One of Houston's premier contemporary homes that has been the scene of fundraisers for presidents, other political candidates, and a large number of local charities is on the market for $19.5 million.
The mansion, owned by prominent personal injury lawyer Richard Mithoff and his wife, Ginni, was designed by noted architect Howard Barnstone and built in the mid-1960s on 5.2 acres of wooded property stretching from Lazy Lane to Buffalo Bayou in the exclusive River Oaks neighborhood. The Mithoffs purchased the home at 2930 Lazy Lane in 1996, updating it while keeping many of the features that made it so special.
"For me, the most striking part was the property, the wooded area and sloping ground down to the bayou," Richard Mithoff recalls. "It was one of the very first contemporary homes in River Oaks and was probably one of Howard Barnstone's most remarkable homes. You're five minutes from downtown Houston in the middle of a forest."
"It's like living in a park," Ginni Mithoff concurs, noting a family of owls she has kept tabs on from her bedroom window over the years.
Barnstone originally designed the mansion for Houston entrepreneur-financier John Maher and his wife, Lois, in 1965. Their neighbor, the legendary Ima Hogg, reportedly nearly had a heart attack when she saw it being built, but was won over by its steel-and-glass living and dining area that appears to be suspended in a forest. The unique design, with the main level elevated on huge piers and glass walls on three sides, has the feel of a luxurious tree house.
In 1987, oil company president Mary Ralph Lowe purchased the mansion and added a stylish guest house and stone steps leading to the far reaches of the property.
After purchasing the 11,670-square-foot manor in the mid-'90s, the Mithoffs felt strongly about keeping the integrity of the original design while updating the property. They covered the 1960s brick with stucco, elevated the entrance to the home, adding windows and glass doors, and remodeled the kitchen. They reconfigured some rooms, keeping the master bedroom upstairs and converting a family room into a library and a service room into an office. There are four other bedrooms downstairs, each with a terrace, along with a family room with a small kitchenette.
Other additions include a garage that houses Richard Mithoff’s car collection and, at the entrance to the house, a fountain featuring four 16.5-foot granite towers by sculptor Jesús Moroles.
The enormous 55-foot-long living and dining area has been a magnet for political fundraisers, particularly for Democratic candidates. Bill Clinton stopped by when he was president in the late '90s and Barack Obama made an appearance when he first ran for president in 2008. More recently, a fundraiser for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton drew a large, enthusiastic crowd last year.
"(Former Houston Mayor) Bill White once claimed that we raised more money for more causes here than anywhere," Richard Mithoff says.
Over the years, the couple has also opened up the home for a large number of Houston charities and arts organizations, including The Orange Show, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, and the Society for the Performing Arts (SPA). "It was a shame to waste all that space and it was always something that we cared deeply about and wanted to help," says Ginni Mithoff.
One highlight came when Marvin Hamlisch, who was in Houston for an SPA performance, signed the couple's piano after playing a few tunes for a small crowd at the house.
Fourteen years ago, the Mithoffs began a tradition that was more personal, hosting an annual Easter Egg hunt on the grounds when their first grandchild was 1. The family affair, with children, grandchildren, and scores of relatives and longtime friends, now attracts upwards of 600 guests. "That is one of the things I am going to miss," Ginni Mithoff says.
When the house is sold, the couple plans to downsize to a high-rise condominium in the area. Jeanne Marosis of John Daugherty Realtors is handling the listing for the Lazy Lane property.
Take a video tour of the home, courtesy of our news partners at ABC13.