Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Kraigher House Restoration

The Neutra designed Kraigher House sometime in the late '30s to 40's.

George Kraigher was a pilot for Pan American Airways back in the 1930s. When Mr. Kraigher moved to Brownsville, he had the famous modern architect, Richard Neutra (who was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, the father of Modern Architecture) design his house at 525 Paredes Line Rd, which at the time was at the outskirts of Brownsville city limits. What Mr. Neutra created was the first International Style house in Brownsville and, in fact, in the state of Texas. The house may have even have been the first International Style outside of California, where the style first appeared! The two-story house sported large wrap around windows instead of brick for walls. It is not large but feels large inside because of the very large windows that go from the floor to the ceiling. There were literally no covered walls, just glass. Also, contrary to the Spanish-Colonial Style being used in Brownsville in this era, this house did not have any kind of ornamentation that decorated most of the buildings and houses in Brownsville. This house was a radical departure from anything thing before in this area and in the US (other than California).

Today, it sits quietly in what can now be called the center part of Brownsville as it no longer lies outside the city limits as it once did. There is a Bigo’s Restaurant, several medical office buildings around it and is situated very close to the Expressway 77/83. In fact, it sits way into the lot that as you pass by on Paredes Line Rd (between Price Rd & Boca Chica Blvd) that you may mistake it for an abandoned, crumbling house with no glass windows but instead of glass, the house now is boarded up with plywood. The former, radically different, state of the art, modernist style is now gone replaced by a sagging, hole infested roof, which is now covered by a very large blue tarp, with no windows and the interior rotting from the lack maintenance from decades of abandonment.

But there is good news to report. Last night (11/15/05) I went to the City meeting where one of the issues was to agree on signing an agreement with UTB/TSC, which Mr. Goodman (Director of the Downtown District) states UTB/TSC “shall stabilize the structure as soon as reasonably practical” and also that the lease will not go into effect until January 2006. In any case, this is still very good news considering that UTB/TSC has beautifully restored the Alonso Building (c. 1890) and the Andres Cueto Building (1893). TSC has even renovated and restored the campus historical buildings such as the Gorgas Hall (1868), Champion Building (1868), the Regiment House (1868), the Cavalry Building (1868), and the Old Morgue (1868-72) to name a few. TSC has a good history of restoring historical homes and buildings. The Kraigher House should be in very good hands with TSC.

TSC has plans that include turning the Kraigher House into a home for a future architecture program. This is truly a win-win situation for the City, which did not have funds to renovate it, TSC, and the city of Brownsville, which gets to have one of the few rare examples of a Neutra designed house outside of California. I congratulate the City and TSC for this endeavor. This building is sure to attract many Neutra aficionados to our city as well as other tourists and locals. I can’t wait to see this house once it’s been completed. I’ve taken the before pictures. Now I’m just missing the after pictures. If all goes well, the stabilization of the structure should happen sometime next year.



Blogger Jorge Krieg said...

This is the problem with Brownsville. Why do people care about some "new age" house (time built) that many people have never heard of of, and much less ever seen? It is a complete waste of money! I might be wrong. Maybe the restoration is coming from private interest, but if tax payer's money is going to restore a junk box. I have a problem with that.

1:51 PM  
Blogger TonyL said...

why, cuz this this particular building is very unique and maybe the only one of it's type left w/o being touched or improperly restored. UTB/TSC has every right to restore it as long as it is used for public use.

Mr. Krieg, you may not enjoy architecture, and that's your choice, but don't speak for every one else cuz everyone has a different opinion, such as myself. I'm glad to see this house restored and hope to see it used as an architectural program here in B'ville once it's been restored.

If as you say you have a problem with that, please call our city govn't or UTB/TSC and share your complaint with them. it's useless to complain but then not be heard. I've complained on many occassions but have always taken my complaints to the proper authorities. I'm just outspoken this way.

More power to you when you stand up and let yourself be heard to the right people. That's why I'm very active in my community.


12:31 PM  
Blogger Jorge Krieg said...

Thanks for the info. I don't mean to be a trouble maker or upset ppl.

4:04 PM  
Blogger TonyL said...

Nah, just that some people will take comments differently, as I have found out long ago.

Keep commenting cuz you're about the only one doing so.

Everyone's opinion is welcome,just being careful with how we write stuff.


8:24 PM  
Anonymous j belleville said...

I am a big fan of modern architecture and am pleased to hear that Neutra's influence and worth is not lost on Brownsville residents/ leaders. However, I feel that city and university funds are better served elsewhere (you can never have too many nice roads, adequate drainage or scholarships). I am all for the restoration/ preservation of special structures in the area (especially the Kraigher house) but university and city leaders are taking this too far. Tax payers should not see their money go into a 10+ year restoration debacle (courthouse, Capital) especially when they are under paid college professors living in a high flood area.
If the city/ university want to restore/ preserve buildings they should set up some sort of financing program for those that want and can restore/preserve those buildings privately.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Jenny+Wylie said...

All I can say is thank you Brownsville and the University for having the foresight to restore this treasure. This house could and will bring in much needed tourism to Brownsville just from the modern architecture enthusiast alone!

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, this is probably years too late but I'm glad to know about the restoration of this house. I'd read about it while waiting to get my beetle serviced years ago and thought to myself, "next time I go to Brownsville, I'm gonna check it out"...and, of course, I forgot. But now, next time I go to Brownsville, now that I know some faculty members from UTB, I'll check it out.

1:23 PM  
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10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well i am probably one of the few supporting restoration of historic buildings, i ben out of Brownsville for a couple of years now, but when i go back i will continue to do what i love, that is restoring old,historical houses. not with my money, but with my skills. see you soon.

8:59 PM  

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