If you are moving to Fort Worth, this Italian Renaissance villa is the house you want, and River Crest is the neighborhood. Period. End of story. Call the Realtor. Now.
When we say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it is. River Crest is not a neighborhood people leave willingly. It’s one where you pass your estate down to your heirs. Where else in the middle of a city are you going to find 7.6 acres and homes built to last over a century?
Name a well-known Fort Worth resident. They live here. All the houses are magnificent. It’s about the safest neighborhood in the state, and the River Crest Country Club is practically next door. I cannot think what more you could ask out of a home and a neighborhood.
This River Crest Italian Renaissance Villa was built by the prolific architect David Adler, who was based in Chicago. Adler began his career working with Howard Van Doren Shaw, who was the go-to architect for country homes at the time. Adler then opened an office with a friend from Paris (and I do not mean Paris, Texas), Henry Dangler, and those two began to build country estates for everyone who was anyone in society.
This was at the height of gracious living, when estates had large rooms for entertaining and separate rooms for every function, from music to games to hunting.
So how did a Chicago architect make his way to Fort Worth to design homes for not only one but two families adjacent to each other? You know how I love a story, so sit back with a tall one.
The wonderful Jerre Tracy, Executive Director of Historic Fort Worth, Inc. always has the inside dirt! She forwarded the following from the book “The Country Houses of David Adler”:
Adler’s design of a neighboring pair of Italian Renaissance villas (1915-1916) in Fort Worth, Texas, marked the beginning of his interest in this (Mediterranean) style. Built by Morris and Flora Berney for themselves and Mrs. Berney’s mother, Elizabeth Anderson, these two houses were the only ones that Adler executed simultaneously for a family compound, a nearly one-hundred-acre site that was part of the River Crest Country Club, of which Morris Berney was a charter member.
The connection between Adler and the Barneys is as interesting as the commission that it yielded. It started with cotton, in which Mr. Berney traded, requiring that he and his wife spend a fair amount of time in Chicago. Flora Berney was a world traveler and “arbiter of taste,” which ensured that she would meet several of the city’s prominent families‑including the Armours and the Marshall Fields, who were her entrée to Adler.
The Berney commission presented a distinct challenge for Adler. Because the two houses were to be built in close proximity, he had to be especially sensitive to their exteriors, allowing them to relate to each other without diminishing their individuality. As usual, symmetry was the guiding principle of his design, and he applied it, along with such typically Mediterranean features as a textured fade and red tile roof, as the unifying links between the two houses.
The Berney house was larger, and the principal detailing distinguished one house from the other, for example, their entrance fronts were different. On the Berney’s house, Adler edged the fifty-foot-long stucco center block with an arcaded loggia while he set off the entry door for Mrs. Andersons against a pilastered apron of limestone that contrasted effectively with thee cement washed brick façade.
This River Crest Italian Renaissance villa is such a fine example of how a home finished in 1920 can be so very relevant to how we live today. Of course, a beautiful restoration and updates were done by David Cooke, founder of Westbriar Construction in 2014. This is not Cooke’s first rodeo. He’s a master at renovating and updating. Unlike so many, he understands the challenges of bringing a 1920 home up to a modern homebuyer’s standards.
If my timeline is correct, the home was purchased by the Bomars then by William Knox Gordon. He is known as the man behind the Ranger Oil Field discovery in central Texas in 1917. Bear with me because this is a sweet story.
W.K. Gordon came to Texas to be a civil and mining engineer in the coal mining boomtown of Thurber. He was a smart man and was convinced oil and gas lie beneath the ground near Thurber. He was correct, hence Ranger Oil Field. He became the director of Texas & Pacific Coal and Oil Company and served as chairman of the company’s board of directors until his death in 1949.
Gordon raised his family in this River Crest Italian Renaissance villa. It was passed down to his son, also named W.K Gordon, who lived here his entire life. I told you people pass these homes down to their heirs. Now don’t forget about Thurber, Texas. Not only was it known for coal and oil, but it was also known for bricks. If you are familiar with Fort Worth’s legendary Camp Bowie Boulevard, it is made with Thurber brick.
“When the home was being remodeled, Bill (W.K) found some salvaged Thurber brick in Eastland, Texas,” Cooke said. “We must have made three trips out there to capture a bunch of it, and we used it in the driveway approach.”
I think that tells you all you need to know about how much this home has been loved.
“This home was built to last,” Cooke said. “You have to be a problem solver when dealing with a home of this age. We made the home modern without altering its fabulous features.”
Cooke worked with architect Roger Dobbins on the home, renovating the bathrooms and kitchen and moving a few walls around. They installed all new plumbing, electrical, and HVAC. “We love doing properties like this,” Cooke said. “It’s unusual to find a home of this age that was built so well. It was really a labor of love to be able to work on it.”
The Rivercrest Italian Renaissance villa is now move-in ready for the next generation. At 7,174 square feet, it still offers that gracious lifestyle David Adler designed back in 1920, with soaring 14-foot ceilings in the grand entry and stately but inviting public rooms that make entertaining a pleasure.
There are three enormous bedrooms, three bathrooms, a powder bath, and a detached guest house with a two-car garage. The basement has been completely renovated with a workout area, laundry, and game room. An incredibly cool pneumatic elevator takes you to all three levels.
If you are lucky enough to secure this beauty, remember you won’t just be in the best of company with lovely neighbor’s, you’ll be living in an unparalleled slice of Fort Worth history.