Tracing the development of Texas’s most prestigious suburban communities, this book explores why community planning in the state has sometimes succeeded in the suburbs while gaining only limited or no acceptance at the city-wide level.
In the early twentieth century, developers from Baltimore to Beverly Hills built garden suburbs, a new kind of residential community that incorporated curvilinear roads and landscape design as picturesque elements in a neighborhood. Intended as models for how American cities should be rationally, responsibly, and beautifully modernized, garden suburban communities were fragments of a larger (if largely imagined) garden city—the mythical “good” city of U.S. city-planning practices of the 1920s.
This extensively illustrated book chronicles the development of the two most fully realized garden suburbs in Texas, Dallas’s Highland Park and Houston’s River Oaks. Cheryl Caldwell Ferguson draws on a wealth of primary sources to trace the planning, design, financing, implementation, and long-term management of these suburbs. She analyzes homes built by such architects as H. B. Thomson, C. D. Hill, Fooshee & Cheek, John F. Staub, Birdsall P. Briscoe, and Charles W. Oliver. She also addresses the evolution of the shopping center by looking at Highland Park’s Shopping Village, which was one of the first in the nation. Ferguson sets the story of Highland Park and River Oaks within the larger story of the development of garden suburban communities in Texas and across America to explain why these two communities achieved such prestige, maintained their property values, became the most successful in their cities in the twentieth century, and still serve as ideal models for suburban communities today.
Chapter 1. City Planning in Dallas and Houston: The Genesis of Large-Scale Suburban Community Planning and Architecture in Dallas and Houston
Chapter 2. The Planning and Development of Residential Communities in Dallas and Houston, 1850s–1920s
Chapter 3. Highland Park: "Just Beyond the City's Dust and Smoke"
Chapter 4. Highland Park West: "The Crowning Achievement of Highland Park" and the Highland Park Shopping Village
Chapter 5. The Hogg Brothers, Hugh Potter, and the Development of River Oaks: "Homes to Last for All Time"
Chapter 6. Highland Park and River Oaks: Their Texas Influence and Permanence
City Planning in Dallas and Houston
The Genesis of Large-Scale Suburban Community Planning and Architecture in Dallas and Houston
In 1924, the powerful Houston oilman, lawyer, city planner, real estate developer, art collector, businessman, and philanthropist William Clifford Hogg (Will Hogg) learned that his brother Michael (Mike Hogg) and his friend Hugh Potter had an option on two hundred acres of suburban property four miles west of downtown.1 He asked, "Why stop at two hundred acres? Why not buy 1,000 acres? Why not buy out the [River Oaks] country club? Why not make this something really big, something the city can be proud of?" The eldest son of James Stephen Hogg, the Progressive Era two-term Texas governor (1891–1895), Will Hogg aggressively took over the project, eventually expanding their River Oaks suburban development to twelve hundred acres. Potter remarked that the three developers had "a desire to do something of lasting benefit for Houston," and in order to achieve this, they needed "a big spot . . . in a single continuous piece." This was key in creating "the kind of improvements and environment that the community needs." From its inception, "River Oaks was designed to be a complete [highly restricted] neighborhood unit," reserving areas for a country club, schools, parks, and playgrounds, with easy access to churches, stores, and shopping centers. The paradox of their approach was their successful application of the concept of comprehensive planning, originally intended for cities, to a smaller geographic area, as would be demonstrated in the Texas garden suburban communities of Dallas's Highland Park and Houston's River Oaks.
Dallas and Houston Become the Most Populous Texas Cities at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
During the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth century, American cities faced tremendous pressure to manage more efficiently the impact of increased growth on quality of life. City leaders in Chicago, Cleveland, and San Francisco endeavored to restructure their cities along new lines, promoted by advocates of the City Beautiful Movement, the first major endeavor to control escalating growth. These efforts were only partly successful, due in large part to the immense cost and the displacement of inner-city residents.
The second major feature of American urban growth in this period was the emergence of the planned residential garden suburban community. While Texas cities are generally thought to be creations of the post–World War II era, Dallas and Houston were struggling at the turn of the twentieth century with the questions of how to properly plan a growing city and protect residential areas from degradation by changes in land use. As was the case in Chicago, the impetus for these changes came not from city government but from prominent city leaders who saw the need to bring the state's two largest cities up to par with their counterparts around the country.
George Bannerman (G. B.) Dealey and Will Hogg led these efforts in Dallas and Houston, respectively. However, given the fact that nineteenth-century leaders of these cities had failed to regulate their appearance and unbridled growth, Dealey and Will Hogg both faced a colossal task. The economy of Dallas, founded in 1841, began to grow rapidly following the arrival of the Texas and Pacific, the Houston and Texas Central, and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads in 1873, enabling Dallas entrepreneurs to build a cotton merchandising industry by reaching cities in the Midwest and East more rapidly and economically than their competition in Galveston and New Orleans. The railways brought an influx of gamblers, prostitutes, hustlers, and other "undesirables." These floaters gave Dallas the distinction of being one of the "most disorderly, reckless, and outrageous frontier town[s] in Texas."
Despite the Panic of 1873, almost $1.4 million in new construction was reported in Dallas that year, and by 1875, "the city was already beginning to develop urban sprawl" when a number of businessmen and professionals flocked to the city. These included Alfred H. Belo, who established the Dallas Morning News in 1885 as a vehicle for promoting and drawing national attention to the city, and Alex and Philip Sanger, who opened a dry goods and clothing store, part of a chain of stores their older brothers had opened along the railroad line between Houston and Dallas. Thriving cattle, grain, and lumber industries developed in Dallas by the end of the nineteenth century, and the city was also a major distribution center for farm machinery. In 1914, the Eleventh District Federal Reserve Bank opened in Dallas, which gained approximately forty thousand new residents as it became the financial center not only of the state of Texas but also of most of the Southwest and northern Louisiana. The establishment of the bank boosted the local economy, already prospering with the arrival of the oil industry following initial discoveries in northwest Texas and Oklahoma.
Similar in character to Dallas, Houston had the distinction before the Civil War of being "the greatest sink of dissipation and vice that modern times have known," with its reputation for extreme lawlessness, along with a lack of city services and an unhealthy environment due to its hot, humid climate and poor drainage. In a January 14, 1892, letter to the editor of the Houston Daily Post, a former resident complained that "Houston is an overgrown dirty village, seemingly blundering along without any policy or defined government or management. . . . I am compelled to say that Houston is the most dirty, slovenly, go-as-you-please, vagabond appearing city of which I have knowledge." Around the turn of the twentieth century, Houston's reputation improved when public desire combined with organized police department efforts and the support of churches to keep the city's crime and vice in check. Cotton, a network of railways, lumber, rice, the construction of the Houston Ship Channel, and--in the first decade of the twentieth century--oil spurred rapid growth.
The discovery of oil at Spindletop on January 10, 1901, dramatically changed the city's economy in the twentieth century. The Houston Ship Channel, which opened in 1914, provided a deepwater port and a haven from Gulf storms and for oil refineries. Subsequently, pipelines were built from every major oilfield in Texas and Oklahoma to Houston. By 1929, forty oil companies had located their offices in Houston, making it the business center for the industry. Such successful businessmen as William L. Clayton, co-founder of the cotton exporting firm of Anderson, Clayton, and Company, soon to become the world's largest, moved their companies to Houston. Bank deposits per capita in the United States in 1920 were $392, but in Houston they were $617, indicative of the success of local businesses and their means of supporting capital improvements.
As Dallas and Houston became major regional metropolitan centers in the first half of the twentieth century, city planning combined with suburban development were issues that required civic attention. Local businessmen were the primary advocates for city planning and civic improvements to encourage economic growth. They viewed their cities as competing with others as part of a "national urban network." Many of these proposals for small cities along the West Coast, which had begun to experience unforeseen growth at the turn of the twentieth century, were also relevant to Dallas and Houston because of similar conditions in these cities, where businessmen "hoped to reunite their spatially dispersed metropolises." Both Texas cities had populations of more than ten thousand in 1880. These numbers had quadrupled by 1900 and continued to spiral upward, with Houston surpassing Dallas as the most populous city in the state by the late 1920s. G. B. Dealey and Will Hogg tried to implement intelligent city planning and became the principal proponents of planning in the first three decades of the twentieth century in Texas. As Jesse Clyde (J. C.) Nichols, the developer of the Kansas City Country Club District, pointed out:
unless a city has a beautiful, appealing residential district . . . many families will not be attracted to that city or State to live. Cities are competing more and more with one another as desirable places to live. Many a business man places even a higher value upon family opportunity than upon commercial gain. Many cities lose a number of their best citizens on account of inferior residential districts.
Like Nichols, the developers of Highland Park and River Oaks were trying to create better living conditions in a pastoral atmosphere away from the uncontrolled industrial, commercial, and working-class residential development that had "blighted" late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century urban neighborhoods. Yet, despite strong campaigns in Dallas and Houston for the city-wide adoption of a comprehensive plan in the 1920s, such practices gained only limited acceptance in Dallas and failed in Houston, which still has never adopted a zoning code. Where comprehensive planning was embraced was in the middle-to upper-income suburban communities of Highland Park and River Oaks.
George Bannerman Dealey and A City Plan for Dallas
Dealey, vice president and general manager of the Dallas Morning News, was the first prominent Texas civic leader to promote a comprehensive city plan. He worked to control his rapidly growing city and to instill the progressive spirit that aimed "to establish or restore a sense of community--that is, feelings of civic responsibility, of commitment to a common purpose, and of municipal patriotism" through reform and philanthropic causes. In 1909, Dealey delivered a speech before the Critic Club, a group of fifteen prominent Dallas businessmen who met once a month. Club members took turns presenting informal papers about local and topical issues, mainly as a proving ground for new ideas. In his speech, Dealey noted:
Like a good many other town or cities, Dallas has developed in a haphazard sort of way, the absence of a purpose or plan in the minds of its founders being clearly seen. . . . To correct such conditions, many cities are developing the City Plan . . . so that when the purpose is finally carried out, the city so treated becomes more attractive to the eye, healthier, and generally a better place to live in.
Though Dealey was not a real estate developer, he was a strong advocate for city planning. John Nolen, the noted American city planner, called Dealey "the father of planning in the southwest," and historians have compared him to Charles H. Wacker, the chairman of the 1909 Plan of Chicago. As Theodora Kimball Hubbard and Henry Vincent Hubbard stated in their 1929 publication Our Cities To-day and To-morrow, "Lack of constructive local leadership is perhaps the most insurmountable obstacle of all [in the process of developing a comprehensive plan for cities]. . . . Chicago had its Wacker and Dallas its Dealey." Wacker promoted the 1909 Plan of Chicago through numerous newspaper articles and pamphlets and in his 1912 Wacker's Manual of the Plan of Chicago: Municipal Economy, Especially Prepared for Study in the Schools of Chicago, a textbook written for eighth-graders. Crusading journalist Dealey, influenced by Wacker, boosted his platform through newspaper editorials and articles and public broadcasts on WFAA, the radio station begun by the Dallas Morning News in 1922. Later, through the Kessler Plan Association (formed in 1924 to continue George Kessler’s 1912 comprehensive plan for Dallas), he underwrote a children's textbook based on the Wacker manual. Our City--Dallas was written in 1927 by Justin F. Kimball, professor of education at Southern Methodist University and a member of the Dallas City Plan Commission. Obviously impressed, Will Hogg purchased an autographed copy of Kimball's textbook and ordered twenty-two additional copies to distribute to fellow Houstonians.
With Dealey's support, the Dallas chapter of the American League for Civic Improvement had succeeded in convincing Dallas citizens in 1904 to authorize the purchase of the State Fair grounds so that they could be enlarged to accommodate larger fairs as well as a city park, both maintained by an annual tax. The city park board overseeing the project made a crucially important decision to hire George Kessler, the landscape architect and city planner, to redesign and landscape Fair Park, which he completed in 1907. Kessler had gained a national reputation as a city and suburban planner through his previous work in Baltimore, Kansas City, Memphis, Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Toledo, Ohio, among others, and for his design of the grounds for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Kessler's most important project began in 1893, the same year that the World's Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago, when he submitted his system of parks linked by boulevards to the Kansas City park board. His park and boulevard system with extensions was completed in 1920, when "Kansas City enjoyed 1,999.25 acres of parks, 676 acres of parkways, and almost 90 miles of boulevards and drives." The timing of Kessler's arrival in Dallas was providential. City leaders were just beginning to realize that theirs was no longer a small town and that accommodations had to be made to contend with its continuing growth.
Dealey, in collaboration with the five-member Chamber of Commerce of which he was a member, invited J. Horace McFarland, president of the American Civic Association, to speak about the merits of a city plan to the citizens of Dallas. On February 25, 1910, McFarland presented his lecture, "A Crusade Against Ugliness," in which he strongly urged Dallasites to adopt a comprehensive plan. McFarland's speech prompted the creation of a committee of the Chamber of Commerce to establish the City Plan and Improvement League. Dealey served as vice chairman of the committee, which retained Kessler to draft a comprehensive city plan following his visit to Dallas on May 23, 1910.
In A City Plan for Dallas of 1912, Kessler suggested adopting a zoning code for the separation of industrial, commercial, and residential sections of the city; the widening of many of the city's principal streets to relieve traffic congestion; and the creation of an elaborate network of wide, landscaped boulevards and greenbelt parkways connected to a system of parks based on the Olmsted-City Beautiful Movement model. He also proposed the construction of parkways along Turtle and Mill Creeks, a system of boulevards for Dallas east and north of the Trinity River, with an inner system for Oak Cliff "planned for the immediate needs of Dallas" and an outer one "for further requirements and to give proper direction to the growth and development of each section of the city." He advised that large city parks could be located between the connecting parkways and that "to have the full benefit of outdoor recreation, parks and playgrounds must be provided within easy walking distance of their home, as often [they are] not so located as to be of the greatest usefulness to the general public." Kessler further remarked that Dallas's "municipal officers have not kept firm control of street platting and this has led to a lack of long and continued thoroughfares." He encouraged suburban planners to connect their streets in accordance with the established proportions of city streets and sidewalks of uniform materials and the planting of uniform lawns and shade trees. He called for "the elimination by various means of railroad grade crossings [especially along Pacific Avenue] in the downtown districts [to relieve traffic congestion], the straightening of the Trinity River, and the building of levees to secure flood protection for the entire city" and to provide more areas for downtown commercial development. Other proposals included the erection of a union passenger station to serve all the railroads, additional playgrounds, a civic center, a freight terminal, and a railroad loop around Dallas and a second around Oak Cliff. However, few of the recommendations for civic improvements were adopted. Among those that were realized were the 1916 Classical-style Union Station, designed by the Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt; the removal of the Pacific Avenue railroad tracks in 1923; and the completion of the Trinity River levee project in 1929.
Kessler's most successful contribution to the character of Dallas was his 1912 design for Turtle Creek Parkway, a winding, one-hundred-foot-wide boulevard suitable for automobiles. It was patterned after his Ward Parkway in Kansas City, Missouri, which served as a grand entrance to J. C. Nichols's Country Club District. For Turtle Creek Parkway, Kessler suggested constructing "on each side of the stream a forty-foot driveway with accompanying sidewalks and grass spots, which will serve to connect adjoining park areas." When completed in 1917, Turtle Creek Parkway extended from Maple Avenue downtown, northwest through the suburb of Oak Lawn to Highland Park at the juncture of Lakeside Drive and Armstrong Avenue, which was a major boost to adjacent real estate development and "stood as one of the most picturesque sections around Dallas."32 Kessler stated in his plan that Turtle Creek Parkway would provide a "direct means of conserving the high class character of an important residential section [Highland Park] and of furnishing it with a direct and convenient thoroughfare [especially for automobile traffic] to the heart of the city." Kessler and Dealey exerted great influence on the developers of Highland Park, who adopted many of their city planning ideas for suburban planning.
In 1924, a year after Kessler's death, John E. Surratt, co-founder of the Texas Town and City Planners Association, suggested to Dealey that they establish the Kessler Plan Association to aggressively promote the thorough completion of Kessler's original plan in addition to some revisions. Dealey's interest in the planning of the city of Dallas would continue through the 1920s and 1930s as a member of the association. He also endorsed the mayor's appointment of the five-member Ulrickson Commission in 1925, named for its chair, Charles E. Ulrickson, general manager of the Trinity Portland Cement Company. The Ulrickson Commission introduced a comprehensive program for a variety of public works. Published in 1927 in the fifty-five-page Forward Dallas!, the Ulrickson Report laid out a nine-year plan to raise $23.9 million in bonds to finance the proposed public improvements. It passed that same year. Dallas adopted its comprehensive zoning ordinance on September 9, 1929, but the plan ran into difficulty when other incorporated entities in Dallas, notably Highland Park and University Park, would not agree to merge with Dallas.36 On December 22, 1913, Highland Park had incorporated as a separate township, and on April 17, 1924, University Park also incorporated. Although Dallas tried several times to annex the Town of Highland Park and the Town of University Park, the attempts were never successful and the matter was finally dropped in 1968.
Will Hogg and Houston City Planning
The geographical direction of upscale residential growth in Houston would change direction after 1924, the year that Will and Mike Hogg, through their Varner Realty Company (in partnership with the Houston real estate developer and baking corporation executive, Henry W. Stude), purchased 873 acres of wooded property--formerly Camp Logan, the World War I training center--north of Buffalo Bayou and west of the city limits of Houston. They then persuaded the Reineman Land Company to sell them an adjoining 630 acres. The Hogg Brothers, the family corporation, sold all of the land, 1,503 acres, at cost to the city of Houston to become Memorial Park, commemorating the Houstonians who died in World War I. Memorial Park, still one of the largest parks in Houston, serves as the northern buffer for River Oaks. When asked about his philanthropy, Will Hogg remarked "I'm glad to. The government made a mistake originally in not reserving for its own use all the wealth below the soil. What I don't pay back in taxes on the oil that should not have been mine, I'm glad to give away in welfare."
In a 1925 letter to S. Herbert Hare, of Hare & Hare, landscape architect and city planning consultants, Will Hogg commented that he was forming his organization, Forum of Civics, to expand his planning ideas to include all of Houston and Harris County in what would be considered a Regional Plan. Will Hogg had always intended for River Oaks to become part of the city of Houston and not an independent town like Highland Park and University Park. The publication, A Forum of Civics for Houston, stated the principal objective of the Forum of Civics:
An organization designed to stimulate civic pride and to combine many and varied forces for the betterment and beautification of our city and county. There are numerous local civic activities with which private citizens rather than city and county officials are concerned--all of which are directed along diverse lines toward improvement of the community in its physical, social, educational, or economic aspects. . . . In thus striving, the individual citizen himself is inspired by the realization that he owes an ethical and practical duty to the public and the community as a unit.
Will Hogg's desire was to change Houstonians' opinions of planning and zoning and to form a financial basis to support these efforts. "Why demand more service of the municipal government, more police, more fire protection, more schools, more adequate public improvements," he questioned, "and not be willing to calculate the cost?" In order to accomplish these objectives, the Forum of Civics determined that it was to be made up of individuals representing city and county governments; cultural, economic, and professional organizations; and representatives of public utilities and civic improvement clubs. No dues or contributions were requested, only unsolicited, voluntary moral support. The organization, it was believed, would be more effective in directing Houston's civic growth if proposals relevant to the city's and county's future came from such an interdependent consensus rather than from one individual.
In 1925, Will Hogg purchased an abandoned country elementary school on Westheimer Road to serve as the official headquarters for his Forum for Civics, and he employed architects John F. Staub, Birdsall P. Briscoe, and Joseph W. Northrop Jr. to remodel the red brick exterior to resemble a New England town hall. The remodeling was completed in 1927. The interior housed a committee and conference room; a research library for city planning, zoning, gardening, forestry, and other subjects on city beautification; and an auditorium capable of seating two hundred people for meetings and public lectures by professionals on municipal planning. The building was a veritable "storm-center for city planning, county planning and other civic forethought."
From January 1928 to January 1929, the Forum of Civics published the monthly magazine, Civics for Houston, edited by Hester Scott and a small staff, the costs of publication being borne by Will Hogg personally, although he never signed his name to the forum's publications. Remarkably inclusive, the magazine covered many topics that had previously not received such public attention. There were general articles on gardening and planting design, including a monthly planting chart, with a focus on wild flowers and rose gardens, city government, city planning and zoning, city beautification, recreation and parks, community news, membership analysis in Houston's civic organizations, designs for both residential and public buildings, and interior decoration, including the collecting of antiques. Staub was recruited as one of the associate editors and wrote an article on appropriate house styles for Houston and its climate, titled "Latin Colonial Architecture in the Southwest." Among other architects asked to contribute to the magazine, Briscoe wrote on the design of residential garages; Northrop, on the design of doorways. The last issue noted that the magazine was never a commercial venture and that, instead of monthly periodicals, the "purpose may best be achieved in occasional brochures and pamphlets . . . issued as the organization sees fit, and containing no paid commercial advertising."
After dissolving the organization's magazine, Will Hogg directed the staff at the Forum of Civics to promote the Affiliated Garden Clubs of Houston, an organization that had distributed oak trees, crape myrtles, and roses throughout the entire city, from the poorest to the wealthiest neighborhoods, and had sponsored annual garden and flower shows. In 1929, his Forum of Civics published the color-illustrated A Garden Book for Houston, written by Mrs. Blanche Harding Sewall, a resident of River Oaks, and Mrs. Card G. Elliot, general chairman of the Affiliated Garden Clubs, in association with Houston's leading plant nursery operator, Edward C. Teas, with whom Will Hogg worked on the landscaping of River Oaks. Will Hogg distributed around ten thousand copies of the book free to the public.
Zoning in Houston Zoning originated in Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century as a means to restrict land use planning by classifying buildings into different functions, separating industrial buildings from residences. The first zoning ordinance in the United States was passed in Los Angeles in 1909 to form districts for residential and industrial uses. By 1913, twenty-two cities had adopted some form of land use controls.
In 1913, the Houston Board of Park Commissioners hired Arthur Coleman Comey, a landscape architecture professor at Harvard University, to prepare a city plan. The principal focus of Comey's report, published as Houston: Tentative Plans for Its Development, was the inadequate state of public lands for parks and playgrounds. Comey strongly urged the establishment of an improvement commission to direct all public works and to prepare a comprehensive plan of the city. In 1922, Mayor Oscar F. Holcombe formed the Metropolitan Improvement Commission, but the City Council never funded it or created an ordinance to establish it, and it was quickly dissolved.
A report issued in 1924 by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover's Advisory Committee on Zoning and the Better Homes in America Movement cited zoning ordinances as a vital element in stabilizing housing values and introducing effective planning. Hoover promoted the movement and served as president of the organization, seeing a nationwide need to attract the attention of "civic leaders of all communities, urban or rural, to study their local problems of housing and home-life and devise programs for the promotion of building of new homes to meet the shortage occasioned by the war." In 1924, Mayor Holcombe appointed a second City Planning Commission, authorized and funded by the city council, which approved the hiring of S. Herbert Hare as the professional city planning consultant and Lewis B. Ryon Jr., a Rice engineering professor, as civil engineer. Between 1924 and 1926, the City Planning Commission, in collaboration with Hare and Houston's Board of Park Commissioners, conducted studies on population growth, streets, parks, zoning, and a civic center.
In 1925, Will Hogg purchased $260,000 worth of land just west of downtown in the hope that it would become the site for a civic center. Planning to sell the land at cost to the city, he was convinced that a civic center would bring together all branches of city and county government in a single location to better respond to the needs of the population. On November 22, 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Company, ruled that municipal zoning powers were constitutional and that they did not take private property rights. The following year, the Texas Senate passed a zoning enabling bill that allowed Texas cities, through their city planning commissions, to adopt zoning codes, control subdivision platting, establish assessment of property to pay for city parks and street widening and paving, and control building setbacks. The adoption of these powers by city governments would require a majority vote of the electorate.
However, no progress on Houston's comprehensive plan was made until July 1927, when Will Hogg was appointed by Mayor Holcombe to serve a seven-year term as chair of the third City Planning Commission. Undoubtedly, Will Hogg's planning in River Oaks presaged that of the city, and the mayor felt that Will Hogg would be a driving force in the implementation of the city's comprehensive plan. Probably due to the progress of the Kessler Plan Association in conjunction with the Ulrickson Commission in Dallas, Will Hogg sent letters to the association inquiring about planning ideas and projects. It is evident that he was concerned about Houston's acceptance of these city powers and wanted opinions that would support his position. Concurrent with the state enabling legislation in 1927, the Houston's third City Planning Commission began to address all of the prior planning issues in a report. The 1929 Report of the City Planning Commission of Houston was paid for by the Forum of Civics. It covered street planning and congestion, parks and parkways, public transit and aviation, stabilization of property values, protection of neighborhoods for unwanted use, a civic center, and a sensible, efficient zoning ordinance. Before the report was completed, Houston voters approved a $1.4 million bond issue in 1927 to purchase land for a civic center site. This approval held promise for the adoption of a city plan. In the report, Hare wrote what can be considered the epitaph for city planning in Houston, remarking that "the people of Houston and their officials will have to decide whether they are building a great city or merely a great population."
Hare's most important points are set out in the section on private property, which includes his proposal for implementing a zoning code in Houston. His comments on zoning indicate that he was aware of the lack of public support. Hare observed that:
zoning is protection, not regulation-protection of property and individual rights in any district against such uses of developments as would be harmful. . . . and prevents the exploitation of any piece of property to the disadvantage of the neighborhood or city. It protects the small home owner as fully as the owner of a mansion. If zoning interferes with the execution of some owner's cherished scheme which might be detrimental to adjoining properties, it protects that owner in turn against some possible scheme of his neighbors which might be even more obnoxious.
The report's zoning component was rejected after Will Hogg resigned the chairmanship in 1929 because he thought political support was inadequate. On November 15 of that year, he left for a world tour and never returned to Houston. On September 12, 1930, at the age of fifty-five, Will Hogg died unexpectedly from pneumonia, a week after emergency surgery on his gall bladder in Baden-Baden, Germany. After his death, the City Planning Commission report recommendations were implemented in a piecemeal, unsystematic manner. Buffalo Drive (now Allen Parkway) had been laid out by Hare & Hare, linking River Oaks to downtown in 1925–1926. The civic center developed very slowly. The new buildings constructed in the late 1930s--the Sam Houston Coliseum and the Music Hall in 1937; the modernistic Houston City Hall in 1939, designed by the local architect Joseph Finger; and the Fire Alarm Building in 1939--ignored the siting and architectural recommendations of the 1927 master plan. Will Hogg's legacy in city planning would be River Oaks, not the reshaping of Houston.
By 1930, zoning ordinances had been adopted in "981 cities, towns, and villages throughout the United States." Zoning was never adopted by the government or the voters of Houston, who rejected it five times between 1929 and 1993. As a consequence, Houston remains the largest unzoned city in the United States. The majority of those against zoning were small-scale real estate developers, who felt it would destroy their abilities to buy cheaply and sell for higher profits if they speculated accurately on emerging growth trends. They claimed in the Houston Post that the City Planning Commission was "a dangerous club in the hands of any dictatorial administration." Harsh words continued in the press, as opponents labeled zoning an "un–American, German plan." A zoning ordinance, according to critics, "is an exercise of the police power of government. . . . Houston was built by men of vision, not by slide-rule experts armed with an omniscient egotism and a pocket full of silly statistics."
On the other hand, proponents, including the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters, thought zoning had the potential to permit long-range planning, prevent eviction of tenants, and most importantly, protect property values. Some of the benefits of zoning were achieved by suburban developers through their use of restrictive covenants. Heavy industry tended to concentrate their developments along the ship channel and other corridors, and the city planning department, through building ordinances, traffic planning, and approval of subdivision plats, exercised a greater degree of consistent oversight over suburban real estate development than had been the case in the nineteenth century. Some advantages were that no extensive city bureaucracy was created, political corruption was somewhat abated, and real estate developers were allowed more opportunities to operate without interference from city government. As for negative results, Houston was prevented from participating in federal urban renewal programs, unable to direct city expansion, and allowed mixed land use for businesses and residences, a fate not shared by Dallas or other major Texas cities, all or which adopted zoning codes in the 1920s and 1930s. Whereas Highland Park was politically independent of the city of Dallas, River Oaks became "a part of Houston socially and economically," and "an integral political part of the City."
Texas Garden Suburban Community Planning
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, American residential community development by private real estate entrepreneurs was a fairly novel concept, especially in the cities of the Southwest. In the nineteenth century, building lots were platted and sold without constraints on their future improvement. But by the 1890s, the subdivision of land deed-restricted exclusively for residential use was introduced to American urban and suburban planning. Real estate developers first employed this type of planning for middle-to-upper income suburban communities, the possibilities of which were enhanced by sophisticated planning philosophies as well as by financial and technological advancements.
By focusing on the neighborhood as a whole, rather than merely on the sale of individual lots, suburban real estate developers formulated a new paradigm in the land development industry that swept the country, creating a higher standard that many suburban developers would seek to emulate. The adoption of a broad-based comprehensive planning process enabled developers to control not only the architectural character of their developments, but also the nature of the landscape design and management of their neighborhoods' property values and social status. This included such elements as street layout and design, open spaces and parks, location of nonresidential public and commercial buildings, and a code of restrictive covenants, with the apparatus to administer and enforce them.
In the early 1890s, large-scale, Texas mid-market suburban development was attempted at Philadelphia Place and Oak Cliff in Dallas, Houston Heights in Houston, Arlington Heights in Fort Worth, and Alamo Heights in San Antonio, which all were adversely affected by the Panic of 1893. Eventually, most of these suburbs were developed in a less ambitious, piecemeal fashion, proving unprofitable for their initial developers, many of whom experienced bankruptcy. As a result, Texas suburban developers took on smaller-scale projects based on orthogonal urban models, particularly the St. Louis private place, that appealed to an upper-income market, delaying the introduction of the residential garden suburb. The houses built in the private place neighborhoods tended to rely on typologies better suited to an urban environment. Not until 1906, when the developers of Highland Park purchased 1,326 acres of land in Dallas, did a Texan suburban development focus on the garden suburban community model for inspiration and implementation. Its developers introduced new picturesque planning techniques, with houses designed in a variety of period revival styles set in beautifully manicured gardens along curving drives, with land reserved for numerous parks for pleasure and recreation, along with such amenities as the Dallas Country Club and, eventually, a community shopping center. In addition, they employed protective restrictions, which resulted in steadily increasing property values that set the standard for successful Texas suburban developments. These measures had a direct influence on Highland Park's Houston counterpart, River Oaks.
What is important to realize is that in order to sell all of the lots in such large parcels of land, the developers of Highland Park and River Oaks developed their property in installments, or sections, because this allowed the developers to generate enough capital incrementally to complete infrastructure improvements one section at a time. They platted the largest, most expensive lots in the center or adjacent to a natural amenity (such as a body of water) and platted smaller-size lots in sections on the fringes to serve as buffers for the most expensive real estate. "We were told that we were foolish to undertake a subdivision development for people of different incomes," Hugh Potter wrote. "But we had to make an appeal to families whose incomes ranged widely in order to sell our 1200 acres of land." In the beginning, the residents of these planned communities ranged from the middle class to the elite, but as property values steeply rose in Highland Park and River Oaks, only the well-to-do would be able to afford them.
In 1925, J. C. Nichols wrote that there were "only ten or twelve cities in the United States today that offer superior residential developments," listing among them Highland Park in Dallas. The other significant early twentieth-century, state.of-the-art communities, according to Nichols, were his own Country Club District in Kansas City (established in 1907), Roland Park in Baltimore (1891), Beverly Hills in Los Angeles (1906), Forest Hills Gardens in New York (1912), Shaker Heights in Cleveland (1916), Coral Gables in Miami (1921), Palos Verdes Estates (1914) and Rancho Santa Fe (1922) in Southern California, and River Oaks in Houston (1924).
Between 1917 and 1919, developers of some of these communities, including Hugh E. Prather of Highland Park, attended yearly meetings of the Conference of Developers of High-Class Residential Property to share ideas about the planned extension of Highland Park, Highland Park West, which would have a major impact on Will Hogg in his development of River Oaks. By studying upper-income suburban developments across the country and employing such landscape architects and city planners as Wilbur David Cook Jr. of Los Angeles, Kessler, and Hare & Hare to design and consult on their communities, the Highland Park and River Oaks developers planned their subdivisions based on the most scientific and sophisticated models of their time. At the First Annual Conference of Developers of High-Class Residential Property in 1917, Prather announced that Dealey had been "one of the strongest advocates [of Highland Park]. . . . We have got a world of publicity, because it is the one example in Texas that could be held up to the people as an example of proper city planning on a small residence city all the way through." In 1928, Prather's partner and brother-in-law, Edgar L. Flippen, honored Dealey as "the father of Highland Park." Dealey's commitment to progressive urban planning was reflected by the support, both public and private, that he gave to the Highland Park developers and was cemented by the fact that he and his family moved into the community in 1923. Prather told the members of the 1917 conference that Highland Park "was practically a pioneer proposition," because, according to Nichols's list of "superior residential developments," only one development, Roland Park, had opened and was well on its way to completion, as the Country Club District and Beverly Hills were in their infancy.
Roland Park, Baltimore
In 1891, an English syndicate represented by Samuel M. Jarvis and Roland R. Conklin of Kansas City, Missouri, purchased approximately 495 acres in Baltimore County, Maryland, for a streetcar subdivision. The land was located northwest of the city in a beautiful natural setting consisting of gentle slopes and steep hillsides, rising four hundred feet higher than the city. Edward H. Bouton, a title insurance and real estate salesman who had recently moved from Kansas City to Baltimore, was hired as general manager for the Roland Park Company. Bouton conceived the ideal suburban development as systematically integrating landscape, architectural, and social design.
Although he had no previous experience in the development of subdivisions, Bouton was a shrewd businessman. His first step, before any lots were sold, was to have his initial planning consultant, George Kessler, make a comprehensive plan for the complete improvement of the first section, which contained approximately 120 acres. The plan, called "Plat One," was finished in 1892. Viewing plans for residential developments as unified landscapes, Kessler lined the streets in Plat One with evenly spaced shade trees and suggested transferring forest trees to the barren sections of the estate "so as to avoid straight lines, making them appear to have what is called natural position, as in the forests," and when the older forest trees died, the tree-lined streets would provide adequate shade for the lawns and sidewalks. He convinced Bouton to plant amid trees "clusters of greenery on the lots in a naturalistic, random manner," so as to create a park-like appearance. Kessler, however, did not have a precisely delineated role in the planning of Roland Park and did not continue to be involved in its development.
As Roland Park grew, Bouton's comprehensive plan for it would come to include sites for a country club, a shopping center, two schools, and three churches. He rapidly grasped what would subsequently be considered the essential elements of residential planning and devoted great attention to infrastructure improvements, supplying electricity to residents and putting in paved streets, sidewalks, gutters, storm drains, artesian water wells, and a sewer system. As good transportation from Baltimore was key to the success of Roland Park, Bouton established the Lake Roland Elevated Railroad electric line in 1893 to create a service from the city center within twenty-five minutes to Roland Park, providing a great impetus to the growth of Baltimore northward. Roland Park was also linked to downtown Baltimore via parks, parkways, and other major thoroughfares.
Aware that carefully crafted deed restrictions would be necessary to maintain Roland Park's status as Baltimore's premier suburb, Bouton and his company formulated restrictions to protect public zones from such visual intrusions as stores, factories, saloons, or any type of business, as well as hospitals and asylums, to maintain Roland Park as a place of residence. The deed restrictions were to run in perpetuity, but in 1909 Bouton reduced them to a twenty-five-year period and later permitted all residents to renew them by majority vote. In 1892, the first lots were offered for sale, and construction of the first houses began. Anticipating the extent to which commercial and social uses, if properly managed, could enhance the community's desirability, Bouton decided to erect a shopping center and a country club in Plat One but reserved the rest of the community for residential development only. Bouton donated one hundred and fifty acres for the country club, and by 1898 six hundred applicants had pre-registered to join the Baltimore Country Club, which was so named to mark it "as a city-wide enterprise" since membership was not limited to residents of Roland Park.
Bouton was intent on attracting "precisely" the "right people" to move into Roland Park and was successfully aided in his efforts by the presence of the country club. In 1913, Bouton advised J. C. Nichols that "practically any person I would sell property to in Roland Park would make a good member in the Country Club," possibly coded language for a systematic pattern of discrimination. Bouton proved that a country club provided an excellent means of stabilizing a suburban development and increased the sale of lots. However, the so-called well-to-do residents that Bouton had anticipated moving into Roland Park did not purchase lots in the development. Instead, by the turn of the twentieth century, it was the "rapidly-growing urban class of moderately well-off professionals and businessmen that comprised the majority" of its homeowners. They were doctors, lawyers, bankers, railway officials, and high-level executives.
In 1895, Bouton organized the Roland Park Civic League, the first homeowners association in the United States, through which trustees managed all property owners' collective maintenance costs for police patrols, road repair, garbage pickups, street lighting, and a water supply. From 1908 to 1916, the League published The Roland Park Review, a newsletter created to instill civic pride and responsibility as well as a sense of community and identity awareness. Mandatory restrictions varied from Plat One to Roland Park's final development of Plat Six in 1910. In the beginning, the restrictions imposed setback lines from thirty to forty feet for each house in order to provide ample front yards. A minimum cost requirement for each house ranged from two thousand to five thousand dollars, with the cost varying from street to street. The Roland Park Company supervised the construction of each house to control architectural consistency and to ensure maintenance of property values. The elevation, site, and floor plans, as well as exterior colors, of every house had to be approved by the company's architectural design review board, a degree of scrutiny that would not be adopted by developers in most other communities. Yet, the design review board allowed residents to choose their own architects, materials, and styles as long as the house was integrated with the landscape design, using landscape as a means of siting the house and contributing to the community identity. Stables and other outbuildings were permitted if they were built at the rear of the lot. Many of the original houses were built in versions of the Queen Anne, Shingle, Tudor, and Colonial Revival styles, and some were bought as packages through the plan book designs of R. W. Shoppell and others. In 1895, the company claimed that it had erected more than one hundred model houses, worth more than five hundred thousand dollars in total. As an incentive, Bouton offered the installment plan for his clients, a standard cash down payment and monthly installments comparable to rental rates. From 1905 to 1911, Edward L. Palmer served as Roland Park's first resident architect, an arrangement that was considered unusual at the time because "most members of the profession considered such work demeaning."
Between 1901 and 1910, Olmsted Brothers, the landscape architectural firm, worked on the planning of the rest of the Roland Park acreage, mostly situated on much steeper terrain than Plat One. By making preliminary visits and consultations and drawing a topographical map, Olmsted Brothers invested more time and energy in planning the development than had Kessler. The firm viewed the comprehensive plan as a means of addressing an entire community through a flexible set of goals. Because they considered planning a complex and ongoing process, they perceived methods of planning for Roland Park as a broad strategy in which precise lines of physical development were resolved over a practical timeline, rather than a fixed, predetermined end date. Bouton exhibited great enthusiasm for the Olmsted Brothers' planning ideas, often offering his own suggestions to be refined by the professional landscape architects. Bouton and the Olmsteds had an almost perfect developer-client relationship and were in agreement that a flexible, broad, comprehensive plan was the best method for predicting the future needs of a suburban community.
In 1908, the Baltimore Sun called Roland Park Baltimore's "most fashionable and most pretentious suburb." Ten years later, the city annexed Roland Park. The Olmsteds' work there would be greatly admired by planners and developers across the country. Among those who visited Roland Park were the planner and theorist John Nolan and J. Horace McFarland, the president of the American Civic Association, who stated that Roland Park was a "civic exhibit which cannot be but of increasing value to a whole country." The Olmsteds presented Roland Park as an exemplary model for suburban development to a new generation of landscape architects, architects, planners, and developers. In fact, the influence of Roland Park would extend to all of the major planned suburbs of the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Highland Park and River Oaks For Edgar L. Flippen and Hugh E. Prather, beginning the development of Highland Park during the Panic of 1907 must have seemed daunting. As Prather pointed out at the 1917 Conference of Developers of High-Class Residential Property, "People [in Texas] are not educated up to buying high class resident property." Undoubtedly, Dealey's accumulation of information on city planning was of great benefit to Flippen and Prather, who essentially built their own small residential city based on Dealey's research, succeeding in what the city of Dallas never fully achieved. Will Hogg followed what Flippen and Prather had accomplished in Dallas in his development of River Oaks, but he and his partners, Mike Hogg and Hugh Potter, had the advantage of viewing and learning from probably all of the "superior developments" cited by Nichols because these had either begun development or had long since been open by 1924, when Hogg and his partners purchased the land for River Oaks. As stated in their River Oaks promotional literature, officers of their organization "visited the pick of the residential developments from Florida to Kansas City and Chicago, and from New England and New York to the coastal cities of California, as well as in European cities. Then they studied the problems peculiar to Houston and Southwestern cities in general."
However, Highland Park and River Oaks did not represent isolated real estate trajectories in Texas cities: Amarillo, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corsicana, El Paso, Fort Worth, Galveston, Port Arthur, San Antonio, and Wichita Falls experienced up-to-date suburban community development during the 1920s and 1930s, although on a smaller scale than in Dallas and Houston. Few Texas cities had the means to support the Dallas and Houston models on such a comprehensive scale and few were significantly complete by the onset of the Great Depression. Prior to 1945, no other Texas suburban developers successfully attempted to fully use the large-scale comprehensive plan, as presented in Dallas and Houston.
Suburban Houses in Dallas and Houston
By obtaining professional advice from design consultants for their sites, infrastructure, and buildings and through strict covenants incorporated in deed of sale and in architectural guidelines, the developers could manage the beauty and order of the community as a whole. As progressive suburban planning was established in Texas, more "modern" suburban house types with distinctive architectural styles and interior designs were erected in landscape settings characterized by spacious yards with private gardens. From the 1890s through the 1930s, distinct and recognizable stages of Texas house forms evolved from an urban, street-oriented version with square, boxy proportions to an elongated suburban country house placed low to the ground. These houses featured a one-room-deep rectilinear plan and multiple exposures organized for climatic responsiveness by orienting reception rooms to the south facing the backyard (the "country") to capture prevailing southerly breezes, a great advantage in the years before the introduction of air-conditioning in the 1930s.
The outcome of this evolution was a house with a backyard and its landscaped gardens that were equal to the street side of the house. There was a clear relationship between the interior rooms and the gardens, which became extensions of the house, creating expanded living spaces for outdoor and indoor activities. High-set foundations and front porches were replaced at first by balustraded terraces, a protective hood over the front door, and side loggias, or open porches, topped by sleeping porches that were extensions of the private space of the interior, rather than semipublic spaces, like a front porch, accessible from the street. There was also a trend toward diminution of scale, more precise renditions of historic models, and far more consistent development of stylistic identities through the detailing of finish materials, often producing an eclectic effect. This evolution culminated in the suburban country house type with a street front hinting at, but not necessarily disclosing, the interior plan geometry. Thus, the country house type was adjusted to make it suitable for suburban neighborhoods as the appeal of living in the country and a new desire for privacy, even outdoors, were changing American domestic customs and architecture.
By integrating their large community landscaping theme and its improvements with each homeowner's suburban country house and garden, the developers could reinforce the social status of their property owners, achieving two major objectives: the fulfillment of their quest for profit and the elevation of their standing nationally as models of suburban architecture and community planning. This is demonstrated by the fact that houses in Highland Park and River Oaks were repeatedly illustrated in nationally published journals during the 1920s and 1930s.
At the end of the nineteenth century throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the middle-to upper middle-classes proponents of Progressivism "believed they could reform through successive approximations of their urban ideal--a clean, beautiful, well-governed city--and they called their movement the 'civic renaissance,' the 'civic awakening,' and 'the uplift in American cities'. . . . Their aims included the spreading of middle-class values through the uplift of unfortunates and the establishment of their own cultural hegemony." Progressives often projected a nostalgic view of country living, as immigrants and the working classes crowded into American cities, creating congested center city neighborhoods. Even in Dallas and Houston, those with means desired the pastoral environment of the garden suburb, as there were few rural summer retreats in Texas to escape the heat and confusion of the cities. Consequently, a "great wave of renewed love of the out-of-door life and of nature which swept over America in the last years of the nineteenth century and the opening years of the twentieth" was reflected in Texas suburban domestic architecture.
Stylistically, the house designs built in Highland Park and River Oaks in the 1920s exemplified national trends with respect to such types and styles that developers permitted in their subdivisions. This involved a range of sources, from the American Colonial, Dutch Colonial, French Colonial, Beaux-Arts (sometimes labeled Modern French), Tudor, and other genres based on both symmetrical and pastoral European genres. In the early 1920s, Spanish Colonial Revival and Mediterranean were introduced in Highland Park and River Oaks. These regional styles, created by architects in Southern California, became extremely popular in Texas due to its historic and climatic associations and would spread throughout the Southwest and Florida. Although Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie style was missing from both Highland Park and River Oaks, houses based on Gustav Stickley's Craftsman style were erected in the early stages of Highland Park's development. These designs were either provided by architects working for the development corporations or approved by an architectural design review committee. The foremost Texas architects involved in this process were C. D. Hill, Lang & Witchell, H. B. Thomson, Anton F. Korn Jr., and Fooshee & Cheek in Dallas, and John F. Staub, Birdsall P. Briscoe, and Joseph W. Northrop Jr., and Charles W. Oliver in Houston, who was the private consulting architect for the River Oaks Corporation from 1926 to 1933. These architects studied national models of domestic style and adapted them to the climatic conditions of Texas. The developers of Highland Park and River Oaks both had strong advertising campaigns for their suburban communities and house designs, involving published booklets and newspaper ads. In addition, the River Oaks Corporation placed full-size ads on the covers of popular local journals and published pamphlets with artistic renderings of houses designed by Oliver. In the case of the speculative house at 2007 River Oaks Boulevard, Will Hogg had the house fully furnished by decorators and held an open house for prospective buyers.
Nationally, the two most important architects developing the modern country house type were the New Yorkers Charles A. Platt and Harrie T. Lindeberg, with their most prominent followers including Bertram G. Goodhue, Myron Hunt, Reginald Johnson, Joseph Neel Reid, Mott B. Schmidt, and George Washington Smith, among others. Platt, with his dual interest in the design of the house and the garden, "united architecture and landscape, cut loose from palatial ostentatiousness, and provided a graceful, practical domestic environment for the American of wealth and refinement." He approached his country house projects by designing from the outside in, that is, incorporating the design of the house with that of the landscape and garden. For this, he was labeled "the architect most responsible for the new way of looking at the house in the landscape." Platt stated in a 1931 interview, "The essential truth in country houses design . . . is that house and gardens together form one single design." Platt drew inspiration from American Colonial and eighteenth-century English house forms, adapting them to contemporary domestic programs and anchoring them to their sites with his garden designs.
Platt had trained as a landscape painter in Paris and New York in the 1880s, but turned to landscape design and architecture after a visit to Italy in 1893. Upon returning to the United States, he made his summer residence in Cornish, New Hampshire, a community of artists and writers. Lindeberg, though trained in the offices of McKim, Mead, and White, was drawn to the work of the contemporary British architects Edwin Lutyens and Charles F. A. Voysey, who were producing architectural designs based on English regional vernacular manor houses, rather than to the classical prototypes of his mentors. Lindeberg transformed the larger-scale country British designs to create an American house type better suited to suburban living. These American house designs were illustrated in his 1912 privately published book, Domestic Architecture.
One of the strongest proponents of Platt and Lindeberg's work was the influential architecture critic and political writer Herbert Croly, editor of Architectural Record from 1900 to 1913, co-author of Stately Homes in America: From Colonial Times to the Present Day (1905), author of Houses for Town and Country (1907), and of a manifesto on Progressive Era beliefs, The Promise of American Life (1909). In his 1907 Houses for Town and Country, Croly defined the typical American country house as, "a medium priced building, although it tends toward the upper rather than the lower end of the limit. . . . It is not so large that its inhabitants become insignificant compared to their appurtenances; yet it is large and handsome enough to give an effect of ease, good taste, hospitality, and well-favoured abundance." Neighbors in Cornish, Croly had hired Platt in 1897 to design his house in the community, a simple two-story residence with a loggia opening onto the rear garden. In 1904, Croly began publishing and praising the work of Platt in Architectural Record, the preeminent architectural journal in the country, largely due to the extensive written commentaries by Croly and his colleagues that accompanied the photographs of the various architects' work. Platt's work was further promoted in the Monograph of the Work of Charles A. Platt, published in 1913 and reprinted in 1919. Platt's monograph became one of the leading sources for contemporary eclectic designs. Platt "accomplished what all eclectic architects strove for--subtle transformation of historic models as solutions to modern building problems."
Although Platt never designed a house in Texas, he was known to architects working there through his published designs. However, Lindeberg, "a specialist in the romantic country house" and "probably the most prolific and widely known domestic specialist of the eclectic era" was hired in the early 1920s to design four houses in Shadyside, Houston's elite residential enclave. Because of these commissions, Lindeberg's influence would be felt directly in Houston. Platt and Lindeberg's designs were conceptually similar and exerted a profound impact on architects designing suburban houses in Texas, particularly in the way they integrated the plan of the house with the surrounding landscape.
Platt's ca. 1901 American Colonial design for a five-bay, two-story, white-painted shingled house for Anna Parkman Osgood (later Mrs. Frederick S. Culver) in Hadlyme, Connecticut, illustrates how he based his design on historic sources and transformed them to accommodate current lifestyles. On the ground floor of the elongated rectilinear plan for the house, known as "Blendon Hall," the formal rooms faced the gardens. These rooms opened onto a veranda running fully across the rear elevation and flanked by two open porches to provide a transition from the house to the landscape and create the main elevation of the house. If possible, he always faced the entrance front north and the rear south to take full advantage of the site and views. The formal staircase was located at the entrance end of the hall, leaving the rest of the hallway open to flow into the living and dining rooms as well as out to the garden through double doors. Platt placed the kitchen with a service wing also toward the street with the servants' quarters above it, which traditionally in the nineteenth century would have been oriented toward the rear yard. The horizontal mass of the house rose directly from the ground, physically linking the house and its gardens, and was reinforced by the low pitch of the hipped roof. The porches and veranda, supported by one-story Doric columns, allowed unobstructed views from the five bedrooms on the second floor, three of which faced the gardens along with Mrs. Culver's dressing room.
Prior to his work in Houston, Lindeberg designed country houses primarily on the East Coast and in the Midwest. One of the most striking examples is the 1917 manorial-style Frederick L. Lutz House in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. Low to the ground, the Lutz House, known also as "Laurel Acres," formed a complete ensemble of a house and its garden. A steeply pitched roof with an end gable rose high above the entry door in a monumental gesture that signifies the importance of the house. Its smooth stucco walls were austere in character, but the entry door was highly decorated by Romanesque detailing and was further accentuated by a long, horizontal band of casement windows with a brick-relieving arch above them. Spear-like ornamental down spouts flanked the entry. Lindeberg's style is dissimilar to that of Platt, but the conceptual ideas are alike.
Both architects designed houses that rested close to the ground to adapt the house to its site and create a new form of the country house that would be embraced by Texan architects and their clients.
The developers of Highland Park and River Oaks adopted the concepts of the American Dream of homeownership: as a place to escape "from the pressure, congestion, and corruption of urban life," a place to elevate a family's social status, and the fulfillment of personal achievement "in the form of self-realization or asserting one's individuality." In other words, they strongly grasped the middle class's desire to live in safe, homogeneous surroundings, what Ethel Longworth Smith aptly described in her 1928 "In Defense of Suburbia," in which she wrote that she and her husband had "moved to a suburb . . . because we believed that our small children would find there a more normal, healthy environment than the city was providing." Additionally, this type of environment also appealed to people who did not have children and wanted to obtain the benefits of living in a community of neighbors who also identified with these values. By incorporating up-to-date infrastructure improvements, coordinating the landscaping of private and public spaces, implementing such legal devices as restrictive covenants, and providing architectural guidance in terms of style and suitability for new technology, developers so successfully reversed the failure of cities to ameliorate urban living that their developments have retained their appeal to the present day.
A comprehensive city plan was implemented incrementally in Dallas, but the concept was never accepted in Houston. Highland Park and River Oaks would stand apart from their host cities by adopting Progressive Movement philosophies to manage issues of beauty, order, stability, and profitability, particularly through the use of restrictive covenants. Therefore, the developers of these Texan suburban communities assumed a civic responsibility to construct models for urban growth in their cities. They drew upon innovative planning concepts and architectural trends, benefiting both themselves and their homeowner clients. Furthermore, by working with some of the most prominent architects in their cities, they educated clients, as well as the broader public, on the merits of architectural design, which also accommodated technological advancements.
The developers of Highland Park and River Oaks constructed beautiful, controlled communities, adorned by some of the best architecture from this period in Texas. The key to this achievement was their understanding that the affluent public sought a family-oriented environment, offering a semblance of permanence, social "integrity," and confirmation of economic prosperity, a neighborhood where like-minded citizens could raise and educate their children far from what they supposed to be the crime-ridden, working-class, and minority sections of Dallas and Houston. Through their attentiveness to upper middle-income American values and anxieties at a time of challenging growth and advances in technology, the developers of Highland Park and River Oaks reviewed not only actual but also imagined communities that constructed consensus on spatial settings for domestic leisure, happiness, and social status. It is not surprising today that the names "Highland Park" and "River Oaks" are still associated with distinct lifestyles in Dallas and Houston. As Potter noted in 1937, the creation of small urban neighborhoods, or "a hodge-podge of unrelated subdivisions clumsily hooked on to each other or superimposed on one another," transitioned to the development of comprehensively planned large-scale communities at Highland Park and River Oaks. Through an understanding of the history of American suburban development during this period, it becomes apparent how consistently and creatively these Texas suburban residential communities were planned, marketed, and developed.
Highland Park and River Oaks have enjoyed extraordinary longevity thanks to the foresight of their developers, who learned from the experience of early and contemporary nationwide developers, and who, in turn, contributed to the history of suburban planning in the United States by introducing modern concepts of suburban development in Dallas and Houston. Highland Park and River Oaks exceeded the expectations of their developers, who felt that sound neighborhood planning required the presence of families of various income levels. However, as demand for homeownership in their garden suburbs increased in the last quarter of the twentieth century, they would house only the cities' wealthy, leaving the middle class priced out.
“…a beautiful book with lovely illustrations and crafted prose that balances the narrative of neighborhood development with detailed insight into the construction and architectonic history of individual houses in both neighborhoods.”
Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“[T]his book is a thoroughly researched, unique, and valuable contribution to the history of garden suburban community planning and development in Texas.”
Great Plains Research
“The city planners of the early twentieth century, the first generation of professionals in that field, left behind memorable schemes for reshaping central cities, along with high-minded comprehensive plans for entire metropolises. Yet from New York’s Forest Hills Gardens and Baltimore’s Roland Park to the Country Club District in Kansas City, that era’s celebrated urban designers had the most latitude to test their ideas and exercise their skills when commissioned to lay out exclusive suburban neighborhoods. Cheryl Caldwell Ferguson’s meticulous study of Houston’s River Oaks and Dallas’s Highland Park details how this movement for private-sector neighborhood planning came to Texas’s largest cities and then spread across the state. For the Hogg siblings behind River Oaks and for the developers of Highland Park, high-end neighborhood planning was an investment and a vision. Thoughtfully designed by the country’s best talents and properly restricted and managed, River Oaks and Highland Park would turn a profit while leaving Houston and Dallas more elegant in appearance and sophisticated in atmosphere. Extensively illustrated, with clear explanations of architectural styles and design principles, Highland Park and River Oaks will be appreciated by Texas’s urban and architectural historians. For preservationists and public historians, the book is a resource, and for residents a treasure.”
Alan Lessoff, Professor of History, Illinois State University, and coauthor of Fractured Modernity: America Confronts Modern Times, 1890s–1940s