Cranfill-Beacham Apartments Receive Historic Designation

On December 6, 2013, Preservation Austin sent  the following letter  to the Austin City Council urging their support of the Historic Landmark designation of the Cranfill-Beacham apartments.  We salute our Council members for unanimously approving the designation and ensuring this Mid Century Modern treasure of Austin will be preserved.

Dear Mayor Leffinwell, Mayor Pro-Tem Cole and Council Members:

Preservation Austin supports City Historic Landmark designation for the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments at 1911 Cliff Street. Austin has recently lost some significant mid-century modern buildings, and we are concerned that this site be protected from a similar fate. 

This particular building has the distinction of being designed by Harwell Hamilton Harris, a nationally respected architect, and from 1952-55, the innovative dean at the University of Texas School of Architecture.  The apartments are one of the very few buildings in Austin that have been designed by an architect of such national prominence. 

A protégé of the pre-eminent architects Richard Neutra and Rudolf Schnidler, Harwell Hamilton Harris played a very significant role in the United States modernist movement, advancing modernist design theories and influencing the spread of modernist residential architecture throughout the country.  Opening his own office in 1933, Harris expounded modular principles of modern design.  A prolific architect in California, Texas and North Carolina, his work was widely published in national architectural journals, and also appeared in numerous exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

The qualities of the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments clearly reflect Harris’ theories of modern design, showcasing his modular grid concepts, his views on modest living and his belief of incorporating nature into his structures.   Preservation  Austin  is particularly pleased with Harris’ treatment of the bungalow on the front of the property, which exhibits a model of how modern construction can be added to older buildings without demolishing the past to create something new.

We strongly encourage the designation of the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments as a City of Austin Historic Landmark.