documented example of a completed residence built from the plans featured in the magazine and is currently the only representative work of Antonin Raymond identified in Texas. Additionally, the house is the first example of mid-century modern residential architecture in Tarrant County to be listed in the National Register.

For more information about the work of Antonin Raymond see:
Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond, William Whitaker and Kurt Helfrich, eds., Princeton University Press, 2006.

The Foster House, c. 1960

Rendering of front entry by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1948

Rendering of  living room to the east by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1947

Rendering of living room to the west by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1947

Rendering of bedroom by David Leavitt for article in Woman's Home Companion, Jan 1947

First page of the article from the Woman's Home Companion

Second page of the article in the Woman's Home Companion

Third page of the article in the Woman's Home Companion

Fourth page of the article in the Woman's Home Companion

Exterior of Foster house, 2011

Interior of Foster House, 2011

If you know about other examples of this house in other parts of the country, please let me know. I'll forward the information to the McGowns.

Renderings are part of the Raymond Collection at the Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania
All images courtesy of Quentin McGown


  1. Love all the stone work and the open beam ceilings. And the floor and all the wood. I could be a very happy camper living in this great home. Just wish more could be saved and brought back to life!

    1. I'm sure this home will be gorgeous when it's finished. It has the added benefit of being built on lakefront property, so there's not doubt that it will be a real showplace.

  2. I really like the rendering featured in Women's Home Companion (the VW Beetle is perfect for that garage!) but the c. 2011 photo is such a letdown. I'm sure it will be restored to its former glory.

    1. I'm very eager to see all the "after" photos when the project is finished.