Texas Neutra house rescued
Posted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 8:37 pm
http://www.nationaltrust.org/magazine/a ... 112805.htm
Texas Neutra House Rescued
Story by Meghan Hogan / Nov. 28, 2005
The question of what to do with one of Texas' most notable but threatened pieces of architecture has finally been answered.
The City of Brownsville announced last week that it has leased the George Kraigher House, the state's first single-family International-style structure, to the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College for 99 years, effectively saving one of architect Richard Neutra's designs.
It's good news for the city, which purchased the abandoned house for $150,000 in 1999 to protect it from impending development without a definite use for it. Vacant for over 20 years, the house's dire condition earned it a spot on the Trust's 2004 11 Most Endangered List.
"This lease agreement with the university will allow the renovation work to proceed and continue through completion at a more rapid pace," says Peter Goodman, Brownsville's historic downtown district director. The National Trust's Southwest Office worked with both the city and college to find a way to preserve the house.
The 1,600-square-foot house's restoration should cost around $300,000â€”an amount somewhat less than what it would cost another organization, thanks to the university's historic-preservation program, which gives students hands-on experience in actual restoration. Students are excited about working on a house different from the area's typical Mexican-American architecture. "This is a first for our group," says Dr. Jose Martin, the university's provost.
By 2104, when the $1-per-year lease ends, the Neutra-designed structure, which is one of only a few located outside of California, will be returned to its original condition. The famed Austrian architect built the house in 1937 for Pan American Airways pilot George Kraigher.
Today, however, the windowless, boarded-up structure is "barely held by some plaster," according to Martin. The university hasn't finalized a long-term plan for the house because its main priorities are stabilization and restoration, but Martin says it could become exhibit space or the site of a small architecture program. Either way, he says, the public will have access to the George Kraigher House.
"The house is going to be a fellowship between the university and the community," Martin says.