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BenH

A Brief Guide to the Work Of Wylie W. Vale.

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BenH    21

What do y'all know about him? I haven't been able to find any information about him at all...accept for the houses he did in River Oaks.

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Willowisp    2
What do y'all know about him? I haven't been able to find any information about him at all...accept for the houses he did in River Oaks.

I googled him and found this library in Stafford.

http://www.fortbend.lib.tx.us/branches/mg.html

I also found Wylie W. Vale the Doctor. Maybe his son?

Rice University: Wylie W. Vale, Jr. '63 Medicine (Endocrinology)

Now at The Salk Institute (an interesting place for an architect's son to teach!)

Wylie W. Vale

Adjunct Professor of Medicine; Helen McLoraine Professor of Molecular Neurobiology and Head, Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology The Salk Institute

Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine

I emailed him. I'll let you know what happens next...

Jason

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BenH    21

Ever since the listing for the house at 118 Hickory Ridge showed up:

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a few folks have been interested in the work of Wylie W. Vale. Jason and I have been in contact with Mr. Vale over the past few months, and this association has brought to light some interesting information. The first is that Wylie Vale was practicing architecture in Houston since at least 1939. He retired in 2001. Let that sink in a moment.

The second fact is that Vale built or designed a large portion of Memorial, Tanglewood and River Oaks, and he did it in many different styles. He built flat-roofed homes with organic touches, conventional houses, and regal mansions. He built churches, librarys, schools and other buildings. However, he most likely did not build the house pictured above. It actually seems to go against most of his rules for design. So in an effort to clear up a few misconceptions about his work, I present this sampler of a few of his remaining designs.

(I want to preface this by thanking Penny Jones at Martha Turner Properties for her help and her article on Mr. Vale, which I apologize if I rip off. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to find any of these buildings without Mr. Vale's maps, directions and descriptions. I'd also like to thank Jason for going to Austin and interviewing Mr. Vale, bringing back the maps, driving while letting me photograph, etc.)

World War II had a profound effect on Houston's architecture. Ralph Anderson, Karl Kamrath, John F. Staub and others had served in the war in one capacity or another (Staub served in both World War I and World War II). Wylie Vale was no exception. Prior to the war, Vale had attended the Rice Institute where he met his wife Alliene, an interior designer. His designs were popular in River Oaks before the war. These are a few:

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But the navy came calling, and Vale eventually found himself in San Francisco waiting on his ship to be repaired. To pass the time, he would wake up early and walk until noon, returning a different way each time. The neighborhoods were booming; California was developing the modern styles that would make architectural history and spawn thousands of imitators. Vale absorbed everything he saw and upon returning to Houston, he put it into practice.

Vale's place in Houston's history is a unique one: after seeing one of his more modern designs (or "moe-dern", as he would say), it is only logical that he belongs firmly in the city's under-appreciated organic camp with Karl Kamrath, Krakower & Greene and Thomas Greacan. But unlike Kamrath, who designed strictly in the Wrightian mode, Vale chose a more livable path. While Wright was a major influence, Vale built for the client. If the client wanted a super deluxe, flat-roofed palace, he designed the most tasteful modern mansion possible. His house for Herbert and Lois Townsend was a perfect example:

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The Townsend house has been featured in the CITE Magazine compilation Ephemeral City.

One-story homes were Vale's specialty. To this day, his own fully-restored home in Memorial displays his signature detailing. A low pitched roof with overhangs nearing three feet provide artificial shade, multiple fireplaces with giant chimneys, along with stone and wood flooring were only a few of the luxurious details he incorporated. Walls were either randomly stacked stone or pecky cypress imported from Louisiana. This wood was treated with a wipe-finish developed for the Vale's company, Custom Homebuilders; the finish preserved the color and allowed the wood's beautiful grain to remain undamaged.

This house on East Friar Tuck features similiar detailing:

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His other masterworks had flat roofs. This beauty, down the street for his own house is amongst the finest. A good shot was difficult to come by, even from the driveway. It resembles another now-demolished home in River Oaks:

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As you can see, stucco wouldn't compliment his work very well. It was wood, brick or stacked stone all the way.

This house in Tanglewood was among his most unusual. It has all the trimmings of his best flat-roofed homes, but with a few major extras:

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This house near Briar Drive shows simplicity and streamlining. Though the photo doesn't show it, the porte cache terminates into a blade-like cantilever.

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Down the street is one of Vale's most organic homes, complete with enough Wrightian detailing to make one wonder if the designer wasn't Karl Kamrath.

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Vale built three homes on Tiel Way; one at the corner of Kirby and Tiel Way, across from the Kamrath at 950 Kirby, one at 43 Tiel Way and this one, 40 Tiel Way:

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It was rennovated and remodeled in the mid-nineties by Design Collaborative. One member of the firm was architect S. Reagan Miller, who to date has written the only extended work on MacKie & Kamrath.

The Vale's last house in Houston was next to this one, part of an enclave of three on Taylorcrest off Beningus.

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Wylie W. Vale built more than 450 homes during his practice; residential design was his favorite form of architecture. His work has been featured in the Houston Chronicle and Architectural Digest. He designed homes for folks with names like Roy Cullen, Gus Wortham, Fred Heyne, George Lewis, Tyson Smith Jr., Jack Roach Jr. and Jimmy Green. At age 90, he now lives in Austin with his wife Alliene. His son, Wylie W. Vale Jr., is an award-winning biochemist at the Salk Institute.

Edited by BenH
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Guest pode101   
Guest pode101

Well done Ben! Thanks for your effort, Vale's work is beautiful!

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Willowisp    2

I echo the thank yous. This is great! I'd like to at least have the "Vale House" on the "Mods still with us" section on Houston Mod, if not more of them.

My wife, Vanessa, and I went to San Antonio for her birthday 3 weeks ago and took a jaunt up to Austin to visit Wylie Vale. He was an incredible person. I apologize for not getting through the notes I took and getting them on the forum. I guess it will be on my top priority list now that this is here on the forum. I'm sure this is exactly the kind of thing the founders of Houston Mod hoped for when they asked for this forum on the HAIF message board. It's beautiful and thought provoking.

Mr. Vale gave me maps with little numbers where his houses were and basically said, "go find these houses", but he didn't have addresses for me. So Ben and I spent the next day driving around Memorial trying to put 2 and 2 together. That was very interesting, as was seeing other houses that Ben pointed out to me.

So Ben, that day we went driving, did we find/take pics any of the ones we were looking for?

Jason

Edited by Willowisp

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domus48    4

This is one of the most intriguing and well done posts in some time. Captivating and informative to boot. Kudos to those involved. Hope to see more of this sort of dialog in the future.

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BenH    21
I echo the thank yous. This is great! I'd like to at least have the "Vale House" on the "Mods still with us" section on Houston Mod, if not more of them.

My wife, Vanessa, and I went to San Antonio for her birthday 3 weeks ago and took a jaunt up to Austin to visit Wylie Vale. He was an incredible person. I apologize for not getting through the notes I took and getting them on the forum. I guess it will be on my top priority list now that this is here on the forum. I'm sure this is exactly the kind of thing the founders of Houston Mod hoped for when they asked for this forum on the HAIF message board. It's beautiful and thought provoking.

Mr. Vale gave me maps with little numbers where his houses were and basically said, "go find these houses", but he didn't have addresses for me. So Ben and I spent the next day driving around Memorial trying to put 2 and 2 together. That was very interesting, as was seeing other houses that Ben pointed out to me.

So Ben, that day we went driving, did we find/take pics any of the ones we were looking for?

Jason

We were actually very close to many of them. The only trouble was that we didn't know what to look for really. Personally I was expecting stucco and flat roofs, like the Hickory Ridge house. That just wasn't the case. I'm not done yet. There's one or two that I didn't put up, and a few that I haven't been able to find.

Instead of Vale's house, it might be better to put the Townsend house up instead. Vale's house on Memorial drive is pretty much impossible to photograph due to the large bushes. Plus, the owners wish to maintain their privacy. Feel free to use my photo.

Edited by BenH

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Willowisp    2

Great idea, just got it up there this morning.

Instead of Vale's house, it might be better to put the Townsend house up instead.
Edited by Willowisp

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marmer    68

I'm speechless. This is an amazing article and pictures. Great job, Ben and Jason!

Thanks a lot for setting the bar so high! :lol:

marmer

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Willowisp    2

I can't take any of the credit for this awesome article - it was Ben's focus. When I finally get to my article, it will be on Jenkins and I will owe a lot of that one to Bens (Hill and Koush) and Stephen Fox too.

I'm speechless. This is an amazing article and pictures. Great job, Ben and Jason!

Thanks a lot for setting the bar so high! :lol:

marmer

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bachanon    398

great thread. i wish we had more architecture-centric threads like this one. thanks ben and jason.

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cea610    0

Wylie Vale designed my home,which I listed on the NRHP a few years ago. I visited with him often during that process...from his home in Austin. He gave me a list of all the homes he designed in Houston, most were in the Memorial area, where he lived when he was here. Our home, and several others he designed is in Katy (the actual city, not the greater Katy area) Very kind and talented man.

Edited by cea610

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cea610    0

Ben,

this is beautifully done! Our home is located in Katy, and Wylie Vale was the architect. I contacted him a few years ago when it was listed on the NRHP...below is the information he gave me to include in that paperwork. He was a very kind man, still passionate about his work and offered to design an addition for me. It wasn't necessary, these homes are timeless and beautiful and need little improvement... Vale designed 5 or 6 houses out here, gave me probably the same list he gave you...I was sorry to see that so many of his addresses are now occupied by new construction. Regardless, below are some of his thoughts...about our home and his designs in general...

Traveling through California in the 1940s, architect Wylie W. Vale witnessed the new trend first-hand, and he consciously began incorporating Ranch style elements in his designs. In a November 2002 interview, Mr. Vale explained what aspects of the style most appealed to him. He felt that the rambling, angular plans could be better fit to the site, with a low-lying profile and less ostentatious effect. He preferred natural materials with warm, earthen colors and textures instead of applied decorative ornamentation. The materials should also be durable, however, and require minimal upkeep. For these reasons, he especially liked stone and woods with natural preservatives like cypress and redwood.[13]

Vale also wanted his homes to be livable and inviting. He often incorporated shaded entry loggias that welcomed visitors with protection from the weather. Large expanses of operable windows were a must, with projecting bays that added intrigue to the design. Interiors were also made warm and inviting with natural materials, especially wood paneling of beautifully grained pine, ash, walnut or cypress with soft, rich wiped finishes. In addition to its beauty, the paneling was affordable, practical and permanent. Vale also used durable, natural flooring materials, typically polished stone in heavy traffic areas and pegged, random-width wood floors throughout most major rooms. Ample built-in furniture including bookcases, desks, chests and dressing tables, along with spacious closets, made the spaces more useful and comfortable. Spacious kitchens open to informal dining areas were also an important feature to Vale, as was a massive dominating brick or stone chimney, properly designed for non-smoking fireplaces.[14]

While many of these features are characteristic of Ranch style homes built across the country, Vale also managed to maintain some of the look and feel of Texas

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BenH    21

In light of new information (a list of every house Vale designed listed by client) it turns out that the Hickory Ridge house is indeed a Vale house. It was built for George Mayes in 1961. I stand corrected and apologize for the confusion.

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BenH    21

Three more:

Two from Katy, Texas

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Keith Beeman House on Kuhlman Road *Demolished 2008*:

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I'm beginning to see that Wylie Vale was more or less a master of the California style custom Ranch House. He dabbled in several styles, but this seems to have been his specialty.

Edited by BenH

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BenH    21

A few for certains and a few guesses:

Raymond Schindler house - 17 Westlane Place; directly across the street from Bolton & Barnstone's Farfel House, which appears to be in perfect shape, by the way. This is one of, if not the last of Vale's contemporary country style ranch houses left in River Oaks. It is still owned by the Schindler family. Vale also built a house for Raymond's brother Leon Schindler in River Oaks as well. One of Vale's designs, the Richardson house, was featured in Architectural Digest in 1951. It was on Inverness where the gray New England farmhouse that Ray Bailey Architects designed in 1984 currently stands. Vale also designed a house on Pine Hill Lane, where the O'neil Ford/Carlos Jiminez house is. I believe only the garage is left and it will be gone soon.

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W.F. Gore House - Heavily remodeled but not by Vale, I think. There are three Vale houses on Kuhlman Rd, but the third wasn't really that interesting. Not to this board, anyway. The Gore house is empty at the moment. *Update 2008* This house has been demolished, and new construction is going up on it's site. However, it turns out that there's another house behind it, which is owned by Keith Beeman, Jr.

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30 Patti Lynn - Vale designed at least one house in Sandalwood for sure, but I can't confirm whether or not this is it. It has many of his trademarks, including the cut stone walls and prow shaped overhang.

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Also not certain about this one. The address is 11710 Durrette. A very large house, but has a few similarities to the F.E. Carlton house in terms of exterior paint, brick, large windows, open plan, and board & battons. May be or may be not a Vale house.

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Edited by BenH

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Willowisp    2

This will go out in the Houston Mod Newsletter very soon, but I'll post it here tonight while I'm thinking of it.

Jason

The sometimes overlooked Houston based architect, Wylie W. Vale, came up in conversation on the Houston Architecture Information Internet Forum recently. Interest in a Vale designed home recently for sale led people to wonder what other houses he built. Little has been written on the many buildings Vale designed. Some internet digging led me to the world renown molecular biologist named Wylie Vale. I was correct in assuming that this was the architect's son, and in an email Wylie Vale Jr. confirmed to me that that his father is still alive and well in Austin, TX and would love to meet an architecture enthusiast such as myself. Time for a road trip! My wife, Vanessa, and I drove to Austin equipped with questions provided by Rice University Architecture Professor, Stephen Fox. Over homemade cookies and lemonade Mr. Vale graciously answered our questions.

Q: When and where were you born?

A: I was born in Marceline, Missouri in 1913. Walt Disney was also from Marceline.

Q: Who were your parents and what did they do?

A: My father, George W. Vale, was head of the Interstate Congress Committee of Accounts in St. Louis.

Q: Where did you grow up and what was your education?

A: After living in Marceline as a child, we moved to Houston when I was in high school.

Q: What made you want to become an architect?

A: Looking at the all the cornices in the Central Presbyterian Church inspired me to learn more about architecture.

Q: Where and when did you study architecture?

A: I studied at Rice with Staton Nunn and Willie Ward Watkin in the 1930s.

Q: What influences were you exposed to during your architectural education?

A: My Third Grade teacher taught me the foundation of every subject so that it was a joy to learn. I don't know what I would have been without her. Staton Nunn at Rice was a big influence on me. Another big influence came when I was in the Navy during WW II, and while my ship was being repaired, I would walk around San Francisco and look at architecture. The wide eaves on the houses there stayed in my head.

Q: Who did you work for once you got out of school?

A: My first job after graduating in 1939 was with Moore and Lloyd in Houston. I began as a draftsman with them. After Pearl Harbor I enlisted in the Navy.

Q: When did you begin your own architectural firm? How long were you in practice?

A: After WW II. I was a practicing architect until just a few years ago, over 50 years.

Q: What were some of your early buildings?

A: One of my early residences was for a friend in Brookshire, TX. That led to other houses there and in Katy. These side jobs gave me the impetuous to go out on my own.

Q: Were you especially identified with any particular architectural trends and styles, any part of the city, and any particular building types (such as houses, institutional buildings--schools, churches, hospitals--retail, office buildings)?

A: My style was called Contemporary Country. My wife was an interior designer and we developed the style together. I would design the house and she would help the clients design the interiors. It was homey, practical, and comfortable. I liked to use wide open windows before air-conditioning became widely available. I used oak plank flooring, natural stone, and linear stone.

Q: What do you regard as your most important buildings?

A: My most important building was the Matagorda County Court House in Bay City, TX. I designed Spring Branch High School, the first public school with air-conditioning in Houston. I obtained many contracts for schools because I was able to keep costs down. I designed St. Luke's Children's Heart Center with my partners, George Rustay and Foy Martin. I also received a lot of press for the Michael Halbouty House and Offices on Westheimer (energy company located where the Galleria now stands).

Q: What buildings did you design outside of Houston?

A: The Christ for the Nations Campus in Dallas and the Court House in Bay City along with the early residences.

Q: How did your architectural practice change over time?

A: In 1960 I came to know the Lord and my life changed. I continued to design residences, churches, and schools, but I also volunteered helping ministries such as designing the Christ for the Nations campus in Dallas.

Q: Did you have any partners? Who were some of your employees?

A: George Rustay and Foy Martin were my partners. I chose to work with them because they were Christian. I had other offers to work with more famous architects, but felt more comfortable having Christian partners. I felt like I could really depend on them.

Q: Who did you regard as the most interesting architects practicing in Houston during the period you were professionally active?

A: I was friends with Karl Kamrath and worked with him on the River Oaks Country Club. I was grateful to Moore and Lloyd. Mace Tungate was an architect who was the best man at my wedding. John Staub and Cy Morris were other architects I had a lot of respect for. But between school boards, church, and work, I didn't have time for AIA, so I never got to know that many architects.

Q: When did you retire from practice?

A: I retired 2 years after moving to Austin in 2001.

Q: What have you done since you retired?

A: I have been volunteering for Pricilla and Aquilla Ministries for poor widows and children since 1960 and that has been very satisfying.

With these questions answered, the incredibly humble and sharp minded 94 year old gentleman showed us around the house he lives in now with his wife and daughter and their family. He told us about his son being awarded an outstanding alumnus award from Rice University and showed us some family portraits including a very memorable one of himself in the 1950's posing with a pipe. He also gave me a series of maps with general locations of houses he designed (the maps had no addresses, but he said they would be contemporary houses). On our way back to Houston, Vanessa and I talked about how inspiring it was to talk to one of the men who made Houston what it is. Though many of his houses have been demolished, many more remain. Favorites of mine include The Townsend House on Knollwood St. and The Raymond Schindler House on Westlane Place, both in River Oaks.

Since this interview, quite a lot more research and photography has been done by Ben Hill, a University of Houston student and budding architectural photographer. Ben and I also spent a day in the Memorial area trying to locate as many of the houses on the maps as we could, with mixed results. Please visit the HAIF message boards for more information and photographs of Vale's work.

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johnfinley    1

He was a great architect! My favs are his colonial designs, but do like his mod designs as well. My whole neighborhood in E. Fort Worth has that county contemporary theme to it.

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