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WillowBend56

Gingerbread homes near Westbury Square

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While talking with my mother tonight about Westbury back when all was new, she mentioned something about a street of houses near Westbury Square that had a "gingerbread" theme to their exteriors. She thought it odd for the times.

Anyone else recall those homes or the street they were on?

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I read this when it was first posted and it didn't stir up any memories.So I googled it and found a site for a gingerbread themed house in the town of Westbury on the Island of Tasmania just off the southeast coast of Australia.Just a coincidence I guess.So end of story........

And then a couple of days ago I was talking with one of my sisters who mentioned how back in the early 70s she and her friends had rode their bikes over near Westbury Square to look at the Gingerbread Houses.

So they did exist at one time but that was nearly 50 years ago.The homes are still there but the molding and trim that gave them the gingerbread theme have for the most part have been replaced or updated or whatever,so only a couple or so still retain the gingerbread theme.

To see them for yourself, fire up Google Earth,zoom into zip code 77035 and the 5500 block of Arboles.

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my wife and I were reminiscing about Westbury Square and how utterly unique the mix of shops, food, and residential was for the time. even the east side (front) parking lot created a sense of anticipation b/c it was "sunken" below the level of that side of the square, the bermed sides were covered in ivy or some kind of ground cover, and you had to walk up red brick stairs to get to the Square's "street." the west side parking and entrance was pretty bland in comparison, until you walked through the arched entry and the inner "street" opened up in front of you with shops lining both sides, apartment balconies on one side, gas lights, all framing the big fountain way down at the other end of the street.

in the mid-60s there was no place in Houston where you could find a glass-blower, a candle maker, a tailor, a high-end clothing store, wilderness equipment store, a pre-Pier One importer, a steak house with live folk music every night in the bar, a classic Chinese "you look you break you buy of you own use" import shop, a killer ice cream store, and much more I've forgotten.

and lucky people living above the "street" in the kind of mixed-use nirvana that New Urbanists today dream of creating.

in addition to the the faux "gingerbread" houses, there was a row of new townhomes across the street with Euro rowhouse facades, which just just added to the look.

Westbury Square accomplished what Tilman Fertitta has tried many different ways and failed - from the time you entered the parking lot until you left you were no longer on the flat Gulf Coast prairie in a tract home subdivision.

no need to lock your car, punk teens like me mingling with all other ages and zero problems. the place was magical and insanely romantic at night - hip, urbane, and safe - the unattainable trifecta in modern Houston.

if today you could plop it down exactly like it was in 1966 in the Museum District or up the street in Montrose, or in the Heights, you would make a fortune.

Edited by IHB2

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... Gingerbread Houses. So they did exist at one time but that was nearly 50 years ago.The homes are still there but the molding and trim that gave them the gingerbread theme have for the most part have been replaced or updated or whatever,so only a couple or so still retain the gingerbread theme. To see them for yourself, fire up Google Earth,zoom into zip code 77035 and the 5500 block of Arboles.

5500 block of Arboles is the location but according to one of the original owners every house on the block had a DUTCH theme. I checked them last year and all but 3 or 4 still had signs of the style. This is two blocks south of the 1959 Parade of Homes site on Warm Springs where Houston Mod has featured several of the houses as Mod of the Month.

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in the mid-60s there was no place in Houston where you could find a glass-blower, a candle maker, a tailor, a high-end clothing store, wilderness equipment store, a pre-Pier One importer, a steak house with live folk music every night in the bar, a classic Chinese "you look you break you buy of you own use" import shop, a killer ice cream store, and much more I've forgotten.

Indeed, the Westbury Square atmosphere was magic. I seem to remember that they even had a shop that specialized in miniature lead soldiers.

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In the 70's My sister and I use to love going there. The place had such a magical charm to it. Many years later when I joined the military I got to spend some time stationed in various places around Europe and I kept thinking that many of the cities looked so much like Westbury Square. It really hurt my feeling when I finally came back to Houston to find the place pretty much destroyed and what was left in ruins.

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Yeah, Hunter, that's what I read the designer/ builder was trying to do, recreate a center that reflected the ones he visited in Europe. It worked for quite a while. Sad, now, to see the ghost of the original square. There are centers around town that have returned somewhat to his design, with a fountain. I love the concept.

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What I remember about them is they were ranchers with board and batten looking siding, and ornamental fake shutters that had jigsawed shapes like hearts in them. In westbury at the time, construction companies would by several lots, and apparently one builder made about half a block of these houses. Pull off the trim and they are the same as the other houses on the street. Everyone called them Gingerbread houses though, because of the extra work on the facade trim.

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Today, while driving through Palm Beach Gardens in Palm Beach County, florida, I encounted a gingerbread house. Built in the early sixties to early  seventies, this one had the same facade: faux board and batten siding on the upper portion of a first floor room with a wooden gable (rest of the house was brick).  It had the faux diamond shaped windows. Makes me think an article in a trade magazine about making a ranch style distinctively different must have inspired both. I only saw one, but it was in the same kind of development where a builder would buy a lot on a street, and each house could have a different builder. I will look for more.

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