For Sale: Frank Lloyd Wright House Saved From Wrecking Ball

thaxton home by frank lloyd wright
ZillowThe current owner bought the 1,800-square-foot home and meticulously restored it to its original design.
By Emily Heffter

The money grabbers almost got this Frank Lloyd Wright house in Houston, Texas. The 1955 home lost its design religion in the 1980s, when a previous owner added columns, painted the original redwood walls white and put decorative pineapples on the corners of the roof. Modern-architecture purists were appalled, and developers started talking about tearing down the home at 12020 Tall Oaks St.

Insurance executive William Thaxton, who commissioned the home in 1954, told The New York Times in defeat: "I guess I do kind of hope that someone will buy it and restore it, though I don't think anyone will. The money grabbers will get it, I'm afraid."

But in 1991, the current owner bought the 1,800-square-foot home and meticulously restored it to its original design. Then he worked with an architect to make the L-shaped house into an U, quadrupling the square footage. It's now for sale: $3.195 million.

"It is definitely a retro house," said Karen Harburg, the listing agent from Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty. "It's a fabulous house, and it's well-designed. The addition tried to keep with the same elements of Frank Lloyd Wright's style."

The original living room and galley kitchen carry Wright's signature elements: stained concrete floors, concrete-block walls, large windows and natural wood, with built-in bookshelves designed in place and fixed along the walls. The addition houses a second, larger kitchen, a wing of kids' bedrooms and a master suite.

Wright was famously uninterested in collaborating with clients, but The New York Times reported that Thaxton talked the architect out of having the swimming pool run under the wall into the master bedroom. (The pool abuts the master, instead).

Thaxton paid the architect $25,000, and Wright designed the house with minimal input. "It was sort of a bring your toothbrush kind of situation," Harburg said.

The home, which is in Houston's swanky Bunker Hills Village, is one of only three Wright-designed private residences in Texas. The others are in Dallas and Amarillo. The modern architect also designed the Dallas Theater Center.

The home has been on the market at least twice before, most recently in 2011 for $2.9 million.

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I would just love a home to take care of even a tiny one!!

August 17 2014 at 1:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hate to say it but this 'purist' isn't madly in love with what's been done to it now.

August 16 2014 at 11:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My 1890 6 unit building in San Francisco was either built as a Mission Revival building, or Victorian like ALL the buildings around it. We think it was born a Victorian and rebuilt later as Mission Revival. It was done so well, that it has been identified as a Mission Revival building and we only knew it wasn't because the water was turned on in 1890, before Mission Revival. It is unique in the area, and people stop to take its picture. I'm in a historic district with a lot of tourists.

Changing a building, if done well, is not always bad. Knowing that it was changed, I went looking for the original building. I don't think it was special. The bay windows were kept in a different form, but beams coming out from the lowest floor above the garage put in 1933 were added. Islamic/Spanish arches were added with beautiful Spanish tiles. There is a turret like addition on the top, and Spanish roof tiles. All apparent in Mission Revival. There are wooden beams in the large entry hall you enter through an arch and a arched door. It all screams Mission Revival. When I bought it, I found a large Mexican carpet and hung it from the beams on the empty wall leading to the stairs which give it even more of an Hispanic feel. I've invited tourists in to look and they are always blown away by it.

August 16 2014 at 8:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

While I'm sure the click-bait headline writer for AOL 'News" doesm't know the difference, there is a real BIG one between Frank Lloyd Wright's actual house and a Frank Lloyd Wright house being saved from the wrecking ball.

Just wondering, but if the AOL digital writers expect us to read these stories, shouldn't they read them?


August 16 2014 at 8:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My father, a stone mason, purchased a house built in 1848...he restored it meticulously back to its original condition; the house was on the Tennessee register of historic places as it had also served as a tavern. Years after he restored it he had to sell it. The buyer took down both great brick chimneys (bricks were made locally in the 1840's) and sold them to a developer. Took down the original shutters with hangers and replaced them with cheap fake shutters...and sold the real, shutters. He took out the original wide planked, cherry floors, sold them and replaced them with carpet. Some people do not care a damn bit about real art and history. Their god is the dollar.

August 16 2014 at 6:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What kind of pin-headed idiot would ruin a piece of history by painting it and putting fruit on it?

August 16 2014 at 6:21 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

While FLW was an awsome and creative architect, his residential architecture lacked the warmth that we all need and long for both to relax in and to entertain. Most of his residential show places were occupied by their owners for a very short time after the hooplah of attention dissipated. FLW designed to showcase himself, not his clients' needs. Architects are in a service profession not a self-service ego journey; if a spectacle provides function, I am all for it and Wright's commercial projects are an appropriate success and beauty in that area. His residential designs are not.

August 16 2014 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bobbieskip's comment

"lacked the warmth that we all need and long for both to relax in and to entertain. "

Who is "WE"?? You don't speak for the world.

August 16 2014 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have seen a few Wright designed buildings, but if I hadn't been told this was one, I'd never have guessed. One thing about his buildings: most of them had major design (or workmanship) issues. A lot of them leaked. His use of unusual roof lines was part of the problem: they couldn't handle real world weather. I do so love the prairie design windows, though. (Not on this house.)

August 16 2014 at 11:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The fact that the new owners modified it with add ons etc reduces it from a house sized work of art to ordinary.
If you own a Frank Wright house, don't change any of it, please.

August 16 2014 at 8:24 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to alfredschrader's comment