At the height of the City Beautiful movement in the 1920s, a new Houston neighborhood was planned as a model garden subdivision. It was named Braeswood, alluding to its location along Brays Bayou and amid the stretch of live oak trees planted by the developers to line Main Boulevard. Braeswood was developed in 1927 and 1928 by George F. Howard lawyer, banker, real estate entrepreneur and sometime state politician. The original 456-acre tract of land Howard had bought from John H. Kirby was located almost exactly on the southwest boundary of Houston. The city limits at that time extended to south of Rice Institute, and Braeswood would not be annexed as part of the city until 1937. Hare & Hare, an outstanding Kansas City landscape architectural firm which had designed exclusive Highland Park in Dallas, was hired to plan the subdivision.
Winding streets were laid out, and where the street intersections overlapped, small parks were created (as shown in the illustration below). The bayou parkway drive that bordered the neighborhood was named Braeswood Boulevard. A major campaign was launched to push the development of the ultimate garden suburb. It was touted as having all the requirements for a fine home location (including being in the direct route of the Gulfs cool breeze), approach, protection, wise restrictions and architectural supervision. In addition, advertisements stressed that it was only 12 Minutes Out Main Boulevard.
A home site 70 feet by 140 feet was priced at $3,500, but lots up to seven acres were available. The first speculative house built by the Braeswood Corp. was bought in 1929 by one of the corporations directors, newspaper editor and ex-governor William P. Hobby. But the onset of the Great Depression halted development. As a result, it would take 25 years to implement Hare & Hares master plan and only one-half of it was ever realized. Because Braeswoods development spanned several decades, it produced a variety of architectural styles ranging from English country to modern. Braeswood contained the best known modern house built in Houston in the 1930s. The Bluebonnet Boulevard structure featured white stucco-surfaced walls, flat roofs, panels of glass block, and tubular metal railings. Architects who designed houses in Braeswood included Carl A. Mulvey, Eugene Werlin, Joseph Finger, Howard Barnstone and Paul Laszlo. Mulvey was responsible for most of the pre-Depression houses.
In 1938, oil millionaire Glenn McCarthy built the most expensive house in the subdivision. On an 18-acre tract of Kelving Drive, the 26-year-old McCarthy built a huge, steel-framed, centrally air-conditioned, Louisiana plantation-style house. It was in front of this house, amid the moss-draped live oaks that McCarthy and his family were photographed by Time magazine when the mansion made the subject of a cover story in February 1950. The house, named Glennlee, was demolished in 1972.
McCarthy was also responsible for the most famous landmark in the development, the Shamrock Hotel. In the original Braeswood master plan, this 15-acre site at Main and Holcombe was reserved for a community shopping center to be named the McCarthy Center. Only the hotel, the parking garage and the legendary swimming pool were completed. During the 1950s, however, the Shamrock became the symbol of this city on the rise. The Braeswood Corp. had advertised in 1929 that its subdivision was being built not only for this generation, but for the future. Today Braeswood remains a serene, architecturally rich neighborhood.
Braeswood Place Homeowners Association
P.O. Box 20486 Astrodome Station Houston, TX 77225-0486
4010 Blue Bonnet Blvd., Suite #112
Office Hours: 10 - 2 Monday - Wednesday - Friday
Phone: 713-666-7248 | Fax: 713-666-7258