In 1931, the average cost of a new home was $6,790. A loaf of bread was 8 cents, a gallon of gas was 10, and the typical American made $1,850 a year in wages. The Great Plains suffered the dust bowl, the Empire State Building opened to the public, the "Star Spangled Banner" became the official national anthem, Wiley Post and Harold Gatty flew around the world in eight days, Australia gained independence from Great Britain, and Nevada legalized gambling.
It was the same year that brought this house to Houston, and now, 87 years later, it's on the market for the first time.
Known as the Minchen House, the storied property at 1753 North Blvd. in the stately Boulevard Oaks neighborhood has serious status: It's both a Protected Houston Landmark and a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The house and its adjacent, detached two-story, three-car garage and servant quarters were designed by legendary Houston architect Joseph Finger, the man credited with bringing modern architecture to Houston who's behind City Hall and a slew of other projects including hotels, banks, hospitals, private homes, and Houston's first commercial airport terminal—today's 1940 Air Terminal Museum at Hobby.
The large, distinctive Italian Renaissance-style home is "unusual and unique in residential architectural design due to the fact that Finger very successfully incorporated in this residence some of the same specifications and use of oversized materials he utilized in his more grandiose commercial projects," the landmark designation report details. It was built by contractor W.J. Goggan for Simon and Mamie Minchen. Simon, a native Texan who moved to Houston in 1902, was a prominent real estate figure and pioneer in O&G development. He owned Fidelity Realty Corporation and helped guide the city's real estate development through the Depression as a member of the the Houston Real Estate Board.
What's most stunning about this historic home is that it never left the family—until now. The Minchens' son, Meyer, a highly decorated World War II Navy pilot, lived in the home until his death this summer at age 95. Meyer, who apparently spent considerable time with an elaborate ham radio setup in the garage, was well-known in the neighborhood and, legend has it, entertained celebrities performing at the old Shamrock Hotel.
He also left the house entirely untouched save for only necessary repairs—and even then, only materials that resembled the originals were used. The elegant interiors in still appear as they did when Mamie Minchen first finished with them, making the $2.2 million listing something of a sparkling time capsule in its original condition. The spacious four-bed, three-bath home is a little under 5,000 square feet and includes grand entertaining spaces and formal entry, living, and dining rooms; a sunroom; study, powder room; enclosed upstairs sun porch; and an elevator installed in the early '50s.