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A Hotbed of Art and Architecture in the Heart of the Texan Desert

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Welcome to CityScapes, a column in which we explore some of the nation's oft-overlooked cities and towns: their local history and real estate offerings. Have a suggestion? Do let us know.

Deep in the high plains of West Texas, Marfa is quirkier than its rural location would suggest. That's partly due to an artist invasion back in the '70s, but things were a bit off in Marfa since its founding. According to legend, the town was named by the wife of a railroad executive, who was reading Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov while passing through and suggested the town adopt the name of a character in the novel. Since then, the town has attracted filmmakers, artists, and bohemians of all stripes, including the German artist duo of Elmgreen and Dragset, who constructed a mock Prada store "sculpture" (above) on a lonely stretch of desert highway outside of town.

? So where did this artistic bent come from? Well the town made a name for itself when the 1956 Hollywood epic Giant—starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, and Dennis Hopper—was shot in Marfa. Using sets trucked in from Hollywood, director George Stevens spent two months shooting in West Texas and would often invite the townspeople to view the action. When Stevens picked up and left town, he left the faux ranch house (above) to serve as a grain silo for local farmers. The town would see further attention from Hollywood, most recently as a filming location for 2006's No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.

? In the 1970s, artists began to flock to the rural tranquillity of Marfa, led by minimalist artist Donald Judd, who moved to Texas from NYC in 1971. Judd acquired a decommissioned fort and transformed it into a permanent display space for his work and a select group of other artists. Today, Judd's spread operates as the Chinati Foundation—named for the surrounding mountains—and displays works by John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, Richard Long, and Claes Oldenburg, among others. This has made Marfa a unique cultural destination in West Texas, and one that has drawn a new generation of artists.
WHAT'S ON THE MARKET NOW:

? Despite the wide open spaces surrounding the town, much of Marfa is relatively densely populated, with houses arranged neatly on small lots. So when the listing for this 2,000-square-foot Craftsman-style house says its on "three city lots" that's quite a bit of space. The three-bedroom house features a charming back porch and recently renovated interior for $289K.

? This Craftsman bungalow was built in 1930 and recently renovated to incorporate modern technologies like central air conditioning, recessed lighting, and a wine cellar. Post-renovation, the interior is clean and ready for a wide variety of decor. This three-bedroom spread is asking $259K and enjoys open views of the Davis Mountains from the porch.

? For artist emigres from NYC used to that city's loft spaces, this unrenovated live/work barn might be just the place to set up shop. With 1,600-square-feet of interior space, high ceilings with exposed wood beams, a greenhouse and a fenced yard, this little house strikes us as a deal at $150K, particularly given the close proximity to downtown.

· Marfa, TX [Texas State Historial]
· Texas' Own "Gone With The Wind" [The Selvedge Yard]
· Justice to Judd [Moda Vivendi]
· 400 S Dean Street [Zillow]
· 905 Caa Marfa [Zillow]
· 112 E Texas Street [Zillow]