William Giddings Farrington
In 1948, William Giddings Farrington stood on a flat, bald prairie and declared that he had accumulated the acreage to develop a project of which he had long dreamed -- a neighborhood of great beauty and stability.
His companions that day had difficulty envisioning the possibilities. After all, Farrington's property was three miles beyond the city limits with no utilities, no telephone service, no schools, no police and fire protection and no bus service.
However, Farrington was accustomed to being a visionary pioneer. He had arrived in Houston in 1926 with $40 in his pocket and a head full of dreams. The city was in the midst of an unprecedented boom period. Farrington realized that, as a civil engineer with experience in home building, he could have a bright future here.
His initial assignment at San Jacinto Trust Co. as head of the Engineering Department was the development of the first section of Braeswood, a highly restricted, large addition west of Main Street and south of Bellaire Boulevard.
As the project moved along, Farrington learned the step-by-step fundamentals of planning, developing, constructing and merchandising a quality subdivision. He was also able to incorporate some of his own ideas -- notably the gently curving streets with occasional circles of tiny parks and cul-de-sacs.
After forming his own company in 1929, the young engineer created an innovative approach to residential and later commercial development, guiding a project from initial planning through sales and, with some major projects, ongoing management.
Over the next years, Farrington's company built Houston's first all-gas home and what was advertised as the "city's first air-conditioned residence" -- both in Riverside Terrace. In 1942, Farrington built another landmark, Houston's first drive-in bank (for University State Bank in the Village).
During the 1940s, Houston's rapid growth presented a housing crisis for city residents. Farrington's company frequently seemed to see the critical need and respond to it. During World War II, housing was almost nonexistent for the vastly-expanded workforce engaged in defense projects. Farrington built the 88-unit Lawndale Village Apartment complex which was convenient to both Ellington Field and the Ship Channel industries.
Immediately after the war, Farrington developed a 25-acre tract in Bellaire which he named Southdale. The inexpensive, well-built houses (designated "For Veterans Only") sold for less than $6,000 and provided hundreds of young families with their first home.
The ever-expanding population also presented a need for more apartments. In 1948 Farrington constructed the Parkwood Apartments on Old Spanish Trail. Planned as a community of 300 spacious garden-type apartments (an innovative concept at the time), they stand today as the city's only survivor of this type of 1940s project.
However, possibly the greatest dream which became a reality for William Farrington was the development of that bald prairie which he had so proudly claimed in 1948. Named by his daughter for a favorite book, Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the project was intended to provide a beautiful setting for homes large enough for comfort, yet small enough to be manageable, on lots adequate for pleasurable pursuits. This was no easy task, but Farrington's company planned well.
Access to the area was difficult. On opening day, visitors had to drive on the narrow, shell, two-lane San Felipe Road through farm lands to old Post Oak Road and then to Doliver Drive (shown above in 1952). Lots, priced between $4,000 and $7,000, sold slowly. However, Farrington persisted, and by 1960 more than 800 families called Tanglewood home.
Fifty years later that once-bald prairie, now sheltered by a lush forest of trees and filled with comfortable homes, is but one indication of William G. Farrington's dreams for building a bigger and better city.
He was involved in numerous organizations in the Houston area, including the Institute of Religion in the Texas Mexical Center, St. Luke's Hospital, Rice University, University of Houston, the Houston Symphony Society, Houston Grand Opera Association, and the Kiwanis Club of Houston.