Preserving Houston’s Unsentimentalism

PRESERVING HOUSTON’S UNSENTIMENTALISM Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown HoustonWhat Houston should be preserving for future generations, Scott Vogel ultimately argues in his editor’s note for the latest issue of Houstonia, is its glorious legacy of demolishing its own past. But first, there are a few annoying bastions of sentimentalism to, uh, tweak: “To me, any one of these adorable recollections seemed reason enough to save a building from the wrecking ball, or rather the explosive charges that ultimately reduced Macy’s née Foley’s to rubble over a few seconds last September. After all, why shouldn’t our descendants be able to see where Barbara, a member of the commentariat, had purchased a ‘going-away outfit’ for her wedding in 1972? Wouldn’t their lives be somehow diminished for not beholding, as John C. did, the ‘tight corkscrew ramps leading up and out’ of the Foley’s parking garage? Would they ever forgive our insanity for demolishing the place where Cody ‘actually bought our living room furniture’? The last two plaintive cries were uttered over at that other Bayou City Book of the Dead,, where there is an inverse relationship, science tells us, between an agitator’s outrage over a proposed bulldozing and the number of times he has actually visited/shopped at the spot during the last decade. A club open to only the most radical, militantly preservationist of internet do-nothings, Swamplot is a place where the closing of the Barbara Jordan Post Office downtown occasions the tearing of hair and rending of garments. (“We got our passports renewed there one Saturday—no line, in and out in 15 minutes!” “I’ve been going there every year for decades to send off my Christmas cards!”) Amid all the hand-wringing, I found myself growing nostalgic too, for the negligent, squandering, unsentimental, destructive Houston of old.” [Houstonia] Photo of Barbara Jordan Post Office: CBRE

20 Comment

  • 1. This guy wrongly believes that every post reminiscing about the past when a demolition is announced on swamplot is necessarily a post opposing said demolition. A lot of us are just older and like reminiscing. Swamplot is our collective Lazyboy Recliner that we sit on and tell our yarns of yesteryear to the collective unconscious of the internet. It keeps us from annoying our coworkers.
    2. This guy also cherry picks recent teardowns that were not the best examples of architecture in Houston. No mention of the comments on the demolition of the Bullock Mansion or other great structures that have been mowed down.
    3. “[A]club open to only the most radical, militantly preservationist of internet do-nothings.” Swamplot commenters are not all radical, militant preservationists. We are definitely do-nothings. But the author is actually getting paid to comment on us. So, don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
    4. The article/rant presumes that all preservation sucks. But many of the City’s best parts are well soaked in historic preservation. The superblock on Main Street downtown would not be what it is today if it got demolished and replaced with a bunch of office towers. 19th street in the Heights would just be Cinco Ranch Jr. if Harolds got demoed and the rest of the shopping district were taken down and replaced with strip malls. Preservation is a very nuanced and difficult issue and not a simple for it or against it fight with dumb fuddy duddies on one side and super cool hip magazine writers who office in a well preserved 1902 mansion in Houston’s historic Heights neighborhood on the other side (oh, those hipsters just can’t stop with the irony, can they).

  • oh man, this is going to be a good one…

  • The internet: the most efficient echo-chamber.

  • How interesting that this comes from a magazine housed in a historic district residence that has removed all the landscaping to make a tract of gravel. When history was “hipster” they moved into the Heights, but the vision of the Heights they are promoting along with Revival, Hugs and Donuts, etc. is very frightening.

  • Can I change my name to Radical Militant Do-Nothing? I’m not much a preservationist, but I do nothing with a frightening level of zeal.

  • Houstonia is still a thing? How cute!

  • So, basically Scott Vogel is an unrepentant dick who would rater kowtow to Houston’s destructive nature than admit that some buildings are worth saving, even if they aren’t “historically significant.” Yes, we hate to see buildings that held memories for us be razed. But there’s an awful lot of wanton destruction of perfectly fine Craftsman bungalows, Art Deco apartments, MCM office buildings and other structures that get replaced with crappy townhomes and unimaginative office suites that aren’t even built as well as their predecessors. Every time Houston tries to reinvent itself by erasing its past, it loses a bit more of its soul. Boy, did he ever pick on the wrong “internet do-nothings.” Let him have it, Swamplot!

  • Old School’s comment about Harold’s in the Heights makes me think either he’s being intentionally ironic or his old-school-ness dates back fewer than 10 years. Kaplan’s Ben-Hur torn down for an apartment complex, anyone?

  • What a tired fool. Does one only have to see something to appreciate its value? What about the value of service, scale and convenience. Perhaps one who has never sent or received a package can’t understand a purpose other than simple architecture to preserve a building.

  • Meh. “Demolition is in the eye of the beholder’s pest control” whatever. I noticed today the CSV on Alabama/Shepherd is now open. And for the record: I have never been there!

  • Hey y’all, Katharine here from Houstonia Magazine. The editor’s note this month was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. We are obviously not anti-preservationist; we office out of a historic Victorian home at 447 Heights Blvd. (feel free to come by and say hello!) and, after all, the cover story for this issue was dedicated to preserving and remembering Houston’s history, much of which has been lost to the forces of progress and which pains us as native Houstonians. Hope this helps anyone who was confused about the tone of Scott’s editor’s note or anything else about the magazine itself.

  • I’m glad Scott’s mom cleared that up.

  • Well, I just want to say, feelings and memories do matter.
    So, since we have the camera and the cloud, we no longer need to keep old things around.

  • Enjoyed this sentimental article from Houstonia

  • MarkD, you win the internet.

  • Nice to see that Mr. Vogel is a Faithful Reader of Swamplot.

  • What is your point, GoogleMaster? I have to list every tear down in the Heights in order to make a simple point about 19th st. Losing Kaplan’s Ben Hur was said, but it was the loss of the family run retailer that was the real significance. The building had no architectural significance and was blocks away from the 19th street retail corridor. The demolition of the Ashland Tea House was far more significant in terms of architecture and 19th street.

  • Is this payback for our backlash against their attempt at making “Tampico Heights” a thing?

  • i hurt myself i laughed so hard just now at markd’s burn

  • I’m famous! I’m famous! I’m paraphrased from the internet into a medium for dilletantes to look for their society photos in!