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Legendary Actor’s Old Montrose Home Completely Demolished

Another Historic Bungalow is Gone with the Wind, Making Way for Townhomes

BY // 07.31.18

And just like that, Clark Gable’s Houston home is Gone with the Wind. Bayou City developers frankly, my dear, didn’t give a damn about the Montrose marvel, tearing it down to make way for luxury townhomes.

The shingled 413 Hyde Park residence was a true piece of history. It was briefly the homestead of the aspiring actor long before he became a top-billed Hollywood heartthrob.

The worst part? If the house had just been located in the nearby Avondale Historic District it would have been spared, thanks to the area’s ban on demolitions of older properties.

Add to that — despite its fame as a film industry factoid, 413 Hyde Park was never registered as an official historical landmark. No protection meant a problem in this case.

The entire property was a compound, consisting of a trio of unique buildings. A three-story stucco and stone Mediterranean-influenced house, now also a pile of lumber, sat next to Gable’s one-time hideaway at 411 Hyde Park.

That Houston abode also stood for nearly a century. It was built by local theater director Frederick Leon Webster in 1921 as his personal studio. Not long after, Webster also built the attached apartment.

He rented out that eclectic apartment, made of a terracotta tile roof, custom iron railings, pine beams and square-paned casement windows, to a 25-year-old Clark Gable in the late 1920s for a two-year stint. The three-story structure measured 20 feet by 22 feet with a main living room on each level. The kitchen was on the first floor, the living room the second, and the bedroom the third.

The third residence (415 Hyde Park) was added in 1927, a little spot Webster called “L’Encore,” or “Come again.”

Clark Gable in Houston

Gable, a former World War I veteran, moved to Houston to act with the Laskin Brothers Stock Company. Gable moved with his wife Josephine Dillon, an acting coach 17 years his senior. She had a great hand in teaching Gable his craft, instructing him on everything from locution to posture. That didn’t stop him from leaving her for Space City socialite Ria Franklin Langham.

During his time as a Houston actor, Gable was noted for his stage voice, reportedly high pitched and not all that pleasant. What he lacked there he made up for with his easy charm. Gable performed in several productions in the Bayou City, including The Noose, The Gingham Girl, The Dark Angel and Craig’s Wife.

Houstonian Jack Blalock was next to own the property. The businessman resided there for some 40 years. He died in 2001, but rumors of a sale didn’t catch fire until this past May.

These homes were just several in the long line of Montrose bungalows razed to make way for the domiciles du jour — modern, contemporary developments (i.e. townhomes) at odds with the character this Houston neighborhood is often praised for (Montrose just found itself named one of the hippest neighborhoods in America).

When did the neighborhood transformation begin? Maybe it’s been a long time coming, maybe it was sudden. Maybe It Happened One Night.

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