Although Rice University sold the thousand acres it received from the Humble Oil and Refining Company to NASA in 1961, it retained one hundred acres facing Clear Lake containing the grand Tuscan Villa–style country house that Joseph Finger designed for Houston lumberman James M. West. From here West administered the thirty-five-thousand-acre ranch he sold to Humble in 1938, a year after Humble's discovery of the Friendswood oil field between Webster and Friendswood. The picturesquely composed house was one of the few true country houses built in the Houston area in the 1920s (as opposed to suburban houses) and includes a complex of out-buildings meant to support its country house identity. Only remnants of the gardens, designed by landscape architect Mason Coney, survive. A landmark because of its visibility from NASA Parkway, which curves around the wooded site, the house is the most prominent work of architecture associated with Clear Lake City's pre-NASA period.
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James M. West Ranch House
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