After the brouhaha that arose when an A. Quincy Jones house owned by Amon Carter III was threatened with the wrecking ball recently and only narrowly escaped demolition, another house belonging to a member of the Carter family is in the news. This time the house wasn't saved.
Home for more than 50 years to the late Ruth Carter Stevenson, who died in January 2013, the structure was designed in 1956 by architect Harwell Hamilton Harris. A California native, Harris worked for Richard Neutra early in his career. Later he was part of a group of young modernists who were friends with John Entenza, publisher of the magazing Arts & Architecture, sponsor of the Case Study House Program. He was also influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Ruth Carter Stevenson house was modeled after Wright's famed Hollyhock House in Los Angeles. Harris left his position as head of the architecture program at the University of Texas at Austin when he accepted the commission for the Stevenson home.
The exterior of the house was creamy coral brick, stucco and redwood, and it was set along a ridge. Inside it had an atrium and a material palette of peg board, cord and warm wood. The stunning landscaping was designed by Thomas Church, a preeminent mid-century landscape architect from San Francisco. The gardens began formally, but became more naturalistic as they moved away from the house, falling down to a creek running along the property. In 2000, it was awarded the 25 Year Award by the Fort Worth Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
The new owners, identified in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as Ardon and Iris Moore, had the house destroyed before a campaign could be mounted to save it. Mark Gunderson, a Fort Worth architect and friend of Ruth Carter Stevenson said, "I'm really amazed that the estate let it be sold to someone whose intention was almost certain to tear the house down. It's inconceivable to me that the new owner would do that."
Gunderson went on to say, “When showing the most important architectural work in the city to visiting dignitaries—noted architects, artists, writers and others—Ruth’s house is easily one of the six or so most significant structures in Fort Worth."
“Even in a city as conservative as Fort Worth, with its seeming ‘anti-modern’ bias, her house and garden remains a quiet, unostentatious, understated oasis and its loss would be a travesty,” the architect said before learning it was demolished. “It is sad commentary on the lack of appreciation for architecture and landscape in a place containing a handful of the best examples in the world.”
The demolition occurred June 20-21, 2013, immediately after an appeal to spare the home by the Texas Society of Architects, and has sparked bitter debate between preservationists and those who believe an attempt at preservation is an infringement on property rights.
From star-telegram.com and artsblog.dallasnews.com
Photo by W. Mark Gunderson , AIA
All this...gone forever
|Photo by W. Mark Gunderson, AIA|
|Photo by W. Mark Gunderson, AIA|
All that is left standing...a greenhouse on the edge of the property
Update (6/29/2013): I guess it shouldn't surprise me, yet I never cease to be dismayed and even a little shocked by the cavalier attitude that people have about historical architecture, especially when there's quick money to be made. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Kate Johnson, the youngest daughter of Ruth Carter Stevenson, said her mother's home sold two days after it was listed and insisted there was no historical for either her mother's home or for the home of her grandfather, which is slated for demolition too.
Despite what Historic Fort Worth Inc. (co-founded by her late mother) and many others have said, she adamantly supported the new owners' right to tear down the house. When asked if she was aware of their intentions, she said, "I wouldn't pry. What people do with their private property is nobody's business."