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A Moment in Time


The Powitzkys’ dedication to historic authenticity and their access to vintage photographs enabled them to maintain the original beauty of this Courtlandt Place home’s amazing Gothic revival facade

Historic Courtlandt Place preserves the past and remains poised for the future

In 1906, due to the rapid, rambunctious and unrestricted growth of the Bayou City, elegant mansions housing the city’s elite, which were once on the outskirts of town, were now being crowded out by the city’s new commercialism and southward expansion.

The response of the privileged Houstonians who lived in these mansions and who felt this encroachment was to create their own enclaves, known then as Private Places.

The first of these, Westmoreland Place (platted in 1902), was quickly followed (in 1906) by a smaller, yet more hardy sibling known as Courtlandt Place, and according to the 1989 application for state historic designation, “The neighborhood was developed so the residents could share the experience of living with each other without the intrusion of outsiders.” Houston’s Historic Courtlandt Place by Sallie Gordon and Penny Jones, indicates that “the homes were designed and built for very sophisticated people, most of whom were educated in the East, summered in places like Lake Placid and Colorado’s Broadmoor Hotel, and had taken at least one ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe.” The founders of the distinctive neighborhood were among Houston’s first big businessmen. Gordon and Jones say:

“They were the Old Guard with established fortunes and pedigrees and considered themselves socially distinct from the oil wealth beginning to flow into Houston. Their talent, energy and resources molded the developing city and their profound influence on business, education, government, civic organizations, cultural foundations, philanthropies and social clubs continues to shape Houston today.”

Just prior to World War I, 14 homes were occupied or under construction on Courtlandt Place, and no further building commenced until after the war. By 1937, four more homes were constructed, completing the historic Courtlandt Place our fair city boasts today. The architecture of the homes still reflects the diverse historical precedents of Classical, Mediterranean, Tudor, Georgian and Colonial Revival styles characteristic of the American Beaux Arts movement.

The Tudor Revival home featured in this article was designed by Sanguinet and Staats (a team who designed several of the neighborhood’s original homes) and was completed in 1910 for Sterling Myer, the chief developer of Courtlandt Place. Gordon and Jones report that two subsequent owners grew old in the home, unaware of its state of deterioration.

Enter Eric and Amy Powitzky, a couple (both doctors: he, ENT; she, oncology) who, at the time, were living in West University. Amy, in a philanthropic role, was serving as a docent on the Courtlandt Place Historic Home Tour when she remarked on her love of the neighborhood. Someone quickly informed her that the Tudor home was on the market. Well, it didn’t take her long to act.

After she and her husband took the first look at the amazing Gothic Revival structure, they called in Eric’s dad, an architect, to inspect the home, its framework and interior. When he gave the stamp of approval, that it was indeed a fine home, sound in structure and just in need of a little TLC and updating, the couple made the decision to buy and restore their new dream home.

Since the home was such an incredible example of period architecture, the Powitzkys didn’t want to change much; they simply wanted to repair and revitalize the dwelling. Armed with all the vintage photographs they could find and a deep desire to preserve and enhance its history and charm, they solicited the assistance of the design experts at Meredith O’Donnell Fine Furniture (with whom the couple had previously worked) and the construction experts at Robert Sanders Homes.

Pat McDonald, one of O’Donnell’s senior designers, consulted with the couple and the builder for more than a year on both interior and exterior details, including, according to McDonald, “more than 15 hours of research in order to locate exactly the right paint colors, fabrics and furniture to best reflect the home’s charm and irreplaceable history, while bringing it into the 21st century.”

The exterior restoration was vast, including removal of all the home’s brick and rebuilding many of the original feature of the house, including the distinctive railing along the roofline. Indoors, old furniture was refreshed and new furniture was purchased, updating for comfort while keeping the home very family friendly, as the Powitzkys have two active children. The distinctive arts and crafts character and Mission style of the home and its inherent features were maintained by selecting period furniture, light fixtures and hardware. Some of the light fixtures even reflect the gas/electric combinations now considered quaint that were cutting-edge technology when this home was

first built.

Many original features in the home were preserved, such as the original floors in the living and dining rooms, the paneling and built-ins, the leaded glass windows and the original tile in the fireplaces of those rooms.

Wainscotting, coffered ceilings and other built-ins, such as the credenza in the home’s study (formerly the “sick room” in the original home design), were added to match the style found throughout the rest of the dwelling.

The larger kitchen and breakfast room, which are now one open, free-flowing space flooded with light, were formerly three separate rooms. The cabinets in the kitchen, though all new, are typical of the period and the backsplash is slate, which was cut in half to make subway tiles. The hardware throughout the kitchen is hammered pewter and the doorknobs are the original glass knobs. The kitchen island reflects the arts and crafts style with its copper mica finish, toe hole eyebrow arches and mortis and tenon joints.

The commitment to remain true to the domicile’s original design is crystal clear when anyone examines the attention to detail found in the renovation. The home has once again become a hub for family and friend activities, just as it was so many years ago, brand new. The owners and their neighbors aren’t the only folks who are pleased with the restoration. In 2010, the abode won the 2010 Gold Brick Award from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance.

In the late 1960s, according to Houston’s Courtlandt Place, a reporter from the Houston Post asked a Courtlandt Place resident to explain the neighborhood’s mystique. The reply was, “The roots of Houston are in Courtlandt Place, and from here, they spread all over town.” And now, with the Powitzkys’ move to this remarkable, extraordinary home, their family has discovered the joys of living in a historic house in Courtlandt Place, and part of Houston’s heritage has been preserved for years to come.

Text by Cheryl Alexander

Photos by J. Pamela Photography

Interior design by Pat McDonald, of Meredith O’Donnell Fine Furniture, a licensed design firm

Renovation supervised by Robert Sanders Homes

 

New furnishings from Meredith O’Donnell Fine Furniture

 

home’s amazing Gothic revival facade. ‘ The living room of this historic home stays true to era and design with the Powitzkys’ selection of the Stickley Mission Morris chair and Stickley handknotted rug. Lending authenticity as well are the original cross-sawed oak paneling throughout the first level and the tiles around the fireplace, which are also original to the home.

The kitchen ceiling, styled to emulate pressed tin, is actually embossed wallpaper — glazed to resemble oxidized copper. The kitchen cabinets, the custom island, granite counters and the slate back splash are new additions to the home, all true to the arts and crafts style.

The dining room is home to more Mission Stickley and Harvey Ellis furniture and the flat weave sumac rug is perfect for an active household with young children.

The master bedroom, with its warm, rich tones, allows for breathing space and room to relax. The upholstered headboard, chair, ottoman and armoire — all earlier purchases from Meredith O’Donnell — were moved from the Powitzkys’ previous residence. The draperies are made of the same embroidered silk fabric as the shams and pillows

Like all of the bathrooms in the home, the master bath, too, was totally renovated. Formerly a sleeping porch, now the owner’s retreat boasts an amazing stained glass window in the shower, which the Powitzkys designed. Additional touches of elegance are the glass mosaic tiles surrounding the shower entrance and the custom mirror over the onyx countertops

The open, light-filled breakfast room is perfect in its pale green, and the Powitzkys chose to keep the dining furniture from their previous home and simply paint it to blend beautifully with the woodwork and cabinets. The arts and crafts style copper and mica lantern lend the finishing touch, maintaining the Mission style found throughout the home.

This handsome home office upholds the home’s rich heritage with new Stickley Mission oak desk and chairs. The custom-built book cases and credenza offer abundant space for books, photos and mementos on display.


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