As chairman of the nation’s largest producer of cement, Jim Stewart, 67, is a man who likes things to be, well, concrete. So when he decided he wanted to make a bold architectural statement with his new house on exclusive Indian Creek Island, just north of Miami Beach, he knew exactly what he wanted to use for building materials. And he didn’t have to look far: The huge (18,000-square-foot) house is constructed entirely of concrete—10,332,000 pounds of it, reinforced with 32 miles of steel rods.
The house cost $6 million to build. While the $550,000-a-year CEO of Lone Star Industries paid for all the concrete and other material, he did incorporate some industrial castoffs into the decor. Take the Giacometti-like sculpture of fused chains that came from a Lone Star plant yard in Seattle. Then there’s the 1,200-pound mesh screen, formerly used to sort stones in the Miami plant, behind the grand piano in the living room. “The Korean, Chinese and Japanese screens cost $150,000 to $200,000 apiece,” says Stewart, “and they’re tiny little things.” A 12-foot diameter water pipe leads from the foyer to the living room; elsewhere there are bridge beams and railroad rails.
Given his strong feelings about the project, it is not surprising Stewart went through four or five architects (he can’t quite remember how many) before the house was completed in 1982. While it was going up, admits Stewart, “the neighbors were screaming all kinds of things-like how ugly it was.” The neighbors have quieted down since then, as evidenced by the fact that Stewart is now mayor of the 35-home enclave.
Stewart lives in his concrete chateau with his fifth wife, Eva. Detractors liken his house to a branch bank office or a municipal building, but Stewart claims he doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. After all, he points out with a grin, “when I was in the lumber business, I built three houses made of wood.”