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Harwell Harris Houses - Cranfill House, Austin (1952)

George Smart

Silent | 1952

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  •  Exterior view 
  •  Detailed view of the eaves and side of the house 
  •  Detail of the pergola and eaves 
  •  Detail of pergola joists and beams 
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  • About the video
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This footage documents the exterior of the Thomas M. Cranfill House, designed by famed architect Harwell Harris, in Austin. The home was built in 1952 for Cranfill, a University of Texas English professor, and was co-designed by Eugene George, a leading architect in the historic preservation movement. The hillside house is board and batten of Texas cypress with a garden court near the front entrance of the home and a back that opens to a view of Austin’s hill country. The house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.
Harwell Hamilton Harris was born in 1903 in Redlands, California. He spent his early adulthood in Los Angeles where he began art school for sculpting until he visited Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, and his career path changed to that of architecture. Harris never completed any formal architecture education, instead learning on the job at the offices of renowned architects Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. Harris left to establish his own firm in L.A. in 1933, working on small modular homes to which he applied the modernist architecture principles he learned under Neutra and Schindler. He taught at Columbia University for one year and in 1952, accepted the position of Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas. He expanded the school's programs and teaching methods, offering students hands-on design and construction experience on projects such as the Texas State Fair House (1954). Harris hired faculty whose innovative ideas and reputations garnered them nickname of the "Texas Rangers" in the architecture world. Harris' methods became a source of tension at UT, and he resigned in 1955. He moved to Dallas and established a private practice where he built modern homes adapted to the Texas landscape and climate. Harris' work received numerous awards throughout his career, and appeared in many exhibitions, including ones at the Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art. Harris passed away in 1990, leaving his drawings and design material to the Center for the Study of American Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.  
Walter Eugene George, Jr. was born on October 28, 1922 in Wichita Falls, Texas. He served as a pilot in the Eighth Air Force during World War II and was shot down over Germany. He eluded capture for seven days before spending almost a year as a POW in Stalag Luft I. He was awarded the WW II Air Medal, Purple Heart, Normandy Campaign Medal, and three European battle stars for his service. After the war, he received his Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Texas a Master of Architecture from Harvard University, where he was a student of Walter Gropius. During his professional life, he took on the cause of historic preservation, reactivating the historic American Buildings Survey in Texas in 1961. His prolific work in restoration included projects in Texas such as the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas and the Willis-Moody House in Galveston. He also prepared measured drawings for San Antonio's Mission of San Antonio de Valero (The Alamo) and was active in the documentation of historic buildings in the Rio Grande borderlands. George became an established architecture educator in Texas; he was the first recipient of a professorship created by the San Antonio Conservation Society, and he founded a graduate program in Historic Preservation at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where the Gene George Endowed Architecture Scholarship in Historic Preservation was established in his honor. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and received a Presidential Citation from the Texas Society of Architects. He passed away on January 16, 2013 in Austin.