10/23/14 5:15pm

MAKING THE CASE FOR HOUSTON MURDERS Murder & Mayhem in Houston: Historic Bayou City Crime“Houston and New Orleans stand alone as the creepiest cities on the Gulf Coast,” declare Mike Vance and John Nova Lomax. “With its pervasive voodoo ambience, sprawling cities of the dead, air of genteel decay and long history of murder and mayhem, New Orleans is undeniably a spooky town. Fright is a cottage industry there. Having said that, Houston is not far behind. Houstonians just don’t celebrate death and the past the way New Orleanians do.” Their new book, Murder & Mayhem in Houston: Historic Bayou City Crime, attempts to resurrect lesser-known crime stories that have “slipped into the recesses of this city’s gargantuan memory hole, with chapters on the Todville Mansion murder, the Heights House of Horrors, and the Wig Shop Murder. “Local histories have tended to gloss over this city’s dark side, choosing instead to cite the ever-increasing tonnage coming and going from the Houston Ship Channel, the scientific wonders of NASA and the Texas Medical Center, the financial feats of powerful banker-developers like Jesse Jones and the gargantuan deeds of the great oil men. That’s important history to record, but that’s only half of Houston’s story. It’s high time the dark side comes to light.” [The History Press; Amazon]

10/23/14 3:15pm

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Next on the docket at the Court at Museum’s Gate on Montrose Blvd., a 2-story condo (top) in the 1985 postmodern property (above) presents in its listing earlier this week an unstaged interior — and a $325,000 asking price. It was on the books for $319,000 earlier this year, but that listing terminated in May, prior to a flip-minded reboot. Soon to hit 30, the 49-unit complex appears to be revamping one condo at a time . . .

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Plaza Entry
10/23/14 12:00pm

Cabela's Store in Buda, Texas

Cabela's Store in Allen, TexasWhat should League City expect with the first Houston-area Cabela’s, set to open in a year’s time near the Big League Dreams Sports Park off the Gulf Fwy. and Big League Dreams Pkwy.? All the wonders of wildlife and its stalkers brought indoors, for your perusal and entertainment. That means vast arrangements of deceased but realistic-looking animals mounted in museum-like displays, a “gun library” where you’ll be able to check out the latest in classic, antique, collectible, or just plain hoard-able firearms, an indoor archery range, a fudge shop, and other tourist attractions. Plus, for local flatlanders who may never have seen one, an actual mountain replica. All displayed as it should be, in a big-roofed, fully air-conditioned space not far from Kohl’s and H-E-B.

At 72,000 sq. ft., the store will only be one-third the size of the chain’s behemoth in Fort Worth, but it’ll be bigger than the outposts in Waco and Lubbock. A company press release says the store will feature log construction, as well as other outdoorsy-store mainstays such as metal roofing, wood siding, and stone add-ons.

Photos of Buda (interior) and Allen (exterior) stores: Cabela’s

Outdoors Indoors
10/23/14 8:30am

Fragment of Suzanne Sellers Mural The Muted Hues of History, Houston Club Building, 811 Rusk St., Downtown Houston

Photo of Remaining Fragment of Suzanne Sellers’s ‘Muted Hues of History’ Mural, 811 Rusk St.: Swamplot inbox

Headlines
10/22/14 4:30pm

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Since its purchase in August for $86,100, a 1956 Glenbrook Valley property located on one of the mid-century neighborhood’s interior streets has been zhushed for a flip. It’s now back on the market and asking $144,900. Changes are most apparent in the kitchen (above middle, with the original below it) and bathrooms. Tweaks before its listing last week included a new roof, new flooring, repairs to underground plumbing, leveling of the foundation — and home staging with careful attention to corners . . .

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Buffed Up
10/22/14 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID ABOUT STRAKE JESUIT Suburban Bubble“If people want to self-segregate and move somewhere like The Woodlands, great. I’m glad they are free to do that. What I don’t understand is the myopia that self-segregation can create, when people forget that anyone would ever value anything else over clean and shiny (and white) suburbs. An example of what bothers me so much: I was leaving a Strake Jesuit football game earlier this year, and a Woodlands dad and I fell into conversation on the way out. He commented “this is such a great campus. Too bad it’s in this neighborhood.” As a SJ parent, I didn’t have any choice but to answer him politely, so I murmured something about how the lower property costs made it possible for the school to buy more land to improve and expand. But in reality, I was just incensed by his comments — still am, actually. What, a working class neighborhood doesn’t deserve something nice like a private school campus in it? The school has nothing to offer the neighborhood, and vice versa? The neighborhood has less value in absolute terms because it’s not wealthy, or aesthetically pleasing? What is it about living somewhere like The Woodlands that changes the way a person thinks, that they can look at the (abundant) life going on outside their clean little bubble and not recognize its value? I don’t have an answer to this question — it just bothers me an awful lot.” [Vonnegan, commenting on How The Woodlands Has Gone Astray; A Suitable Houston Honor for the Inventor of Air Conditioning] Illustration: Lulu

10/22/14 1:15pm

Proposal for New Randall Davis Condo Tower, 1211 Caroline St. at Polk St., Downtown Houston

There is always excitement surrounding an announcement of a new Randall Davis condo tower — before the design is revealed. Everyone wants to know: What mixture of far-away buildings and long-ago eras will the architecture reference? And what affordable materials will it be constructed from? From atop what garage launch platform will it point toward the sky? And even more simply: How grandiose will it be? Late yesterday, only a few hours after posting news that the developer had announced the impending arrival of a condo highrise adjacent to GreenStreet downtown, Swamplot received the humble design submission pictured above from reader Bill Barfield. He claims to have created the rendering “after much research.”

Rendering: Bill Barfield (bill_b)

Vision Statement
10/22/14 11:30am

CURIOUS POLL PUSHERS WANT TO KNOW: SHOULD THE COUNTY SPEND ANY AMOUNT IT WANTS ON AN ASTRODOME REDO? Interior of Houston AstrodomeThe last time a concrete proposal to spend public money to repurpose the Astrodome was on the ballot, Harris County taxpayers voted it down. So how hard could it be to come up with a new poll showing potential voters aren’t especially eager to shell out for the latest floated idea, to turn the public facility into a giant indoor park — about which no details, price tag, or even feel-good drawings have yet been released? Maybe harder than you might think: In stories about a survey sponsored by KHOU and Houston Public Media whose results were released yesterday, a few news outlets did produce dutiful variants of a “Taxpayers Oppose Money for Astrodome” headline. But coming to that conclusion from the actual data collected in the survey might have been a bit of a stretch. Here’s the somewhat ambiguous wording of the question presented, with no context, to likely voters in the coming election: “Harris County proposes turning the Astrodome into an indoor park. Should the taxpayers of Harris County spend any amount to make the Astrodome into an indoor park if no private investors want to fund the entire project?” 31 percent said yes, 51 percent said no, and 17 percent of respondents said they didn’t know. The subset of respondents who thought they were being asked if they’d be willing to give county government a blank check for a plan they’ve never seen wasn’t broken out separately. [Houston Chronicle; KHOU; Houston Public Media; Astrodome coverage on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock

10/22/14 8:30am

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Photo of East Loop at Buffalo Bayou: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
10/21/14 5:15pm

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Hunkered down behind a tagged security curtain, a bunker-like commercial building in Midtown’s mid-section popped up on the market overnight with a $585K asking price in a “lot-priced” listing. The corner building of uncertain vintage fronting Fannin St. has a history with commercial printers (and insurance companies), and more recently, shoe repair. Adkins Printing struck an exterior inlay on the building’s forehead (above) that’s still visible behind current signage, as is some faint lettering from its days as the offices of Pound Printing and Stationery. More recent signage attached the building’s blank north side (at right) touts available “stationary,” a spelling more appropriate perhaps to Al’s Handmade Boots, the store now occupying half of the building, than to the location’s printing history.

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Imprinted
10/21/14 4:30pm

1311 Polk St., Downtown Houston

Sign at 1201 Caroline St., Downtown HoustonIn announcing earlier today the new condominium tower he and Astoria partner Roberto Contreras are planning to build downtown, Randall Davis wasn’t so specific about the location he has in mind for the highrise building. But sources tell Swamplot it’s planned for a portion of the block bounded by Polk, Caroline, Austin, and Dallas pictured above. That would put it on what’s now a surface parking lot adjacent to the Dirt Bar (tag line: “We Play Rock n’ Roll”) and across the street from the House of Blues, at the eastern end of GreenStreet (formerly Houston Pavilions). Noodle fans will remember the Dirt Bar spot at 1209 Caroline St. as the former home of Josephine’s Italian Restaurant. The Reserve 101 bar is on the corner at 1201 Caroline St., next door.

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Where’s Marlowe?