The Harmony Wedding Chapel at 8120 Gulf Freeway has been one of Houston’s most familiar freeway-side landmarks for 50 years, a little slice of backstreet Las Vegas that has now provided 5 generations with cheap, often hastily-arranged weddings. (Even today a bare-bones ceremony with no guests is a mere $50.)
But as the site of the first gay marriage in Texas, it is a landmark in American LGBT history too. There on the banks of Sims Bayou, on October 6, 1972, Brownsville-bred former high school football player Antonio Molina married William “Billie” Ert, a female impersonator who performed in local nightclubs as “Mr. Vicki Carr,” in tribute to the El Paso-bred singer. (One such spot was Ursula’s, a lesbian-friendly bar at 1512 W. Alabama, the future home of a succession of failed restaurants and now the home of the Skin Renewal Center.)
Handing over a wedding certificate Ert obtained by appearing in front of court clerks in very convincing drag, the couple exchanged vows before an activist chaplain they had brought in, and sealed them with a kiss. A firestorm awaited them outside the chapel’s Gulf Freeway feeder road-facing doors.
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WHY THESE SEISMIC VIBRATOR TRUCKS HAVE BEEN SHAKING UP SOUTHEAST HOUSTON A neighborhood resident tells Swamplot what George Henderson, owner of Premier Geophysical Services, told the Park Place Civic Club last week about what the firm’s seismic vibrator trucks have been doing in the area: “He is going west as far as I-45 and south of I-10 from Beltway 8 East. He is mapping gas, oil, and minerals. Per Henderson, Park Place property owners own the mineral rights. No, he will not divulge his client. No, COH does not have access to his findings. He gave an example in the past where they set up equipment on a commercial lot and purchased a house next to it for a hefty sum. He said they can work across long distances from set-ups like that. They should be done here in two weeks.” Photo: Swamplot inbox
A couple residents of Park Place Acre Villa are interested in finding out what the point was of this fleet of Boone Exploration seismic vibrator vehicles rolling up Detroit St. and Findlay St. this week — and areas further east of the Gulfgate-area neighborhood earlier. After a few phone calls, a representative of council member Robert Gallegos reportedly showed up to talk to the crew from Premier Geophysical Services, which has been conducting seismic testing in the area.
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The owners of the Park Place Baptist Church building and campus just south of the Gulf Fwy. at 4101 Broadway St. have put the 8.694-acre property up for sale, with a list price of $3.9 million. The building, which also serves as a sixties-mod landmark at the freeway exit for mod-home bastion Glenbrook Valley (not to mention Hobby Airport), has been home to the church since the building was completed. But the congregation no longer owns the facility. In 2002, the property was deeded to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is based in Dallas. The campus currently serves as the Seminary’s J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies.
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Park Place Baptist
PARK PLACE APARTMENT FIBERFEST Workers from Inland Environments will be taking “extra precautions” with the demolition of 4 apartment buildings at the corner of Park Place and Telephone Rd., the mayor’s office promises. There’s plenty of asbestos to go around in the Park Place Apartments at 7410 Park Place Blvd., but the buildings, which have been sitting vacant for 20 years, aren’t considered structurally sound enough for the asbestos to be removed. A bankruptcy filing by the owner last week delayed the city-ordered demolition, but it’s now scheduled to begin at 9 this morning. Update, 2:10 pm: Now there’s video! And the dust is flying. [Mayor’s Office; previously on Swamplot]
PARK PLACE APARTMENT DEMO PARKS IN BANKRUPTCY COURT “Not so fast on the daily demo report,” cautions a reader. There’s been a last-minute delay: Park Place Apartments owner Rodolfo Yannarella has thwarted city attempts to demolish the complex near Long Dr. and Telephone Rd. by going to court this morning to declare bankruptcy. The 43-unit complex at 7410 Park Place was tagged with a police demolition order in February. A representative of council member James Rodriguez says his office will “continue to work with the Mayor’s Office, Neighborhood Protection, and the Legal Department to move forward to demolish this nuisance in the community as soon as possible.” [Swamplot inbox; previously on Swamplot]
DOING THEIR LEVEL BEST Latest poster child for the approximately 9,000 abandoned, vandalized, or dangerous structures the city is working bit by bit on demolishing: the 43-unit Park Place Apartments at 7410 Park Place Blvd., near the corner of Long Dr. and Telephone Rd. in southeast Houston — which neighbors say has been vacant of paying tenants for at least 20 years: “More than $84,000 in back taxes is owed on the property, according to the Harris County Tax Assessor Collector.
Owner Rodolfo Yannarella, 67, said he fell on tough times and wants more time to get a loan so that he can repair the place, which he called his last chance for retirement.
‘It is very Draconian,’ Yannarella said of a Houston police order earlier this month that it be leveled. ‘I plead with you, I want to repair this property. It is my only future,’ he said moments before he was told the building would have to come down.
Five years ago, the city delayed demolition and gave him a chance to fix it up. He claims he was making progress until Hurricane Ike ripped it further apart in 2008 and he fell ill. Then, thieves ripped apart the walls and ceilings in search of copper piping and wires, he said.” [Houston Chronicle]
Are you getting the sense that some properties on the market in the greater Houston area are priced a little . . . inappropriately? Then you’ll enjoy the brand new feature Swamplot is trying out. We’re calling it the Swamplot Price Adjuster.
Which properties will Price Adjuster feature? Ones you send in!
Here’s how it works: Send your nominations to Swamplot in an email. Make sure to include a link to the listing or photos. Tell us about the property, and explain why you think it’s worthy of a price adjustment. Then tell us what you think a better price would be. (Unless you request otherwise, all submissions will be anonymous.)
Swamplot Price Adjuster will feature the best submissions, and allow readers to comment on and quibble with the property’s pricing.
Does this sound like an interesting idea? Good, because we’ve already received our first Swamplot Price Adjuster submission, and it’s waiting for your proposed adjustments:
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A reader tells us that the Harold Farb Apartment Homes sign at the Broadway Square Apartments hasn’t been taken down yet, but it has been hooded — with a new temporary fabric covering identifying the apartments and new property manager Pinnacle.
Photo: David Beebe
The last of the Harold Farb apartment complexes has been sold. Cypress Real Estate Advisors, an Austin firm, bought the Nob Hill Apartments on North Braeswood and the West Point Apartments on Woodway last December. And Post Investment Group, an LLC out of LA with some NYC backing, just closed on Farb’s Broadway Square Apartments just north of Hobby Airport.
David Beebe, who’s just posted his own account of the southeast-side walking tour he took with John Lomax last month, has a few comments about his stroll along Broadway:
The [trees] throughout this neighborhood are mature and beautiful. They are, for the most part, oaks. This is a big difference between the Harold Farb pioneered Hobby Airport area and the Frank Sharp designed Sharpstown. If [Sharp] had been as pro-active about tree planting his nighborhood would look more like this. The architecture and age is about the same.
. . . and on the Broadway Square Apartments, which Farb built in 1975:
His apartments here on Broadway are still the best looking of the entire area’s- French Victorian style, but without falling off shutters and with better built and ornate wrought iron railings and kempt landscaping.
There’s been no announcement about it, but the iconic signs along Broadway showing a silhouetted Farb wielding what appears to be a roll of blueprints are likely to be replaced. Globe St.‘s Amy Wolff Sorter reports that Post Investments is planning a $2.5-million renovation:
Work will begin in two months on the 182-building complex and take 1.5 years to complete, according to Jack R. Ehrman, Post’s acquisitions director. The lion’s share of the tab will be used to replace 90% of the roofs.
Photo of sign at Broadway Square Apartments: David Beebe
Houston’s lone professional tourists, John Nova Lomax and David Beebe, stop off at the Brady’s Island in the Ship Channel midway into their latest day-long stroll . . . through this city’s southeastern stretches:
The air is foul here, and the eastern view is little more than a forest of tall crackers and satanic fume-belching smokestacks, sending clouds of roasted-cabbage-smelling incense skyward to Mammon, all bisected by the amazingly tall East Loop Ship Channel Bridge, its pillars standing in the toxic bilge where Brays Bayou dumps its effluent into the great pot of greenish-brown petro-gumbo.
While Brady’s Landing today seems to survive as a function room – a sort of Rainbow Lodge for the Ship Channel, with manicured grounds that reminded Beebe of Astroworld — decades ago, people came here to eat and to take in the view. This was progress to them, this horrifically awesome vista showed how we beat the Nazis and Japanese and how we were gonna stave off them godless Commies. As for me, it made me think of Beebe’s maxim: “Chicken and gasoline don’t mix.”
More from the duo’s march through “Deep Harrisburg”: Flag-waving Gulf Freeway auto dealerships, an early-morning ice house near the Almeda Mall, a razorwire-fenced artist compound in Garden Villas, Harold Farb’s last stand, colorful Broadway muffler joints, the hidden gardens of Thai Xuan, and — yes, gas-station chicken.
“There is nothing else like the Southeast side,” Lomax adds in a comment:
I see it as the true heart of Houston. Without the port and the refineries we are nothing. The prosperous West Side could be Anywhere, USA, but the Southeast Side could only be here.
Photo of El Torito Lounge on Harrisburg: John Nova Lomax and David Beebe