Would you believe that earth-sheltered homes were once on Fort Worth’s wish list? It’s true. The city wanted to construct earth-sheltered dwellings to provide sustainable housing, primarily for middle-income families in the northside and Stockyards areas of town. The North Central Texas Council of Governments approved $650,000 in funds for the construction of these homes in January 1978, granted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In the city’s application, it writes:
The key technique [in successful alternative housing] involves the design, selection, construction, rehabilitation, and aggressive marketing of middle income structures that can compete with traditional suburban development. Middle income families will be attracted to these structures because of their energy efficiency, their short and long-range costs as compared with traditional new housing, their attractiveness, and their location in convenient and basically good but deteriorating neighborhoods with the potential for revitalization.
Described as an experiment, the city hoped to lead the way in alternative housing for other cities across the country. Fort Worth native, Frank L. Moreland, is listed as the architect and designer of the homes. Moreland graduated from Paschal High School in Fort Worth and went on to pursue several university degrees, including a bachelor’s in Mathematics from Texas Christian University and two master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to building homes, he also served as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and Corps of Engineers.
Ultimately, earth-sheltered homes did not take Fort Worth by storm. In fact, it appears that this plan never made it through the Assessment phase it outlines in its application. However, Moreland did design several homes across the metroplex, including Fort Worth, Dallas, Eagle Mountain Lake, Decatur, and Waxahachie. The Dallas News has an article about one of Moreland’s homes in Dallas, which went up for sale on Earth Day 2013, and you can read more about the fascinating building here.
More information about Fort Worth’s endeavor to create underground homes can be found in the North Central Texas Council of Governments collection. To learn more about Frank Moreland, contact the University of Texas at Austin to view his papers, which are a part of the Alexander Architectural Archive.