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River Oaks Examiner, September 1, 2005

A third home in River Oaks has been designated as an historical landmark by the city council - the 1934 Colonial Revival style home at 2112 Brentwood Drive.

The home was designed by architect Cameron Fairchild for Dr. H.J. Ehlers, a prominent Houston physician who was one of the founders of the Texas Children's Hospital and an original member of the board of governors at the University of Houston.

Fairchild went on to design serveral homes of note in River Oaks, including the Lamberth House, one of the first homes built on River Oaks Boulevard. During his 50-year career, he also designed numerous structures in Galveston as well as the Jesse H. Jones Library building in the Texas Medical Center and the 17-story River Oaks Apartments building.

The other two River Oaks homes with landmark status are both on Lazy Lane - Ima Hogg's family home at Bayou Bend, now part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Newhouse home, which is currently owned by Robert Mosbacher, Sr.

Historic landmark status may be obtained by meeting certain criteria established by the Houston Office of Historic Preservation. The Brentwood Drive property qualified for landmark status because it is identified with a person or group who contributed significantly to the historic development of the city, it is one of the best remaining examples of an architectural style in the River Oaks neighborhood, and it was designed by a person or group whose work has influenced the heritage of the city.

Some of the most architecturally significant homes in Houston were built in the 1930s in River Oaks when it was the geographical center of the city. In recent years, the neighborhood has experienced the loss of over a quarter of its original homes due to new owners who demolish instead of historically preserving the properties.

That spurred the formation of Friends of River Oaks (FORO) to promote ownership of historically designated homes of recognized architectural merit.

ALthough historic landmark status may be revoked after a three-month waiting period by either the city or the homeowner, having landmark status does offer some protection from a neighborhood losing its original charm and character, according to FORO. Designated landmarks may not be altered architecturally, so they must be restored rather than drastically renovated.

Financial incentives are also offered. After a home has been granted landmark status, restorations totaling one-half of the improvement value of the home may be used to apply for a deduction in property taxes paid to the city of Houston. Other benefits of landmark status include the opportunity to apply for restoration grants through the U.S. Historical Preservation Society.

More information about obtaining historic landmark status in River Oaks may be obtained from Randy Pace, historic preservation officer for the City of Houston Planning and Community Development Department, 713-837-7796, or Jane Dale Owen, FORO founder, 713-527-0401.

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