Best Teardown of 2009: Vote for One of These Official Nominees

What was this year’s Best Teardown? That’s the third category in the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate. And the official nominees are now in the (soon-to-be-demolished) house!

The voting rules for this year’s Swampies are posted here, but they’re not that complicated: Add your vote in the comments, or more privately in an email to Swamplot. Start a campaign in support of your favorite candidate, if you like. Plus: This year readers can vote on Twitter by following these simple instructions. (It’s a free extra vote!) The polls close for all categories at 5 pm on December 28th.

The nominees for Best Teardown of 2009 are . . .


1. The Savoy Apartments, 1616 Main St., Downtown. “For its sheer brick-dropping squalor and decay. A city emergency order forced owner Michael Nassif to demolish Houston’s first-ever highrise apartment building in early October — 6-inch-thick encrusted pigeon-poop deposits, asbestos, and all. Can we nominate this one for a teardown award if it would’ve come down on its own anyway?”

2. 1212 Hyde Park Blvd., Montrose. “A spectacular but badly neglected large Tudor Revival home from the 1930s, on a double lot on the corner of Van Buren. Gone in a cloud of dust, and ready for redevelopment.”

3. Fire Station 33, Fannin and South Braeswood, Braeswood, and Fire Station 37, 3828 Aberdeen Way, Braes Heights. Last of the small Fifties Modern fireboxes, replaced by brand-new stations with more of a storybook look. Shouldn’t someone have opened an ice house in one of these?”

4. Wilshire Village Apartments, 1701 West Alabama St., Lancaster Place. “How can you summarize the ongoing real estate soap opera surrounding Wilshire Village? Architect Eugene Werlin’s 1940 garden apartments were left to rot slowly for decades, as the Montrose complex’s eccentric owner got better and better at fighting off the scores of would-be tenants who were regularly begging for a chance to move in and fix up their own units. The fire station was always just down the street, but the Fire Marshal didn’t step in to declare the property a hazard until after the purported new owner decided to evict everybody, early this year. Today the partnership that owns the property is in bankruptcy, the 8-acre lot is for sale, and the complex’s classic structures have been safely stored in a landfill. So much neglect, and if you talk for five minutes to the folks who used to live there, you’d understand it was so needless.”

5. 405 W. Friar Tuck Ln., Sherwood Forest. “Robert Mosbacher commissioned this huge sorta Louisiana Plantation, sorta American Georgian estate from famed Houston Architect John Staub in the early 1960s; later, it served as developer Giorgio Borlenghi’s crash pad. Four years after its most recent renovation, it became one of Houston’s favorite $5 million teardowns. Why didn’t they just dredge it in salmon colored stucco and add a turret or two?”

6. 314 E. Friar Tuck, Sherwood Forest. “Neuhaus & Taylor’s 1970 home for developer Kenneth Schnitzer had no gift-wrapping room. So clearly it needed to be torn down. It’s the kind of thing that’s happening all over Memorial: There just aren’t enough Midcentury Mod enthusiasts in Houston who have $3 million to spare. I wonder what type of Spanish fusion will replace this beauty?”

7. 1514 Banks St., Ranch Estates. Karen Lantz’s piece-by-piece Ranch House deconstruction demo project. She got support from the anti-teardown and pro-green crowd for donating building materials, and support from investors and the property-rights obsessives for making a choice that was economically beneficial to her. For one brief, shining moment, it seemed like everyone on this site actually agreed on something.”

8. Compass Bank Building, 2200 Post Oak, Galleria. The Redstone Companies tore down the 7-story light Brutalist concrete office building to make way for two giant mixed-use developments that’ll be in pole position for the Uptown Light Rail Line. The building was imploded in February, but there’s been no on-site action reported yet on the planned replacement, appropriately called The Perennial.”

So . . . what’ll it be? Which one of these smashing contestants wins the year? Let’s hear your vote!

Photos (top to bottom): Sarah McLean (Savoy), fortbendtomontrose (1212 Hyde Park), Lauren Meyers (fire stations), Jim Parsons, from GHPA’s Houston Deco (Wilshire Village), HAR (405 W. and 314 E. Friar Tuck), Karen Lantz (1514 Banks St.). Video: tofu713.

64 Comment

  • These are all depressing tear downs. I abstain.

  • #1 – Houston needs to tear down more buildings like this

  • Although most of these seem idiotic, #4 gets my vote for the sheer number of imbeciles involved.

  • #4 – It was already a soap opera way back in the ‘Who shot JR’ days…

  • It just doesn’t seem fair to have these other buildings up against Wilshire Village. #4.

  • #1, because it was big, dramatic, and primed with nitrogen-rich bird droppings.
    For all the drama I never really gave a hoot about #4. Honorable mention to #7 because I’m a construction materials pack rat and hate to ever see anything wasted.
    Incidentally, if anybody’s interested in a couple dozen antique glass window panes, let me know. When street lights shine through them, it casts a psychedelic pattern on the wall. Would be great for a sculptor that works with lighting effects.

  • I’m voting for #4 Wilshire Village Apartments!

    That thing had such a legacy surrounding it’s slow decay and questionable managment drama, it was best for that show to end with a decidedly Houston conclusion – mutual recrimination, bank/owner drama, municipal warnings posted, family history, the mute arrival of bulldozers and finally the anti-monument of a vast open space.

  • #4 – every time I go to Fiesta, I imagine all those beautiful wood floors and baseboards escaped to a deserted tropical island instead of sitting in the City Dump.

  • I have to give it to #4 as I am sure it will be the last of these sites to be redeveloped.

  • Except for the Savoy, they deserved better.

  • #4
    I Love drama.

  • I vote #4 for Wilshire Village because that is the teardown that will be most memorably attached to “2009”
    Shout-out to Karen Lantz for doing something cool, but I don’t think something cool is what this category is about.

  • #1, i like looking at the glass half full.

  • In a category called “best” tear down, I vote for the best use of the verb tear down, #7. Many of the nominees wouldn’t have even been considered tear downs (the noun) if they had be properly maintained, or if the people who owned them had any sense whatsoever. The Banks house was not designed by a famous Architect, there was absolutely nothing special about it. No one will miss it, and it’s parts and pieces will go on to be incorporated into many other homes, roadways, and who knows what else. Bravo!

  • Number 8!!! :D

  • No. 8!!!!!! n_n

  • Of course, number 8.

  • # 8 the best.

  • #7 What a project! I’d love to live in a place built from recycled material with character, rather than a cookie cutter home that still smells like the factories, works, and mills the materials just came out of.

  • Damn, I can’t decide, and I nominated at least a couple of these myself! I didn’t realize another Staub house was gone, even if it was one of his late works. I’m going to go with the Schnitzer house for three reasons:

    1. Neuhaus & Taylor houses have fallen victim to the bulldozers more ofthen than Staub houses have, and there are not many left.
    2. You can at least make an argument that some of the above (WV, 1212 Hyde Park, the fire stations, certainly the Savoy) were too far gone to repair. I don’t agree, necessarily, but you can at least make the assertion with a straight face. Not true for the Schnitzer house, at least based on the photos posted.
    3. The Schnitzer house is the newest building here, except perhaps for the Compass Bank building.

  • # 7. Gotta respect that.

  • No. 1 is the “best teardown” in the sense of the “most needed”, but No. 8 is the best in the sense of the “best done” effort.

  • I don’t think this category is in the sense of “most needed,” otherwise the great old homes would not be on here. So I am voting for this in the sense of “most regretful.” My heart says I should choose #6 on Friar Tuck, but I think #4 Wilshire Village is the most regretful for the city of Houston. So my vote is for #4.

  • @ Ranger – I’m pretty sure the Savoy will be the last to be redeveloped

    Anyway, I vote #4 as well. It was certainly the most covered and discussed on here

  • while i have a soft spot for mid century modern (6), i loved those wilshire apartments (4) when i lived in montrose. i had no idea about any of the drama, but spent many hours wondering what they looked like inside and dreaming of what i could do with them should i win the power ball. i do appreciate so much about living in houston but this whole category makes me sad.

  • #8 definitely

  • Call me a cynic, but some of these votes are oddly grouped together from names unknown – Gus, are you checking IP addresses? LOL

    Maybe I only say that because I care about #8 the least. The #8 responses are pretty odd, though

  • #7, because it was the right thing to do.

  • #7 because it appeared to be in pristine condition but I have always thought it would be cool to live in an old fire station (mid century would make it even better) I could live among a few old cars and the family could live in the small quarters, sort of a roll reversal as now I mostly live in a small garage surrounded by a few old cars while the family lives in the big house.

  • error, I meant #6, your have to respect #7 though, regrets

  • Far from being a greenie, I nonetheless vote for #7 as it represents a pretty reasonable endeavor on behalf of the participants to do a complete reclamation project. I have to hand it to them for this being a very well thought out and executed exercise.

  • #7 because that house was home to a friend of mine in high school. His parents moved down the street shortly after we graduated in ’01. I forwarded the article to my friend, who now lives in Dallas, and his feelings toward the article were bittersweet. He hated that the house would no longer be standing, but he couldn’t think of a better way for it to go out.

  • #4 for wasted potential and the residents it displaced.

  • I will vote go with #4, and echo Hellsing for the wasted potential.

  • My vote is for #1, the Savoy Apartments.

  • #7. It’s the teardown of the future.

  • #7 for me. Great to give new life to an aging facility, and more space to landfills.

  • #7 – All Architects and builders should be following in these footsteps during demolition.

  • Vote for # 7 1514 Banks
    Because to do what is right takes time, dedication and determination.

  • #4, with #1 as a close second.

  • #1 by a nose.

  • It seems that #7 (Banks Home) is a no-brainer. This shouldn’t be about which is the right one to tear down but the “best” or “right way” to do it! #7 is the ONLY one that stands out of the group in this respect! It is refreshing to read of such a project. Wish more homeowners/architects/builders/etc would think out of the box instead of going with the flow in this city.

  • I vote for Wilshire Village which will probably become as much of a scandal at some point given the fact it was inspected, cited, and condemned within a week which left everyone a little baffled until the lot was cleared and the “for sale” sign went up and the second lienholder which just happened to be the mayor’s former employer decided to foreclose.

    One thing is for sure. The Republicans want Bill White to run for governor. And Wilshire Village will probably be on the top of the list of the reasons why – he is so corrupt he makes Chuck Rosenthal look like Dudley Do-Right.

  • Wilshire Village. Tragedy.

  • #7 is so Houston. It is a woman going against conventional thinking. This project is so HIWI!

  • #4 So much more than just a teardown.

  • #4, but only because it was just sad to see it go and it was such a cool place.

    it was such an inefficient use of space considering the plot it sat on and the high vacancy rate so it was only a matter of time though.

  • NUMBER SEVEN! In a throw away world, this is the best example of reusability you are ever likely to see. You Go Girl!

  • 7 – Amidst all the unconscionable actions, Karen set an example for us all.

  • #7 for Best Teardown of 2009. A unique approach to building demolition, actually taking the time to find takers for 7 tons of previously used materials – almost the entire house! And the kicker, receiving a ~$70K tax deduction.

  • Love the GREEN tear down. What an innovation. Hope to see more of these soon!

  • To make it clear, I meant #7.

  • #7 of course! Hoping Karen’s work will be an inspiration.

  • No.s 4 + 6 were just plain tragic. Beyond the traditional, speculative impetus of these demos, there was no reason to snuff these. I wonder how many trailers of trash they filled.
    The “Best Tear-down” with the most substantiated reason and process is definitely No. 7.

  • It’s got to be BOTH Sherwood Forest teardowns. Thank goodness we won’t have to look at yet another Neuhaus & Taylor and Staub house. I’d like to suggest we rid the city of Bayou Bend as well, it’s old enough isn’t it?

  • #7 for “best”. Most of the rest are unfortunate.

  • #7.

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