The Brite House in Marfa, Texas was built in 1917 by Lucas Charles Brite and his wife, Eddie. Lucas Brite was a pioneer Big Bend rancher, arriving in 1885 and camping on Capote Peak while he established a ranch of over 125,000 acres, which is still in the family. He became one of the region’s leading cattlemen, a breeder of champion Herefords and, in 1920, one of the founders of the Highland Hereford Breeders Association. In 1896 he married Eddie McMinn Anderson. They lived on the Capote Ranch until 1902, when they moved to Marfa and purchased a one-story, L-shaped adobe house on the west side of town from Eddie’s uncle, Robert Edward McMinn. In 1915 the Brites retained Marfa architect W.S. Beavers to remodel the McMinn adobe into the present two-story, 16-room house. Beavers estimated the cost at $16,728.60. Lucas Brite died in 1941 and the house was occupied by his widow until her death in 1963.
The first story of the house is adobe; the second story, which includes 8 bedrooms, is timber frame. The roof is constructed with galvanized metal tiles. The downstairs rooms, which include Mr. Brite’s ranch office, retain most of their original furnishings. There is also a guest house (The Casita) with a kitchen, bedroom, and bath which was originally built to accommodate ranch helpers. The house overlooks a pasture of the Brite Ranch on the west.
Lucas Brite’s great-granddaughter, Jane Crockett, and her husband, Robert Crockett, have cared for the house since 2008. Jane’s son, Leo Villareal III, acquired the house from the Brite Family Trust in 2014. Villareal and his wife, Yvonne Force Villareal, began the restoration of the house in 2015 by engaging architect Louis Yoh and interior designer Fernando Santangelo. Future plans include an outdoor living and recreation area and a studio for Villareal, an internationally known artist who combines LED lights and computer programming to create illuminated displays. Yvonne, a cultural entrepreneur and leader in public art, is developing the “Brite Force Residency” for invited artists to contemplate and create work in dialogue with the site and Its surroundings. Each residency will culminate in an exhibition with the inaugural artist. Will Cotton, scheduled for May 2022.The mission of the Brite House is to remain a family gathering place while also hosting select events and welcoming visitors who will enjoy and learn from this unique structure filled with treasures from the early years of Marfa and the Big Bend.
Lonn Taylor (1940-2019)
Far West Texas Historian
The Brite house was a special opportunity since the history of the family is alive through the objects in the home, as recounted by Leo on the drive from El Paso to Marfa.
My approach to decorating has always been to create a cinematic feeling, a stage for people’s lives to unfold in. The light and landscape that I saw in the movie Giant kept playing in my head and guiding me in the decoration of the home. I envision this house as an open place that will bring others to that same sense of remoteness and discovery, which is so defining of Marfa’s history.
FERNANDO SANTANGELO / Interior Designer
My vision as architect is to protect the historic integrity of the house while updating its functionality. We are achieving this in a way that is both sensitive and glamorous, reflecting the unique and wonderful style of the Owners.
LOUIS YOH / Architect