April 7, 2017

7911 Santa Elena

Richardson-Nelson House
Built 1955
Architect: Doughtie & Porterfield

7911 Santa Elena was designed by Symond Doughtie and Jack Porterfield, and built for Elmer and Myrtle Richardson in 1955. Mr. Richardson’s company, Drive-In Properties built the house. The house contains many mid-century features including clerestory windows, ceiling to floor glass, sunken living room, exposed interior brick, modern patterned room dividers, vaulted ceilings, sunken living room, suspended kitchen cabinets, and a unique kitchen wood called Wedgewood. All bathrooms in the house contain the original tile, sinks, and accessories. In 1960 a lounge was added above the garage. The lounge features a boomerang-shaped martini bar and a boomerang-shaped stage. The stage has a built-in movie screen, which is hidden by a vintage curtain. Across from the stage is a niche which is hidden by a portrait that swings back on its hinges to reveal the projector. The lounge was furnished by Fingers Furniture in 1960. The original furniture is still in the room. A painting behind the bar was designed for the room and painted by B. Wellsand. It is done in the colors of the furniture, and is entitled “Yesterday’s Party”. It features cats, birds, and butterflies partying with martinis. The painting is done on board that is cut to match the vaulted ceiling, and a series of colored martini bubbles actually go off the painting and are on the wall. This painting gave the lounge its name “The Kit Kat Lounge”.

Elmer and Myrtle Richardson owned and managed “Rangers Drive-In” and “The Oasis Drive-In”. They also owned “Drive-In Properties”, which built and leased Drive-In Restaurants. From 1955-1973 the Richardson’s were considered the top socialites of Glenbrook Valley. They hosted many parties in the Lounge of their Santa Elena home. The Richardson’s loved Glenbrook Valley but in 1973 they decided to move to Conroe and sold the house they had built. After 2 years in Conroe, the Richardson decided to build again in their beloved Glenbrook Valley. In 1975 they built 8214 Glencrest. The style of the new house was very different than the old one, but there are some features that are very similar so it is believed they used the same architects for the Glencrest House. The Richardsons remained in the Glencrest House until 1996.

Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Nelson lived on Baker Street in nearby Meadowbrook. Often on Sunday drives they would drive by 7911 Santa Elena and wish that someday they would be able to purchase the house.  This dream came true in 1973. The house was offered for sale by McCarver Co. Realtors. The furniture in the lounge was purchased by the Nelsons  $1,000.00. The 1973 Real Esate Listing Flyer, as well as the receipt for the furniture,  are in the homes archives.

Mr. and Mrs. Nelson owned A-1 Fire and Safety Equipment. A-1 installed all of the fire safety equipment at the Alaskan Pipeline. In 1976 Mr. Nelson passed away. Soon after his death Peggy Nelson sold A-1 for $58,000,000.00.

Just like the Richardson’s, Peggy Nelson was a socialite. She often hosted a 5:00 Martini  Hour in her upstairs lounge. She traveled all over the world and was a member of several social organizations. Prior to her death, Mrs. Nelson enjoyed the companionship of another Glenbrook Valley Resident William Ross, of 7811 Santa Elena. Mr. Ross died shortly after Mrs. Nelson’s death December 6, 2006. Mrs. Nelson was 83.

The house was offered for sale again in 2007. Just as the Nelson’s did in the early 1970’s, the current owned often drove by and admired the house on frequent commutes to Hobby Airport. Never intending to move to SE Houston, James Oyler accidentally found the house was on the market in the early spring of 2007. It was the Houston Mod-of -the Month.  Oyler toured the house during the open house and immediately placed an offer.

The party tradition of 7911 Santa Elena has been kept alive. Shortly after Oyler moved in the upstairs lounge was named “The Kit Kat Lounge” by a group of Glenbrook Valley residents that gather for Happy Hour frequently in the Lounge. As more Mid-Century Modern enthusiasts and preservationist find the neighborhood and call it home, the Kit Kat Lounge following continues to grow. Electrical and plumbing updates were made to the house after the 2007 sale, but all other parts of the house remain original, and a complete archive of the home remain.

Back to blog