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Saving Houston's legacy

Houston Mod: Making mid-century masterpieces matter in a city that often disregards history

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iPod chic: the Champions North home at 6006 Bermuda Drive Courtesy of Houston Mod
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610 Ames St., Spring Courtesy of Houston Mod
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The Spring home features a glass-enclosed courtyard. Courtesy of Houston Mod

Houston real estate is more widely recognized for its robustness rather than its style. But a local non-profit, Houston Mod, is aiming at changing that perception through preservation of our city's mid-century modern oases.

In its aim to put function over form, the mid-century modern movement produced a uniquely American style that is increasingly understood for its aesthetic appeal. Arguably, Houston's most sizeable directory of historic architecture was designed within this paradigm, featuring low profiles and futuristic lines. 

Houston Mod chronicles the city's topnotch 20th-century gems, with an eye towards those architectural revelations that are the most at risk for demolition: the Astrodome, Alabama Theater and the recently deceased Prudential Building.

Among the successful preservation projects recognized by Houston Mod is Exxon/Mobil's restoration of the Humble Oil Tower at 800 Bell Avenue. The iconic 1963 skyscraper is notable for its buoyant, graceful appearance, attributable to the 44 tiers of horizontal aluminum sunshades. The penthouse is home to the lionized Petroleum Club of Houston.

It's a noble cause for a city that all too often places moving forward over memory. In 2009, Houston Mod received a Greater Houston Preservation Alliance Gold Brick Award for its "Mod of the Month" program.

Houston Mod also has a few publishing notches on its belt, including volumes about Hugo V. Neuhaus, Jr. and Donald Barthelme. The organization's latest edition is High Style in the Suburbs: The Early Modern Houses of Architect William Jenkins, 1951-58 — a must-read for the city's design-savvy denizen.

Get in on the architecture action by participating in June's Mod of the Month event on Sunday, from 2-4 p.m. This month's program shoots north of the Loop, highlighting residential properties in Champions and Spring.

The Champions estate is an early 1960s contemporary that opens to expansive views of the Champions Cypress Creek Golf Course. Just because it's the suburbs doesn't mean that there isn't history here. The Champions Gold Club was founded by Jack Burke, Jr. and the late Jimmy Demaret in 1957. The club is nationally recognized and served as host to the U.S. Open in 1969.

The Spring property is a mod-athon with its flat roof and outdoor/indoor-melding courtyard. The 1966 home is situated on large lot, over 1/3 acre, on a cul de sac with a lush, forested area in the back. The property illustrates how clean design and nature may coexist.

Bring your checkbook — these high-style homes are on the market.

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