The most common types of buildings in Idylwood are domestic dwellings and auxiliary buildings (detached garages, garage apartments, or carports). They are organized by type, below, generally according to the terminology and date ranges used by McAlester and McAlester in their Field Guide to American Houses. Examples and descriptions of the following building types and styles are provided within the Representative Property Descriptions section that follows them.
A total of 355 dwellings were recorded within Idylwood, and single-family residences are the principal resource type in the neighborhood. They are most commonly Minimal Traditional (75 houses), Colonial Revival (85 houses), Ranch (75 houses), or Tudor Revival (70 houses) in style. The remaining 50 are mixed styles, buildings with no style, or have been altered. The buildings represent a time in Houston’s history when middle-class families were able and willing to afford their own homes. The residences typically were modest in size and designed with small garages at the rear of the lots. Multiple-family residences in the form of duplexes and four-plexes are found in Idylwood in very small numbers. They are most commonly Minimal Traditional in style. Just prior to World War II, a row of multiple-family residences was constructed along the 6600 and 6700 blocks of Lawndale Avenue. These buildings represent a time of development when blue-collar workers were filling positions at nearby industrial plants at the Houston Ship Channel, and at factories such as Hughes Tool Company, just northwest of the neighborhood. These buildings typically had wood-frame carports or garages at the rear of the lot.
Most of the single- and multiple-family dwellings in Idylwood that fall within the period of significance were constructed with detached garages or garage apartments. The garages are typically gabled, wood-frame buildings for either one or two cars. In addition to garages, there are also several carports and sheds in Idylwood, but these were generally installed after the period of significance (with the exception of those at the multiple-family dwellings). There are 287 ancillary buildings in Idylwood, including 229 detached garages, 22 garage apartments, 22 carports, and 11 sheds. Three ancillary buildings are obscured and cannot be properly identified.
Idylwood contains a number of landscape elements that add to the historic character of the neighborhood. Common to the period, these elements provide a cohesive appearance to the neighborhood, as well as a feeling of arrival when entering from adjacent areas. The landscape elements recorded in Idylwood consist of Idylwood Park (now Spurlock Park), one natural feature, the system of streets and 67 extant tile street markers, eight pairs of stone gate posts, one individual gate post, and three concrete street markers.
Only one commercial building was recorded in Idylwood. This building, a commercial strip center built in 2005 at the southwestern corner of Wayside Drive and Lawndale Avenue, replaced an automobile service station. When Idylwood was first under development, this location was the field office of Idylwood developers Embry and Gillette Stylistic Influences in Idylwood
Eclectic Movement (1900–1940)
The Eclectic movement encompasses a variety of architectural styles made popular at various times within the early twentieth century. Styles of European countries and New World Colonies influenced current design, which often included Italian Renaissance, Beaux Arts, Tudor, and Colonial Revival examples, the latter two of which are found in Idylwood. While the movement began with European-trained architects’ designs for wealthy clients, the technological advancements of the early 1920s, such as brick veneer over balloon-framed houses, led to the application of these fashionable styles to even the most modest cottages. The Eclectic movement was most popular during the years 1900 through 1940, but several styles, such as Colonial Revival, French Eclectic, and Monterey, were also common after World War II.
— Colonial Revival (1880-1955)
Colonial Revival houses are characterized by their form and decorative detailing. One of the most dominant styles for domestic architecture in the first half of the twentieth century, they are usually side gabled and can be one-and-one-half stories or higher. The archetypal Colonial Revival house is known for its accentuated front doors, often with a decorative pediment and pilasters, and fanlights or sidelights. A front entry porch or stoop is also common. The façades are usually symmetrical with equal numbers of windows on either side of a centrally located door. Traditional examples of Colonial Revival houses have double-hung sash windows and dormers.4 In Idylwood, several examples of this “typical” Colonial Revival style can be found, but the majority are simpler examples that use fewer features that classify this stylistic type. The Cape Cod cottage subtype is very common, and these often feature lower roof pitches. Variations of the style also occur, with such differences as the addition of a front-facing gable or off-center doors. There were 84 Colonial Revival style houses recorded in the neighborhood, examples of which can be found in the Representative Properties Description section. These examples are 1747 Idylwood Drive (Resource Number 0051, Photo 1), 6632 Merry Lane (Resource Number 0187, not pictured), 6716 Fairfield Street (Resource Number 0035, not pictured), and 6666 Fairfield Street (Resource Number 0027, not pictured).
— Tudor Revival (1890–1940)
The 1920s and 1930s saw the height of popularity of the Tudor Revival style. The classical example of the Tudor Revival features a steep side-gabled roof, prominent cross gables, decorative half-timber framing, tall and narrow windows, and massive decorative and often whimsical chimneys. Elaborate details often included leaded diamond lights in windows, ornamental chimney pots, false thatch roofs, and patterned and arched brickwork and quoins. Front entries were often located under their own tiny steep gables, and the door invariably had an arched top. Entire subdivisions of Tudor houses were constructed during the period, and the mixing and matching of various decorative elements made for an endless variety of examples. In Idylwood, Tudor Revival examples range in their level of elaboration from two-story brick examples to (most often) small cottage forms with very few hints toward the most common details of the style. Some of these simpler versions are late examples from the late 1930s during the transitional period into Minimal Traditional forms.
One of the most popular styles in the neighborhood, 70 Tudor Revival style houses were recorded, examples of which can be found in the Representative Properties Description section. These examples are 6625 Meadowlawn Street (Resource Number 0139, Photo 2), 6615 Park Lane (Resource Number 0209, not pictured), 6650 Meadowlawn Street (Resource Number 0149, not pictured), and 6634 Wildwood Way (Resource Number 0321, not pictured).
— French Eclectic (1915-1945)
While relatively uncommon, the French Eclectic style (also called French Renaissance) was popular in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. It was built mostly in Eclectic suburbs, like Idylwood during its early development. The style appeared after World War I, when many Americans served in France, and photographic studies of French houses were published for architects and builders. In the United States, the style became known for its typical features such as gabled or tall, steeply pitched hipped roofs; dormers; flared eaves; brick, stone, or stucco walls; decorative entrances; and occasional towers at the principal doorways. One modest example of the French Eclectic style was recorded in Idylwood (6740 Meadowlawn Street, ca. 1941, Resource Number 0174).
— Spanish Eclectic (1915-1940)
The Spanish Eclectic style was most common in areas of the United States where Spanish colonists once settled. Texas is one state where the style flourished. Related to the Mission style, Spanish Eclectic gained popularity after the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego in 1915. The style reached its height of popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s, and typically featured low-pitched, clay-tiled roofs; elaborated chimney tops; asymmetrical façades with stucco wall surfaces and decorative vents; arches at principal doors and windows; and elaborate doors and door surrounds. Two-story examples often featured balconies, exterior stairs, and covered porches.7 One Spanish Eclectic house, a reasonably ornate example containing many of the characteristics discussed above, was recorded in Idylwood (1935, Resource Number 0109), and is further described in the Representative Property Descriptions section.
— Monterey (1925-1955)
A version of the Spanish Colonial houses of northern California, the Monterey style blends Colonial Revival and Spanish Eclectic details. Early examples from the 1920s are more true to Spanish Colonial types, but as the style evolved in the 1940s and 1950s, it took on more English Colonial forms and details. Common elements of the Monterey style include two-story massing with a low-pitched gabled roof and a second story balcony that extends across part of the principal façade. This balcony typically is cantilevered and covered by the principal roof. A variety of wall cladding is found in Monterey-style houses, and often multiple types are used on one house.8 In Idylwood, the three very simple Monterey houses recorded typify later, Colonial Revival influences. An example of these, 6735 Fairfield Street (Resource Number 0040, Photo 3), can be found in the Representative Properties Description section.
— Art Moderne (1920s-1930s)
The Art Moderne style has its roots in the runner-up entry for the 1922 Chicago Tribune Headquarters design competition. Eliel Saarinen was awarded second place for his Modernistic approach, but his widely published design greatly influenced architects of the day. The introduction of streamlined industrial design and its emphasis on curved, smooth surfaces and horizontality were carried into residential architecture. The Art Moderne style is characterized by an asymmetrical façade, a flat roof with a small coping at the roof line, smooth (often stucco) wall surfaces, and horizontal balustrades and grooves or lines in walls. Often one or more corners are curved and feature continuous windows, often consisting of glass block. The use of the Art Moderne style in houses is relatively rare.9 In Idylwood, one Art Moderne house at 6748 Meadowlawn Street (1940, Resource Number 0176) was constructed in Idylwood and is a good expression of the style. It is further described in the Representative Property Descriptions section.
— Craftsman (1905–1930)
The development of the motorcar, electricity, the telephone, and indoor plumbing greatly influenced American society at the beginning of the new century. Incorporation of these modern elements had a profound influence on architectural design. These modern inventions required a rethinking of residential design, perhaps more fundamental than anything that had preceded it. Modern inventions required modern home design; the focus was on the future. Architecture of this period embraced the economy, efficiency, and privacy of the new modern American family. The most common residential structures of the first half of the twentieth century are of the Craftsman style, distinguished by their solid simple design. Most Craftsman structures have wood frames covered in narrow clapboard siding with wide porches, and have low roof angles, exposed rafter tails, eave brackets, and massive tapered wood porch columns on brick piers. The most basic designs are double front-gabled structures with a porch extending across the entire front façade with at least one oversized window. The earliest houses of the Craftsman era often utilized Neo-Classical design with a hipped roof, centered dormer, and full-façade porch. Although the Craftsman style was one of the most popular styles during the early years of Idylwood’s development and such houses are seen elsewhere throughout Houston in contemporary residential communities, none were built within the neighborhood and there are no historic examples of this style within the district. Instead, revival styles such as the previously described Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival were embraced.
— Mixed Styles
In some cases, eclectic styles were mixed (i.e., a house with both Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival details). In Idylwood, 11 buildings were recorded where several different elements of eclectic styles were found. Often, these are small houses that are very minimalistic except for small expressions of detail, or houses with both Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival details. Examples of these can be found in the Representative Properties Description section. The examples include 1727 Idylwood Drive (Resource Number 0048, not pictured), 6728 Sylvan Road (Resource Number 0299, Photo 4), and 1734 North MacGregor Way (Resource Number 0119, not pictured).
Modern Movement (1935–present)
The Modern movement in residential housing in the United States began in the late 1930s as the Eclectic movement and its period designs were set aside. Just as the simpler forms of the modern movement began to take hold, domestic building construction was severely curtailed as World War II caused most building materials and labor to be diverted to the war effort. At the end of the war, an emphasis was placed on the continuation of the Minimal Traditional style that had its start before the war, and the development of new modern houses like those in the Ranch style. With the developments in road construction and the interstate highway system during this era, the private automobile was elevated
in status, and for the first time was moved indoors to the attached garage.
— Minimal Traditional (1935–1950)
The Minimal Traditional style is an outgrowth of the Depression years, which fused an eclectic design with low or modest incomes. Then, in the later years of World War II, a particular type of construction modification was developed when the government rationed many everyday items for use by the war effort. One rationed building material was lumber, and the conservation of this resource led to a very distinctive structural modification, found primarily within Craftsman and vernacular residences. For instance, most houses constructed after 1942 were built without projecting eaves. In addition to the abandonment of wide eaves, most forms of decoration were abandoned in Minimal Traditional style houses constructed after World War II. Roof angles were also reduced to low to moderate slopes to save lumber, although it did not reach the drastic examples of the war years. Large chimneys are typical, and many examples resemble a “stripped down” version of the Tudor style. Minimal Traditional houses were built in large numbers, sometimes as complete subdivisions, immediately after the war. Combinations of brick, stone, and wood siding were used to offer some individuality to the structures. These features were later carried over into the Ranch style.11 In Idylwood, Minimal Traditional houses generally resemble the typical form. However, some do have slightly higher roof pitches, and often contain very basic details reminiscent of period revival styles such as Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival. Others are very modern in their form and have very little elaboration. In Idylwood, 96 Minimal Traditional style houses were recorded, examples of which can be found in the Representative Properties Description section. These examples are 6669 Fairfield Street, Resource Number 0028, Photo 5), 6739 Meadowlawn Street (Resource Number 0173, not pictured), 6616 Lawndale Avenue (Resource Number 0057, not pictured), and 6614 Wildwood Way (Resource Number 0311, not pictured).
— Ranch (1935–1975)
Originating in California, the Ranch style became the dominant style of residential construction in the 1950s and 1960s and was made possible by the almost universal ownership of the private automobile. Private transportation allowed people to live further from city and work centers. The style is typified by the maximization of the façade width and the incorporation of the garage into one wing of the structure (often with a concealed entry) so as to make the house look even wider. Details often include wide eave overhangs with exposed rafter tails, the combined use of brick, stone, and wood siding on the façades, decorative ironwork, expansive picture or ribbon windows, and decorative shutters. Idylwood includes a few examples of the style that use large expanses of the front façade as a primary feature where two lots are combined. More often, however, the Ranch style in Idylwood is either turned so that the “short” façade faces the street, or the house is simply a compact version that fits within the confines of the lot. The Ranch-style houses in Idylwood are, however, representative examples of their type, and contain the typical details described above. Of the buildings in Idylwood, 71 Ranch style buildings were recorded, examples of which can be found in the Representative Properties Description section. These examples are 6615 Wildwood Way (Resource Number 0312, not pictured), 1712 Idylwood Drive (Resource Number 0043, not pictured), and 6723 Park Lane (Resource Number 0237, Photo 6).
— Split-level (ca. 1955–1975)
The Split-level style was a multi-story modification of the then widely popular one-story Ranch house. It became popular during the 1950s. It is characterized by the same horizontal lines, low-pitched roof, and overhanging eaves of the Ranch house, but it added a second story unit intercepted at mid-height by a one-story wing to provide three levels of living space. The Split-level style allowed for the separation of quiet living spaces, noisy living and service areas, and sleeping areas on different levels. The style can be covered with a variety of wall cladding within a single house and usually decorative detailing is vaguely colonial in its inspiration.13 There is one Split-level style house in Idylwood, at 1816 North MacGregor Way (ca. 1960, Resource Number 0121). Although it postdates the period of significance for the neighborhood, the house is very typical of the style and period in which it was built.
Contemporary Period (ca. 1940-present)
The Contemporary Period of architecture came about with the end of post-World War II affluence. Some architects continued to explore Modernist principles during the 1960s and 1970s, but an interest in Postmodern trends was evident. An exhibit of Ecole des Beaux-Arts drawings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1975 led to a reintroduction of architectural ornament and an academic solution to design problems. Architects like Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown were influential in reviving architectural ornament and historical references while recognizing the needs of modern families. Although the Ranch style and more affordable houses continued to be built during this period, high-end
designers and architects explored modern designs and abstract geometric architectural themes. Many of these houses used sculptural forms with clean lines and experimented with scale, dimension, shapes, and planes.
— Contemporary (ca. 1940-1980)
The Contemporary style was most prevalent from 1950 to 1970 and popular among architect-designed houses. The style is separated into two groups based on roof form: flat or gabled. The gabled-roof group was influenced by the earlier modernism of the Craftsman and Prairie styles. Characteristics include overhanging eaves, exposed roof beams, and heavy piers supporting gables. The flat-roof group was influenced by the International Style and is sometimes referred to as the American International. Characteristics include flat roofs and the absence of decorative detailing. Wall surfaces include combinations of wood, brick, or stone. Integration into the landscape was also stressed among both of the Contemporary sub-groups. One-story houses are the most common while two-story houses are not uncommon. Idylwood contains three Contemporary houses. An example is 6648 Merry Lane (Resource Number 0193), which can be found in the Representative Properties Description section.
— Neo-eclectic (ca. 1965–present)
The Neo-eclectic style represents a return to more traditional architectural shapes and detailing than prior architectural styles. Some popular styles to emerge from this time period include Neo-Mansard, Neocolonial, and Neo-Tudor. The Mansard style was widely used by home builders in the 1960s, but was also used for shopping centers, apartment houses, and small commercial buildings. The characteristic feature of this style is its roof, with its sloping upper wall surface covered in decorative roofing materials. The Neocolonial style occurs from the 1940s onward and is an adaptation of the English Colonial type. The characteristic features of this style include widely overhanging eaves, metal windows, free interpretations of Colonial door surrounds, colonnaded entry porches, dentiled cornices, and irregularly spaced windows. The Neo-Tudor style gained popularity in the 1970s and is characterized, like its predecessor, by front gables with steeply pitched roofs, decorative half-timbering, and slender windows.16 While some of the resources during this survey were classified as Neo-eclectic, their individual characteristics tying them to a particular past style may not be overly apparent. Therefore Neo-eclectic is used as a general term for houses built after 1965 that exhibit forms related to past styles. The Neo-eclectic style occurs in six buildings in Idylwood. An example of a Neocolonial type in the Neo-eclectic era is 1404 North MacGregor Way (Resource Number 0110, Photo 7), which is further described in the Representative Properties