Reversing Historic and Planning Commission Rulings, City Council Approves a Bungalow’s Houston Heights Escape Plan

1815 Cortlandt St., Houston Heights

Relocation Map of 1815 Cortlandt St., Houston Heights to 1026 Lathrop St., Denver Harbor, HoustonHouston’s city council voted last week to allow the owner of the home pictured above at 1815 Cortlandt St. in the Houston Heights to move the 1942 bungalow to 1026 Lathrop St. in Denver Harbor. It was a notable decision, if only for the fact that the council was voting on a housemove at all. According to the attorney who presented the case for the homeowners, this was not just the first time that the council had overturned a decision from the city’s architectural and historical commission; it was the first time a historic-district appeal had even reached the city council.


The home had been moved once before, from 502 W. 20th St. in the Heights to its current location in the Houston Heights East historic district, in the 1970s.

Relocation Map of 502 W. 20th St. to 1815 Cortlandt St., Houston Heights

Earlier this year, the historic commission had twice denied the request of a previous owner to demolish the structure. The current owner wanted to relocate it, but that proposal was denied too, and an appeal of that decision to the planning commission was rejected. After arguing for the homeowners in front of city council, attorney Timothy Kirwin says he “detailed how city staff, the HAHC and the Planning Commission had failed to apply the city’s own ordinances correctly.” The owner plans to donate the structure and build a new home on Cortlandt St.

Photo: Randle Law Office. Maps: HAHC

A Moving, Historic Decision

16 Comment

  • This is kind of a big deal for historic districts in Houston. This may not work for the small-time folks that buy a home hoping to ‘tear it down’ by moving it out of the district; but no developer with pockets has missed the impact of this vote: if you can’t beat them, un-join them one house at a time.

  • Can anyone explain what’s so special about this house that it’s moving not once but twice? Why would anyone bother.

  • Typical Houston. Blowback of this decision could be a disaster for fledgling Historic Districts. I agree this house is nothing special, but the decision by the council is an end around to Historic Designation. You would never see a decision like this in an historical district in San Antonio or New Orleans; not even in Dallas. Sad day for Houston.

  • Wait, what? Look I’m not rabidly pro-historic district, but I thought the whole point of a historic district was to retain the structures in that specific area and protect that district from development out of character with the historic neighborhood. How does moving the house elsewhere vs. demolishing it have anything to do with preserving a historic neighborhood? If the house is a contributing structure, shouldn’t it have to stay right where it is?

  • Denver Harbor is a dump and the owner is simply donating/dumping this house over there since he/she can’t demo it.

  • If it is correct that this house was moved to its current location in the historic district in the 1970s, then I don’t see how city counsil’s vote sets any precedent except if anyone else wants to move another house out of a historic district, and that same house happened to have been moved into what is now a historic district back in the 1970s. Don’t start lickign your chops yet, Terry Fishers of the world.

  • @dag: I think the house is not so special, but someone wants to build a new house on the land under the house. That land is special because it is in a historic district, and that means the owner can’t tear it down. They will have to move it someplace less historic, where it can be torn down with ease.

  • @dag, perhaps a tax write-off for donating the house? That might help defray the cost of paying ~$350k for a lot, even if it is a developer-friendly 8,000sf lot.

  • @dag
    People bother to move houses because it’s cheap. Someone is getting a livable structure for probably 30k. I moved one from the Heights to Montrose 2 years ago.

  • Mel is right. This really doesn’t change anything. The developer was just able to sneak a bungalow out of town because it was not located in the historic district for more than 50 years. HAHC and the planning commission both looked at the age of the house, which was more than 50 years old. It is not the most architecturally significant bungalow in the Heights, but it is consistent with the existing architecture. The building that will replace it will probably be a craftsmonster boat that will fill the lot with square footage.

  • Problem is, there is zero enforcement on any of the historic districts. We don’t have any protections still in Houston. This particular scenario is Ellen Cohen putting her friendship with Sue Lovell above the best interest of the city. Sue Lovell is now a paid consultant for the builders and is behind the scenes pushing these kinds of things.

  • Once again, what limited protections there are in Houston are shown to be a sham.
    Continuation of business as usual even with the Historic District designations. Nothing can stop the smell of money.

  • Old School is partially, but not entirely, correct. The house, because it had been moved to the lot, was not original construction. Therefore, under the HAHC’s own rules, it is not a contributing structure. HAHC routinely allows partial demolition of add-ons. This was simply an entire structure added on.

    It doesn’t change anything with regard to the historic district ordinance, but it is a classic example of how HAHC simply ignores its own rules when it decides it knows better. In time, this out of control board will cause the repeal of the entire ordinance.

  • This will substantially undermine Houston’s few protected historic districts. Developers will jump all over this ruling.

    The individual house is not remarkable, but it is part of a neighborhood that is. When you take out one house, you punch a hole in the neighborhood. It’s like pulling a thread in a fabric. It’s just one thread, but keep pulling threads and eventually the fabric is ruined.

  • People that own things should be entitled to do what they want with them.

  • This house very little compatibility to other homes in the historic district. It didn’t originate in the district and it is missing almost all of its original materials. I think it was a mistake to have even been considered a contributing historic building in the first place. It seems like this was a unique circumstance and I commend city council for making the right decision!