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Wright from the Street: Houston’s Thaxton House

A morning meeting and a flight that didn’t return home until evening, meant a day of potential leisure in Houston on December 16.  My meeting was scheduled a month in advance, so I had some time to try to figure out if it would be possible to see Houston’s only Wright, the William L. Thaxton Jr. House.  Some googling indicated it was on the market, but I was unsuccessful in arranging a tour. The house was commissioned by Mr. Thaxton, an insurance executive, in 1954.  In the early 1990’s the house along with modifications that surely had FLW rolling in his grave was on the brink of demolition, pineapple roof finials and all. Fortunately, it was purchased, renovated, expanded and loved.

Since my first ever trip to Texas in 2012 resulted in a warrant for my arrest due to a silly misunderstanding over the payment of a traffic ticket, I don’t get too aggressive about trying to make things happen in Texas, but I was really hoping some kind person might facilitate a glimpse.  A few days prior to my departure for Houston, I checked the internet again to see if I could gather any helpful information.  The house looked to be off the market .  A drive-by would have to do.

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When I reached the property at 12020 Tall Oaks Street, the For Sale sign was still at the front gate.  I stood in awe from the street for a few minutes and checked out what I could see from my non-intrusive (read: no reason to call the police) spot at the edge of the property.  In all seriousness, I would never cross the boundaries onto someone’s gated or fenced property without an invitation , but I was particularly careful on this day. I found the house so remarkable and inspiring that I decided to try for a tour one last time with a visit to the real estate sales agency, which I quickly learned was nearby.

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I walked in to the office and asked the staff member at the front desk about the property.  After a few tip, tap, types, she began to mutter and picked up her phone to figure out why it wasn’t showing up as an active listing since I had seen the sign still in the yard.  A gentleman stepped into the lobby to attend to me.

I told him that I had no intention of buying the property and had just stopped in the office on the off chance that it was possible to see the house at 12020 Tall Oaks Street.  He was extremely polite and professional.  He more or less explained in the nicest possible way that there was no way in hell I was getting in the house without some evidence that I was prepared to buy it. He didn’t use the words but the tone of his voice and expression on his face ever so subtly exhibited the dread of dealing with yet another architecture geek with a passion for Frank Lloyd Wright’s work.  Since I didn’t have $3,000,000 in my pocket and didn’t want to risk a discovery that the warrant was never cleared up, I shook his hand, thanked him for his time, and split.

I cannot imagine the patience that is required to sell a landmark.  If you are in the market for a house, I recommend giving a call to someone who has ever listed a house of historical significance..  If they can gracefully handle something like a steady stream of FLW dorks rolling into the lobby of their office wasting their time, they can definitely tolerate any indecision you might have during the purchase of your next home.

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