The boom of the Fifties peaked in 1955, and if you want to go back and see just how high, wide and handsome things got that year, the place to visit is the Memorial Bend area of Houston, Texas. Built on 200 acres of low-cost land, the neighborhood was developed by a consortium of investors that included architect William Norman Floyd.
The area exists today as a time capsule of higher-end Mid-Century subdivision architecture. Memorial Bend houses occupy a special niche they share with the fabled Eichlers of California’s Bay Area - architect-designed houses that were produced in large numbers, at affordable prices. Butterfly roofs and clerestory windows grace a rare surviving concentration of modern houses, some of which look as if they could have been built yesterday. Others are in unrestored or altered conditon, but interest and prices are rising.
Exactly as Eichler owners have done, Memorial Bend owners have banded together to preserve the history and unique character of their neighborhood. Resident Michael Brichford has been one of the most vocal and active proponents of preservation, working to educate Houstonians about how special it is to have an nearly intact subdivision of Mid-Century dream houses.
Brichford has created a website to help get the word out to Texans and lovers of modernism everywhere. The history of the area is extensively covered, with stories of original owners that are fascinating. Several architectural firms contributed to the area, and some information is available about them as well. An expansion of the site’s services is planned; blueprints and historical information are being gathered to help new owners learn more about their houses.
Visit the Memorial Bend Architecture site at http://users.ev1.net/~michaelb/bend/bend.htm
If you’re in Houston, visit the area itself; it’s famous locally for the houses, and for its street names, which are taken from famous operas. See you on Traviata!
A Time Capsule, Wide Open
Copyright © 2003, 2015 D.A. "Sandy" McLendon and Joe Kunkel, www.jetsetmodern.com Jetset - Designs for Modern Living. All rights reserved worldwide. This article may not be reproduced, reprinted, reposted or rewritten without express permission in writing from the author and publisher. First posted to the Web on September 30, 2003. Republished March 19, 2015.