Houston Local Life

The Houston Neighborhood Architecture Guide

From neoclassical columns to the sleek lines and bold facades of Art Deco, there’s a range of architectural styles represented across the buildings and homes of Houston. Here’s a guide to what you’ll see in a few Houston neighborhoods with distinct architecture.

River Oaks

River Oaks Theater photo courtesy of WhisperToMe

River Oaks has a few centerpiece buildings known for their distinct architecture. The River Oaks Shopping Center retains much of its original Art Deco look that dates back to the 1930s, though the original appearance has been slightly updated. But no building in the area is truer to its Art Deco roots than the River Oaks Theater, with its old-fashioned marquee, stylistic stone carvings, and distinct signage. 

Homes in the area also have distinct architectural styles. The gated mansions that fill the area feature carved, Grecian exteriors and stoic Doric columns. Smaller homes in the area boast ivy covered exteriors with stone-carved archways and Victorian-inspired windows and balconies. Homes come in many styles in River Oaks, but the emphasis is on luxury and elegance. 

Notable homes in the area include the Anderson House, built in a neoclassical style that features Ionic columns and a multilevel cornice set upon the brick structure. Another home, constructed at 1059 Kirby Drive by architect Charles Oliver, was noted among the country’s most beautiful homes by Paper Magazine. The mansion was constructed in a Southern Colonial style, with large pillars lining the entry, stately windows facing the lawn, and ivy-covered walls rising to the gently sloping rooftops.

Houston Heights

Houston heights victorian style houses

Houston Heights is committed to preserving its history, particularly the neighborhood’s original homes. These homes were typically constructed in the Queen Anne, Folk National, and Folk Victorian style.

The Queen Anne style borrows from Victorian elements for its design. Homes in this style often possess high-pitched rooftops and are also irregular in design. Another significant feature of these types of homes are their prominent porches. 

The Folk National style found in the Heights gained popularity in the 1800s and early 1900s due to the simplicity of its design, which made it easy to build. Light and wood framed, these houses can come in several variations, including gable-front or hall-and-parlor entries.

Typically two stories tall, the Folk Victorian home features a two-tiered porch facing the street. Small columns support the sharply sloping, angular rooftops. Folk Victorian homes are also simply designed homes, although with some additional exterior features to make it more appealing. These can include intricate detailing on the porches and additional decorative trim beneath the cornice.

Museum District

"Broken Obelisk" by Barnett Newman in front of Rothko Chapel photo courtesy of Ed Uthman

Houston’s Museum District is filled with notable architectural landmarks that are also popular destinations. The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel that also stands as a significant work of modern architecture. The octagonal building on the center of the grounds is seated in front of a meditative pool and obelisk. Another popular destination is the Museum of Fine Arts, a neoclassical style building inspired by Greek and Renaissance elements blended with the glass and steel elements of modern architecture. 

In the surrounding neighborhoods, home buyers will find several notable residences. The Houston Chronicle noted that among the most prominent houses in the area is the Lindeberg home at 2 Longfellow Street. Built by Harrie T. Lindeberg, a noted American architect, the eight-bedroom home was constructed in 1921 in a Georgian style. Restoration efforts have preserved the building well, including the restrained Classical elements typical of this kind of architecture. 

Another notable residence in the area is a home built by Birdsall Briscoe, another American architect who was particularly active in Texas. According to the Houston Chronicle, the estate was originally constructed in 1927. The exterior is adorned with gardens that surround the 5,784 square-foot residence, while the fine brick exterior is decorated by arched windows and a decorative ironwork entryway.

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