A rare island home designed by one of Texas’ most regarded architects goes on the market
When Bill Moody met Darlene Hendricks, he was a dashing Texas rancher and she was a Hollywood photographer’s model so striking that a director caught sight of her pictures in a Los Angeles store window and began casting her in movies and television shows of the era.
“She was in ‘The Apartment’ with Jack Lemmon, on ‘The Untouchables’ and ‘The Real McCoys,’” said Darlene Hendricks’ daughter Valerie Gnadt.
William Moody IV, who’d spent a significant part of his life managing his family’s South Texas ranches up to then, was the grandson of Galveston financier and entrepreneur William Moody Jr., founder of American National Insurance Co. and benefactor of the prolific and enduring Moody Foundation.
A cowboy in spirit and in the flesh, Bill Moody had friends who were in the movies and met Hendricks on a blind date arranged by one of them. A pilot, Moody flew from one of his ranches to California for that first date, dated Hendricks for a couple years, married her and brought her back home to Texas.
“They had an incredible life together, a real love story,” Gnadt said.
When Gnadt was 6 years old, she and her mother moved to Moody’s Leona Ranch near Del Rio, where they stayed for six years while Bill Moody flew back and forth to Galveston for business and board meetings, helping to manage the family’s multiple enterprises.
“My mom didn’t really love the country and wanted to be more in the city,” Gnadt said. “When they first got married, she was walking around the house in pedal pushers and high heels. But she loved riding and was a great horseback rider.”
In the late 1960s, the family settled in Galveston, the only hometown Bill and Darlene Moody considered, Gnadt said.
They began work with famed San Antonio architect O’Neil Ford on their one-of-a-kind island home, a mid-century classic featuring all the trademarks of Ford’s residential style: vaulted wood plank and beam ceilings; abundant recessed skylights; brick interior walls; handmade tile floors; hand-carved doors and cabinetry throughout; and spacious windows drawing the outdoors in, in this case a point of land overlooking Offatts Bayou.
Out the expanse of back windows and sliding glass doors, 50 years later, an hourglass-shaped pool sits terraced above a circular manmade lagoon, the brickwork surrounding both laid in a serpentine pattern, another Ford trademark. Beyond the lagoon and a pier leading to posts where a two-story boathouse stood until Hurricane Ike blew it down, white birds drift lazily along the bayou.
The scent of roses, planted by Darlene Moody in every nook and cranny of the gardens surrounding the home, fills the air.
“Neither one of them would have left that house for anywhere in the world,” Gnadt said.
The Moody’s signature O’Neil Ford house is currently on the market, represented by Jim Rosenfeld of Martha Turner-Sotheby’s International Realty. On a recent tour, the home’s grandeur — it covers 5,300 square feet, all on one level — was matched equally by its warmth and elegance.
“It’s the only home in Galveston we know of that O’Neil Ford designed,” Rosenfeld said.
Bill Moody’s father lived in San Antonio and might have influenced his son to consider hiring Ford, though no one really knows what brought Darlene and Bill Moody together with the man widely heralded as the “Dean of Texas Architecture,” Gnadt said.
Largely self-taught, Ford brought together modernist design with native regional materials and handcrafted features to soften the often harsh lines and spaces of other 1960s modernists.
“He was a very famous architect at the time,” said Adam Reed, a partner at Ford, Powell & Carson Architects, the San Antonio firm established by O’Neil Ford. “Many have coined him the father of regional modernism, a palatable, more tactile approach to modern architecture.”
Ford brought in craft elements and texture, and was known for understanding where he was building, orienting houses to breezes and light, Reed said.
The heavy carved white oak door at the Moody house, inside an enclosed brick courtyard, likely was made by Ford’s brother Lynn, a master carpenter enlisted to do custom woodwork in many of his brother’s homes.
“His brother Lynn, an artisan, probably did the wood doors that you’re seeing,” Reed said. “He wanted you to touch the doors when you passed by.”
Despite the glamorous partnering of Bill and Darlene Moody with O’Neil Ford, the house she spent her teenage years in was a family home, not a show place, Gnadt said.
“It was an amazing house to grow up in,” she said. “Growing up there, I just lived on the water. People were always around in our pool. It was a house where everybody always came.”
Bill and Darlene Moody both lived in the home until they died — he in 2014 and she, just last year.
Looking through old photos recently, Gnadt found several of Bill and Darlene Moody dressed up for costume parties, she said.
“He was a cowboy and she was a saloon girl,” she said.
Gnadt remembered fun in the house, like when her mother gave her brother a small sailboat for Christmas and put it in the swimming pool so it would be there, in view, when he woke up and ran into the family room the next morning.
“There’s so much light in the house,” she said. “I hope somebody loves it and gives it a whole new life.”