Harmonizing historic and contemporary architecture
October 1, 2009
The Texas Hill Country just outside of Fredericksburg, TX, is rich in stone architecture. Many historic homes and buildings that were built at least a century ago still stand today. Among them is the Knopp School House and former teacher’s residence, which was recently converted into a private residence and guest house for a family that relocated from California. While the school house is made of Basfe Block - poured concrete that looks like a stone product - the teacher’s residence was originally built with native Texas limestone.
“In this particular area of Texas there is a German community, and they are very much into education,” said Rahnee Gladwin of R. Gladwin I Design - tile, a tile designer who supplied the interior tile for the project. “They built houses with 18-inch-thick stone walls. A number of them are still here. They really left their mark on the area. The school house and teacher’s residence is at least 100 years old.”
Gladwin explained that the homeowners moved to Texas from California with their two sons. While they liked the historic stonework of the structures, they also desired a contemporary flair.
“The goal was working with an antique building with contemporary wings,” she said. “The clients liked contemporary tile work. There was a lot of combination of rustic and sophistication [for the interior design].”
The center of the home is what was formerly the teacher’s residence. In front of it is the original school house, which is now a guest house. “The small school house is a darling building,” said Gladwin. “[But], the teacher’s residence was larger, which is why we decided to build on that.”
To expand the two-story limestone structure that was originally the teacher’s residence, additional space was added to the home. This includes a kitchen, dining room, master suite with a loft, a cylinder-shaped powder room, a laundry room, a craft room, a screened porch with a fireplace and a pizza oven and a child’s bedroom with a bath and a veranda.
In keeping with the existing architecture and surrounding environment, local Texas limestone was used for the exterior facade of the additional wings that were built on to the structure. “The limestone is a typical stone quarried around here,” said Gladwin. “It has lots of brown, yellow and beige [coloring].”
The limestone was also used for the fireplace and pizza oven that is a focal point of the screened porch. Moreover, a large limestone slab forms a tabletop in the space. The thick rough-cut large piece of stone further contributes to the rustic elegance of the home.
Finding new stoneWhen renovating the historic limestone structure, architect Jon Pankratz of Fredericksburg, TX, intended to keep the existing vernacular intact, while adding building elements that are sympathetic but not overstated. “The school house is highly identifiable to the area,” he said. “Many people living in the community have attended school there. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers.”
As a result, Pankratz gave careful consideration to each step of the design. “There was not a whole lot of clarity to the existing buildings that were there,” he said. “We had to identify each of their functions. There really isn’t a style to the building. It is a mix of historic and modern. I’d say it is ‘eclectic Texas Hill Country.’ “
According to Pankratz, the original limestone pieces used for the teacher’s residence are between 12 and 14 inches thick, and the stone was quarried in the local vicinity. “We couldn’t match the stone effect, so we decided to find a quarry closest to the building site itself,” he said. “We found one only a couple of miles away. It is a stone with a blend to it, which helped us blend the old stone and introduce the new stone.”
The local Texas limestone is called Lopez Stone, and it was quarried from a family-owned property north of the building site, explained Pankratz. “They sold it off to Rick Hartcraft of Fredericksburg Stone. It is a flint stone so it is very dense and very hard.”
The architect explained that several sample panels were done to determine the right mix of stone pieces. “We had to cull through the stone and pull out stone that we didn’t think would work - about 5 to 10% was waste,” said Pankratz. “Once the masons were on board and could lay it, there was not too much supervision because they understood what needed to be done.”
In total, it took only a couple of months to install the Lopez Stone on the residence’s expansion wings as well as for some interior applications. “The stone is really sympathetic to the existing stone, and it has a nice texture to it that matches the Basfe Stone [of the old school house],” said Pankratz.
Sidebar: Private residenceFredericksburg, TX
Owners: Jim and Victoria Brown
Builder: Durst Homes, Inc., Fredericksburg, TX
Architect: Jon Pankratz, Fredericksburg, TX
Stone Supplier: Fredericksburg Stone, Fredericksburg, TX
Interior Tile Supplier: R. Gladwin I Design - tile, Kerrville, TX
Interior Tile Installer: Mike Childs