Written by Lydia Saldaña
The midcentury homes of the Wedgwood neighborhood in Southwest Fort Worth are a far cry from the cookie-cutter homes offered in some of the newer housing developments springing up around the Metroplex. Wedgwood homes were built between 1955 and 1975, featuring a variety of architectural styles, from sprawling ranch style homes to midcentury modern, giving each a character of its own.
As original owners of the homes have moved on, or passed on, a new generation of homeowners have put their own stamp on the unique homes in Wedgwood. In recent years a group of younger Wedgwood residents have taken an interest in the history of the neighborhood and in 2021, they formed the Wedgwood Historical Association. The nonprofit stages an annual Parade of Homes each September to showcase the architectural gems in the neighborhood.
This year, one of the residences that will be featured on the tour is home to Fort Worth native Modrel Kissinger, who has lived in Wedgwood for more than 50 years. She loved the home when she bought it in the 1960s, and she loves it still. In fact, she loves it so much that she hasn’t changed hardly a thing. Visitors who tour her house as part of this year’s Parade of Homes will feel as though they are stepping back in time.
The kitchen includes the original oven and range. The paneling and moulding in the den and living room have not been touched and the living room is filled with original midcentury furniture. Even the original pink-tiled bathroom appears just as it did when it was first built. “Honey, I just I love that pink bathroom,” said Modrel. “When I had to replace the shower pan years ago, my friends all laughed because I put in another pink one. I like it just the way it is.”
When Modrel purchased the home in 1968, she was a single mother, and not many women back then were able to purchase a home on their own. How she accomplished that is a remarkable story about a truly remarkable woman.
Those who have lived in Fort Worth for many decades will remember the Kissinger Auto Supply stores. Modrel was a driving force behind the success of those stores, and that provided her the means to buy her own home.
Her journey to Wedgwood began two decades before that, back in 1944. That’s when she married Vester Kissinger. He was 17 and she was just 14, and both had to get permission from their parents to wed.
“Well, honey, I can't say I fell in love with him, but we were playing hooky one day and he said, ‘Why don't we get married?’ I was so ready to leave home,” she said. “I didn’t have the happiest of childhoods. We lived through the Depression and there were eight kids in the family. It was tough, and I was ready to move on.”
After the young couple married, they both worked for the Kissinger family’s blacksmith shop on North Main. In 1946, the couple’s first daughter was born, followed five years later by their second. In the 1950s the shop started carrying auto parts and opened a second store on Hemphill. “And I knew nothing about cars whatsoever,” said Modrel, with a laugh. “I didn’t even know how to drive!”
But she was a quick learner, and had a head for business, despite the lack of a high school diploma. Eventually she was running the place. Unfortunately, her husband, Vester was running around on her. She learned of his infidelity when she spotted a white fur coat that did not belong to her in the back seat of their car. “My only regret was that I didn’t think to grab some spray paint,” she said. “I mean, we had lots of spray paint in the store. Why didn't I spray that white coat with some spray paint? That still bugs me, to this day!”
The couple parted ways a few years later, but not before Modrel learned to drive. “I decided then that I’d better learn to drive, because he sure wasn’t going to teach me,” said Modrel. “He didn’t want me to drive because then I might figure out where he was going. I might find him somewhere, you know? And I wasn't interested in finding him nowhere. I just wanted to know how to drive.”
She got her own car, divorced Vester, and each got one of the stores to run. When Vester opened up an additional store, she followed suit, and eventually she owned six Kissinger Auto Supply stores of her own.
She got married again, and had her third child. But that marriage ended in divorce, too, and that’s when she began looking to buy a home of her own.
“That was a time when they were busing kids all over town and I wanted my daughter to go to school close to home,” said Modrel. “I heard that Wedgwood was not busing, so that’s where I looked. This was the first and only house I looked at. I knew I could live here forever.” Her mortgage payment was $100.05 a month.
The auto supply stores continued to prosper, and the successful business provided the opportunity for Modrel and her daughters to travel extensively both in the United States and abroad. Modrel and Vester remained friends, and in the 1970s, Vester approached Modrel about buying her stores. Modrel decided she wanted to sell, and Vester made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. However, he delayed finalizing the deal to make absolutely sure it was the right move for her. “He made me wait a whole year to make sure that I wasn't going change my mind, and I didn’t,” said Modrel. “He made me a cash offer, and I was pretty much set for life.”
She turned her attention to other interests, including sewing. Modrel is a fabulous seamstress, and began sewing doll clothes for competitions and craft shows. The only substantive change she has made to her home is converting her back porch into an enclosed sewing room. Even at age 92, she continues to take commissions and is always working on a sewing project.
She doesn’t get around like she used to, and she is looking forward to the upcoming Parade of Homes on September 17.
“Honey, I’m not sure why anyone would want to see my old house, but they are welcome to visit,” said Modrel. “I love it here and look forward to meeting some more of my Wedgwood
Constructed in 1963, this is an excellent example of a classic Ranch-style house. The red-brick home has a cross-gabled roof with wide overhanging eaves. The broad front porch and garage entry are sheltered by the principal roof of the house. The porch features iconic wrought-iron roof supports with decorative cast-iron flowering vine/leaf insets, an iconic motif. Entry to the house is through the original front door. The house, inside and out, is practically unchanged since its current owner purchased it in 1968, down to the Mamie pink bathrooms. Unusual for that time, she was a single mother who owned several auto parts businesses.
This is a modern-style house with a stone-veneer façade that provides privacy for the Asian-inspired entrance courtyard. This home was built by Clinton D. Wright in collaboration with architect Clyde Hueppelsheuser. They together designed all 54 houses in this small neighborhood and were even given an award by Wedgwood Land Company for the area’s design, a type of cul-de-sac with no through streets. No two homes in this area are alike. This particular floorplan is named the “Conquistador”. When driving through the neighborhoods in Wedgwood, you may notice other homes with a similar floorplan. Erected in October 1966, the home has a cross-hipped roof that connects to the detached garage over an airy breezeway, and provides shelter for several outdoor living areas. The current owners have an amazing collection of midcentury modern pieces, and a tiki bar, to complement their wonderful home.
This house is part of the Wedgwood South addition, developed south of Altamesa in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The area features streets named after sites in Spain. The area is demarcated from Candleridge by Sycamore Creek to the south, Kingswood Drive to the west, and Woodway Drive on the east. This very large, one-and-a-half-story traditional ranch house was built in 1972 by Thomas Buckner. The current owners have furnished and decorated their home with many antiques. The home is also a registered Monarch butterfly Waystation.
Here we have an exquisitely designed Contemporary-style home, also in Wedgwood South and built in 1972. Contemporary houses were built in the U.S. from around 1945 until as late as 1990. Characteristics include a low-pitch roof, wide overhanging eaves, exposed roof beams, broad expanses of uninterrupted wall surfaces often composed with more than one type of material, broad chimneys, an asymmetrical plan, a recessed or hidden entrance, and windows in gable ends. This house exhibits all these traits. The exterior surfaces are a combination of stone cladding, glass, and wood board-and-batten siding. The low-pitch roof is cross gabled and has very wide overhanging eaves. Roof openings over planting beds adjacent to the house allow for flowers to receive sunshine or rain. The front gable features exposed beams and four large vertical windows, above the stone cladding, that allow light into the living room while maintaining privacy. The front entrance is recessed and is surrounded by glass, allowing the foyer to be illuminated with natural light. The current owner has meticulously maintained the exterior features, and the interior’s minimalist décor suits its surroundings perfectly. The house has a “twin” just around the corner that has some slight differences and is situated differently on its lot.