The owner of this 1930-ish former gas station and duplex bungalow at 3500 White Oak Dr. in the Houston Heights Historic District South plans to tear down the 2 structures and build a single-family home on the 8,800-sq.-ft. site — likely facing the side street, Cortlandt. Last week by a vote of 12 to 6 Houston’s planning commission reversed the decision of the archaeological and historic commission, allowing the demo to go through. The HAHC had denied the owner’s demolition request in November, insisting that the structures could be rehabbed. But experts hired by the owner indicated that the underground gas tank beneath the station couldn’t be removed without demolishing that structure, and that redevelopment of the duplex would be “cost prohibitive.”
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THE NEXT BIG EVENT PLANNED FOR THE ASTRODOME WILL BE A WASH When was the last time anyone bothered to clean the exterior of the Astrodome? Long enough ago to merit media coverage for word that the Dome’s caretakers have now decided to do something about the building’s growing exterior grunge. The Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, having presided for 15 years over the former sports stadium’s steady decay, is about to embark on its first notable Dome maintenance operation since firefighters used fans to blow smoke out of the building in the aftermath of a 2011 transformer fire in the vacant facility. With approval from the Texas Historical Commission, reports Fox 26’s Mark Berman, the agency will award local building restoration and pressure-washing practitioners Green Team Services $63,800 to clean the outside of the structure. [My Fox Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Green Team Services
TRICON HOMES STILL TRASHING THE JOSEPHINE Demolition crews turned the Josephine Apartments into a dusty pile of rubble yesterday (as seen in Swamplot’s on-the-spot report), but Tricon Homes cofounder Tristan Berlanga threw in a little trash-talking of his own about the condition of the 2-story Art Moderne complex, which went down in a heap, original steel-frame windows and all: “This, in fact, was a building in very poor structural condition which would have been practically impossible to save, both for safety and economic reasons,” he says to the Chronicle’s Erin Mulvaney. He goes on to tell the reporter he doesn’t like to see buildings demolished, especially those with “architectural or historical significance,” but appears to lay blame for the building’s demise on a lack of city regulation: “Most cities have zoning laws and designated historical areas that help preserve buildings like this,” he says. “Without that, it is hard to do more . . .” Tricon plans to replace the 8-unit building from 1939 with 4 new townhomes, which are still being designed. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
The 75-year-old art moderne brick steel-windowed structure at 1744 and 1748 Bolsover St. known as the Josephine Apartments is coming apart in a cloud of (watered down) dust this morning. The 8-unit structure at the corner of Ashby St. 2 blocks north of Rice University was designed in the late 1930s by architect F. Perry Johnston, but demolished by contractors under hire by Tricon Homes, which purchased the property earlier this year.
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Boulevard Oaks Rubble
BUYERS WILL RESTORE WEINGARTEN MANSION, EXPAND KITCHEN, CALL IT HOME The owner of a offshore-drilling-rig fabricating company in Baytown and his wife, a real estate agent, have bought the former Weingarten mansion at 4000 S. MacGregor Way in Riverside Terrace — and they’re announcing plans to restore the property with the help of architect David Bucek, whose firm was responsible for the redo of the Menil house. Darryl and Lori Schroeder tell Nancy Sarnoff they plan to live in the 1935 home and “keep as much original as we can” — but that apparently doesn’t mean holding the kitchen to its current size. Darryl Schroeder tells Sarnoff they bid full asking price, or $2.25 million, for the decaying estate designed by Joseph Finger for grocery-store magnate Joseph Weingarten. MLS records appear to show he’s being a bit modest, however: They record a sales price of $2.75 million, or $500,000 over the asking price. (The discrepancy might otherwise be explained by the Schroeders’ additional $500,000 purchase of the 1.58-acre property next door at 3932 S. MacGregor Way, though that property was listed separately.) Readers hoping the 4.73-acre property might one day find its way into the hands of the neighboring University of Houston, possibly as a house for a future president, take note: The 68-year-old president of Lone Star Energy Fabricating is a UH alumnus. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HAR
COMMENT OF THE DAY: RAILROADED “Southern Pacific (not Union Pacific, as one writer claimed), demolished this station in 1959. Critics may blame Houstonians for failing to rally and save the building, but the fact is that the modern architectural preservation movement didn’t start until the early 1970s, and even my architecturally hip home town of Chicago let some classic beauties like Louis Sullivan’s Stock Exchange slip away before public sentiment for preservation began to build. The first downtown railroad-station preservation-restoration project did not take place until 1973, when the Southern Railway’s vacant Terminal Station in Chattanooga was transformed into a restaurant and hotel complex.
If anybody has any photos of the interior of the SP station in Houston I would like to examine them for a book I’m writing about what happened to each of the big downtown stations in North America. SP’s Houston Station was designed by Texas’s most celebrated architect, Wyatt C. Hedrick, who also designed the Shamrock Hotel, the T&P station in Fort Worth, and dozens of admired hotels, factories and commercial buildings. Photos of his T&P station are all over the Internet but SP demolished his Houston station before anyone had a chance to make any good photos.” [F.K. Plous, commenting on The Secret Train Station Hidden Downtown] Illustration: Lulu
The city of Pasadena is likely to go ahead with the sale of the Corrigan Center at Shaw Ave. and Pasadena Blvd., which includes the once-grand Capitan Theater, to a New Jersey oil-industry inspection and lab-test company called Camin Cargo Control. Under the $4.6 million deal, already approved by city council once earlier this month in a 6-3 vote, the city would lease back the 31,982 sq. ft. of the property — the parts currently occupied by fire department administrative offices and the city’s municipal court. The lease-back wouldn’t include the long-vacant 1,500-seat art deco theater.
But a reader tells Swamplot that decorative pieces from the front of the 1949 theater — which after an exterior renovation looked pretty spiffy until recently (see photo at right from last year) — have already been removed. “The marquee boards, neon, and the whole vertical metal section that said “Pasadena” are gone, leaving just brick behind it,” Spence Gaskin writes. “The marquee stuff had been gone a few weeks at the least, but I just noticed the Pasadena sign removal.”
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When Houston First and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership announced the complete redo of the former Sunset Coffee building (also known as the International Coffee Company building) at Allen’s Landing last year, they meant it: This pic posted to the Houston First Facebook page doesn’t make it look like there’s a whole lot left — beyond columns and floors — of the 1910 structure parked off Commerce St. between Main and Fannin, but it does allow better glimpses of the Harris County Jail across the bayou through the cleared-out floors.
Following a design from San Antonio architects Lake Flato, the $2.5 million renovation project is scheduled to be complete a year from now. The finished structure will include canoe and kayak rental space on the ground floor facing the bayou and office and event space above. Here’s a rendering of the same from-the-bayou view:
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Seeing Through the Redo
HIGH FIRST WARD HISTORIC DISTRICT GETS CITY COUNCIL HIGH FIVE The High First Ward is the newest historic district in Houston, having been voted in by a 12-5 count of city council members this afternoon. The stringy selection of 55 lots (pictured at right), marked down from the original 149, includes properties along Spring, Shearn, Crockett, Summer, White, Silver, Sabine, and Colorado streets in the First Ward, west of Houston Ave. and south of I-10. According to tweeting Chronicle reporter Mike Morris, a motion by council member Stephen Costello to redraw the district map in order to exclude a couple of properties was rejected by a 4-to-13 vote. [Twitter; previously on Swamplot] Map: HAHC
PROTESTORS AT DEMOLISHED SITE OF HISTORIC HOUSTON PROTESTS ENSURE REPLACEMENT STRUCTURE WON’T BE DEMOLISHED Responding to months of community pressure and protests, postal service officials today reversed course from an earlier announcement and said they will neither close nor move the Southmore Station Post Office. In March of 1960, 13 college students marched from the campus of Texas Southern University to the Weingarten’s Grocery at 4110 Almeda St. to conduct the city’s first sit-in, at the store’s whites-only lunch counter. The nonviolent protests, which lasted for weeks, led to the desegregation of all city lunch counters just a few months later, and steady movement toward the desegregation of all city facilities. The Weingarten’s building was quietly demolished sometime between 1995 and 2002 (judging from aerial photos of the site); the post office was built in its place. A plaque commemorating the sit-in, erected in 2009, stands on the sidewalk in front of the replacement building’s parking lot. The city still has plans to close or relocate the University, Greenbriar, Julius Melcher, Memorial Park, and Medical Center Station facilities, but no final decisions on them have been announced. [The Houston Advocate] Photo: Defender Network
The city’s historic commission voted 6 to 1 yesterday to give its approval to a new High First Ward historic district — but it’s a considerably smaller district than the proposed one area property owners squabbled over and then voted on in February. The colors in the map above show the city’s tabulation of the results of that vote. The dashed lines show the original boundaries; after the ballots came in, the city’s planning director redrew the boundaries so that the district would be in an area where at least 67 percent of the owners supported the district. Of the 55 tracts in the new district, 37 owners voted to approve it, 10 opposed it, and 8 didn’t return survey cards (which counts as a “no” vote). to the count, Next and final stop for the proposed district: A final vote by city council.
Map: HAHC (PDF)
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE HISTORY WAS “. . . The loss of historic architecture does not mean that the area is no longer historic; however, signs could be posted that say something to the effect of, “this historic area used to contain significant architecture that was so undervalued that it was demolished to make way for new, soon to be historic architecture.” [Higher Density, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Kickerillo Down] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT SHOULD A NEW BUILDING IN A HISTORIC DISTRICT LOOK LIKE? “There’s good and bad in historic preservation. The best historic preservation differentiates between neighborhoods and buildings. At the neighborhood level, there are strict strict controls on lot subdivision, building heights, setbacks, tree preservation, and sidewalks – so that new construction fits in the urban fabric. In Paris, France, you can design a totally new and modern building on a boulevard, as long as it continues the street wall and meets the mansard roof setbacks of its neighbors. (At least, it’s how it was 20 years ago when I was studying architecture in Paris.)
For certain historic buildings, there are strict requirements for style and color and all of that. But it doesn’t extend through the whole historical neighborhood. Unfortunately, the differentiation seems lost here in the States. In other cities (New York in particular) they strictly control the details of any building that gets built in a historical district. It’s a real pain in the ass for the architects, and expensive for the owners.” [ZAW, commenting on Tiny Starkweather Becomes Houston’s Second Outside-the-Loop Historic District] Illustration: Lulu
A collection of a couple dozen or so bungalows along E. 31st 1/2 St. between Yale and Cortlandt in Independence Heights just a block or so north of the 610 Loop is the city’s newest historic district — and perhaps the one with the most colorful name: Starkweather. The subdividing of the neighborhood predates the establishment of Independence Heights as an actual independent city in 1915, but most of the homes were built between the late 1920s (when the city was annexed by Houston) and the 1940s. They were originally marketed to the African American community in the neighborhood. Here’s a map:
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THE HOBBLED DOME MAKES HISTORY Psssssssst! Don’t tell anyone, but the Astrodome was quietly listed on the National Register of Historic Places earlier this month. That means some future use for the almost-50-year-old structure might qualify for a few federal and state tax breaks, and that permits for mining coal on the property now might be a little more difficult to obtain. Also, there’ll likely be some sort of plaque. [National Parks Service, via Anna Mod; more info; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Russell Hancock