517 Louisiana St. is down — the former haunt of the Longhorn Cafe (509 Louisiana, to the right of the hole in the above photo) was still standing as of 2 PM this afternoon, along with the pecan tree in its once-secret courtyard. Both have permits lined up to follow 517 into the Great Beyond, to make room for surface parking on the block.
The hidden pecan tree is purported to harbor a ghost, rooted deep in some Republic of Texas history:
Legend has it that pecan grove once stood in the area, and in the days of the Republic of Texas, President Sam Houston parleyed there in 1837 with his old friend Chief Bowl, a half-Scottish Cherokee leader. As soon as Houston was term-limited out of office, Mirabeau B. Lamar rescinded a treaty Houston had signed with Bowl, and gave a squadron of cavalry orders to expel Bowl and his warriors from their villages in northeast Texas (or, failing that, to simply kill them). Bowl chose to fight to the death and was shot from his horse, still holding the sword that Sam Houston had given him.
As an insult, Houston’s enemies mockingly presented him with one of their grisly souvenirs from this campaign — Bowl’s trademark Revolutionary War-era cocked hat. Though Bowl met his demise some 200 miles away near Tyler, local legend has it that the soul of Bowl transmigrated back to the pecan grove — some visitors to the Longhorn’s courtyard reported seeing the “misty figure of an American Indian near the tree at midnight,” though the Longhorn cafe’s signature big-enough-to-stick-your-face-in Long Island ice teas may bear the blame.
As for as the legendary backdrop, some of it is true — Bowl did meet Houston in a pecan grove somewhere “west of the Capitol”, and he did die at the Battle of Neches; Houston’s nemeses did give him Bowl’s hat. But the pecan tree’s paternity is unknown — no one seems to have verified the claim that the tree is truly a descendant of the grove in question.
- Downtown Houston can be a real ghost town [Chron.com]
- Chief Bowl [Humanities Texas]
- Previously on Swamplot: Those 2 Century-Old Louisiana St. Buildings Being Demolished Now for Lancaster Hotel Parking
Photo: Swamplot inbox