City Playing Musical Blocks with Downtown Houses

Yesterday was moving day for 2 unusual Downtown buildings: The 1905 Cohn and 1904 Foley (above) houses cattycorner from the George R. Brown Convention Center. Leftover single-family homes from an area once known as Quality Hill and now strangers in the land of skyscrapers and stadiums, they’d be notable Downtown residents even if they weren’t designated historic structures. The city is moving them across the street and a block closer to Minute Maid Park, where they’re intended to become add-ons to a mysterious Regional Tourism Center proposed for the 600 block of Avenida de las Americas. According to plans flashed at the last public meeting for the Downtown/EaDo Livable Centers Study, this new building dedicated to Upper Texas Gulf Coast vacationers would face the westbound light-rail line along Capitol St. and sit at the bottom of an unidentified residential tower:


Also gittin’: the 1919 Southern Pacific 982 locomotive that’s been hanging around the same block for the past 6 years — to a new home at 611 Chenevert, where it’ll eventually get to watch its more mobile successors chug along the new East End Line.

Sitework for a “major redevelopment” of Avenida de las Americas scheduled to begin next year put the 2 homes at risk, a spokesperson contracted by local-government corporation Houston First tells Swamplot. And the land has already been sold out from under them — to noted Downtown blockbuyer (and former city council member) Louis Macey. According to the master plan for the convention center, Macey’s property is identified as a “potential site” for a 1,000-room hotel. Or some sort of residential project, with retail space on the ground floor.

Photos: George R. Brown Convention Center

11 Comment

  • I always wondered about those houses! carefully moved, maintained and given signage…
    I say Whatever & Halleluja: I’m just happy to see that Houston has a plan for them.

  • That’s great! Passed by those this weekend and figured I would see a post about them. How they move structures is amazing!

  • I hope the “potential site” is residential. Downtown needs more residential first if its ever to become more than just offices where people go to work.

  • I still grieve that no one was able to save the “Witch’s Hat House” from years ago. Glad they are saving these.

  • Move a house here ,tear a house down there. Tear down more old houses; Houston rarely preserves its old structures. The erase history mentality run rampant . These former houses are a rarity. I agree with Larry Dierker. Downtown NEEDS more housing. But the market forces will dictate high rise living.

  • “Regional Tourism Center” sounds like some high-placed county/city/state official’s step-brother needed a job. Why don’t they just cram these structures in at Sam Houston Park?

  • Patrick, these weren’t houses so much as they were sculptures of houses. They were moved there a number of years ago and have never been occupied as residences at that site. They were never intended for occupancy.

  • TheNiche: Are you talking about the two houses in the post? They actually were occupied houses — the last remnants of a residential neighborhood that used to cover that section of downtown. They had been slightly moved before, but were still more or less on their original locations, where they had been occupied for many years.

  • One Sunday morning I met a man downtown who asked me what there was to do. He seemed to be from some South American country. I had little to offer except a blank stare, because, who comes to Houston to be a tourist?

    This new center won’t change that, any more than Beaumont’s big fancy regional visitor center on I-10 will make people want to check it out.

  • Spoonman – don’t know if they’re open on Sundays, but in general, you could send him over to the Heritage Society for the old houses – I may be a bit pedestrian in my tastes, but I’ve always found them fun.

    Then again, I’m always befuddled when my husband’s family comes in from Boston or New York and is eager to go to the Galleria. Apparently, that’s enough of a tourist destination for some people…

  • @ Jim: We’re on the same page, but my point stands.