Austin Architect A. D. Stenger

Arthur Dallas Stenger began building houses in the 1940s in Austin, primarily on Arthur Lane in the Barton Hills area, named after his father (the first Arthur Dallas Stenger), who was also an architect. Although Stenger attended the University of Texas School of Architecture after returning home from World War II, he never graduated. He earned his architecture license as a college student and began building homes for postwar Austinites.

Although FHA loans had built-in design restrictions, Stenger did not stop the creation of unique homes that were moderately priced, even if he had to help homeowners find loans. He also worked differently from other builders, buying land (primarily in the Barton Hills and Pemberton Heights areas), finding a buyer, and building a house without having his clients sign contracts. There was no pressure for the buyer to keep the house once it was finished, although clients rarely backed down after seeing the house.

A house by Stenger will be highlighted, with characteristic gabled roofs, clad with concrete, wood rock and other organic materials. He also used rocks and stones quarried from the house site as cladding or built into the chimney, which helped the house easily fit into its surroundings. Stenger loved long, low fireplaces reminiscent of 1950s parlors, so every home he built included a wood-burning fireplace, though it wasn’t particularly needed in the heart of Texas.

The houses also have many of the amenities that Austin’s great modern building boom now costs, with walls of bay windows and clerestory windows hanging just below the exposed roofline, and stained concrete floors, now costing around $10 per square foot. He also used the organic building theory of “bringing the outside in,” laying exterior masonry through the house and into its interior.

Although Barton Hills was featured as “the world’s largest air-conditioned subdivision” in the 1956 Parade of Homes, Stenger did not build his homes with central air conditioning. Instead, he built large windows to capture morning light, not the hot mid-afternoon sunlight, and a floor plan to allow breezes through ventilation when the windows were open.

In 1957, when Stenger’s friend, radio host John Henry Faulk, ended up blacklisted as a Communist in the McCarthy era, he built and financed a house for himself, knowing his friend was burdened with legal fees. He also took into account the financial situation of his other clients, helped offset furniture costs with various built-ins, and priced their homes at $18,000 to $22,000, though today they can range from $400,000 to $600,000. .

Stenger built around 100 unique homes in the Austin area, building the last one for his wife Jean in 1999, a few years before she died in 2002 at the age of 82. Today’s battle is among those looking for Stenger houses for their originality and great use. of space, and others who prefer to tear down these houses to build bigger houses, since the places are highly sought after only for their land.

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