The Beer Can House is about to become the Big Empty.
The house at 2901 Whitmore St. has been sold, and longtime resident Louis Torres is moving to nearby River Oaks.
The tiny rock house with its corrugated aluminum shed has become a folk art landmark since Torres began decorating the outside by stringing together hundreds and hundreds of empty beer cans and hanging them on trees and fencing.
Passers-by often roll down their windows to take pictures of the property, at the corner of Whitmore and Currie streets just south of White Settlement Road.
Torres, a retired Lockheed Martin employee who lives alone, said Friday that just because he’s moving doesn’t mean he will be giving up his favorite hobby — which is drinking Miller Lite and Milwaukee’s Best Light and displaying the cans like Christmas decorations. Some of the cans are cut with a knife and scrunched into the shape of lanterns, so a breeze can whistle between their slits and make them spin like wind chimes.
“The Beer Can House will be back,” Torres promised on Friday, while moving belongings into a pickup bed with the help of a friend.
“The whole neighborhood is under new development around here,” he said. “They’re buying out all the property, so it’s time for me to move. That way I can start over.”
Crushed by progress
Torres said he must be out of the house by Monday. It is his understanding that it will soon be torn down for new residential development.
He couldn’t recall the name of the property buyer. Although Torres lived in the house for 50 years, it was owned by his brother, who lives nearby and handled some of the sale.
The house is on the edge of the Linwood neighborhood in west Fort Worth. The area was devastated by the 2000 tornado, which gutted many homes. (Three soccer balls that wound up in Torres’ yard after that storm are on display near his shed, surrounded by potted plants and a wall-size metal beer ad.)
But in recent years, the area has become attractive to new residents, partly because of the growth of the West Seventh Street entertainment district just to the south, and Montgomery Plaza just to the east.
They’re buying out all the property, so it’s time for me to move. That way I can start over.
Louis Torres of Fort Worth, who lives in the Beer Can House
Stopping for snapshots
Torres’ home and one other abandoned house are the only two structures left on a city block that used to accommodate at least 10 houses. A couple of blocks away, small single-family homes and duplexes are under construction, and modern multifamily structures have also been built.
While Torres and friend Sam Teague cleaned out the house and shed on Friday, at least two passers-by stopped for quick pictures.
“One lady came by and took a picture and said she was from Arlington, Va.,” Teague said.
Torres added: “I’ve had a few come by and bring me some beers [and say] ‘Hang ’em up for me.’ I say ‘OK. I’ll do it,’ ” he said with a laugh.
The rock house has only 552 square feet of living space, according to the Tarrant Appraisal District. The beer cans make it difficult to see the house.
Torres said he is somewhat sad to see his neighborhood gutted, even though the new construction will likely be nice.
“There’s nothing you can do. It’s commerce,” he said. “Once it goes, it goes.”
Torres said he started collecting cans several years ago and one day decided to experiment with them. He wrapped a long thin wire around a weight, tossed it over one of his backyard trees and starting stringing cans on it.
Then he attached the wire to a fence, creating a tentlike shape. He repeated the process, creating rows of beer cans hanging from his hackberries and tall cedars.
At one point, his grown daughter, Deann Ledesma, showed him how to slit the cans’ sides and then squash them to create an ornament.
By the way, Torres said, he prefers the taste of Miller Lite and Milwaukee’s Best Light to pretty much all other beers. He is old-school.
No craft beer, no European suds for him.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.