Swamplot Street Sleuths: Something About Mary’s, Design Stalkers

Got an answer to either of these reader questions? Or just want to be a sleuth for Swamplot? Here’s your chance! Add your report in a comment, or send a note to our tipline.

  • Montrose: A reader wants to know if anyone has heard of any plans for the site of Mary’s Lounge at the corner of Westheimer and Yoakum — as well as the parking lot between it and Burger King. The famous Montrose club shut down last year.
  • Riverside Terrace and beyond: When strangers just love your style!

    My partner and I are renovating our house in Riverside Terrace, and the other day a well-mannered gentleman rang our doorbell requesting our permission to photograph our house. While we’d like to presume that his request was a compliment that our hard work is paying off, we didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of a stranger snapping photos of our house. Not knowing his true intentions, we politely declined.

    Otherwise who knows where your stuff would show up?! So . . . what’s the question?

    However, I know that applications such as Google Street View capture images from the public domain and make them readily available via the internet. Are there any restrictions to what we can or cannot photograph in Houston?

Photo of 1022 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox

51 Comment

  • My understanding is that if you are in a public space, you can photograph anything you like. There may be restrictions around military installations or FBI buildings, though.

    That said, many policemen and security guards believe that there are severe rules against taking photographs in public places, and will hassle you (or worse) if they decide you are breaking the imaginary laws against photography that exist in their minds.

  • A long time ago my wife and I met some cousins of hers at Transco Waterwall. We wanted to set up a tripod to take a group photo and a security guard came running over to tell us “no tripods.” We could handhold all the pics we wanted, and he was happy to take a picture of all of us, but we couldn’t use a tripod in the park. This was probably early 90s at the latest. I guess they were really worried about unauthorized commercial photography. Of course the waterwall park isn’t really public, just OPEN to the public.

  • Yea. You can stand on the sidewalk and snap away. The whole “Get off my lawn” demand ends at the property line.

  • Yep, beat me to it. Anyone can take a picture of your house from a ROW – it is nice of them to ask, though.

    This is a handy general reference:
    http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

  • I have some inside connections on the old Mary’s. I’ll hit them up and see if anything is happening.

    Last I heard it was being purchased/leased again and will become a new Montrose hangout paying homage to the original, but that was about two months after it closed.

    The problem with Mary’s is that is became more of a place for hustlers and drug deals and drove away many of the customers and kept new ones from coming. Outside of a few special events throughout the year, many of the regulars from the early years go to other places.

    I’ve been there 3 times in my short time in Houston (10-years). Twice were during the Pride festival. The other time was a charity event.

  • kjb434,

    I’m curious to know the story on Mary’s as well. Last I heard they took it off the market but not sure why. Also, I believe the parking lot adjacent to Burger King is owned by someone else an that could potentially be an issue for whomever wants to purchase Mary’s site since I imagine they would want to own or control the parking lot as well.

  • You are right about the parking lot. It wasn’t officially parking for Mary’s.

    It’s weird how people clamor to want to preserve theatres, but an institution of the Montrose gay nightlife could disappear forever without much discussion or fight.

    Bill White’s graffiti ordinance made sure the mural on the side that faces Burger King wouldn’t be able to exist anymore. That made the owners pretty mad too.

  • A number of years ago, maybe 15, I was home from work one day and looked out a window to see a car parked across the street and a woman standing on that sidewalk taking photos of our house and/or the next door neighbor’s house.

    I walked outside and asked her why she was taking photos and she refused to answer. She quickly got in her car and sped off. I later learned that she was probably a realtor, taking photos for comparisons.

  • The problem with Mary’s is that is became more of a place for hustlers and drug deals and drove away many of the customers and kept new ones from coming.

    ________________________

    Became? You must not be a native Houstonian. And definitely never went to Mary’s much. And apparently never went to the bathroom when you did.

  • I’ve been there 3 times in my short time in Houston (10-years). Twice were during the Pride festival. The other time was a charity event.
    ____________

    Sorry. Didn’t see this until it was too late. During “public events” things tended to be a little reserved.

  • As for photographing, whatever you want as long you aren’t photographing through a peephole. Or photographing me.

  • Idiots. They were just seeing if anyone was home before they robbed the joint. Nobody wants to take a picture of your house. Sorry.

    Now, Mary’s being closed so long is just sad. I think they still have the Halloween decorations up…

  • I’m afraid montrose is correct. They were casing the joint. Here in the heights I’ve had several similarly weird encounters. Thirty-something-year-old guys shouldn’t be knocking on my door in the middle of the day looking for their “buddy Joe who used to live here”. This house has been in my family for over thirty years and no Joes were ever here.

  • Matt Mystery says
    “Became? You must not be a native Houstonian. And definitely never went to Mary’s much. And apparently never went to the bathroom when you did”

    Oh God if the next thing you say is that you taught foot tapping signals to the old troll representative from Idaho, the last piece of the puzzle will be solved.

    Kjb34,
    Why would anyone in the public at large care about some trashy bar (gay or otherwise) closing to make a battle cry to preserve history? It served a very small portion of the population–did anyone rush to save the Roll N Saloon on San Felipe?

    I say bulldoze the place and all the DNA that must be there and let the archaeologists have a heyday in the year 2310.

  • Why would the graffiti ordinance prevent a property owner from painting a mural on the side of a building?

  • Oh God if the next thing you say is that you taught foot tapping signals to the old troll representative from Idaho, the last piece of the puzzle will be solved.
    _____________________

    Actually I never set foot in Mary’s. Or the Roll N Saloon. And I don’t associate with politicians. Even, or particularly, in airport bathrooms.

  • Melanie,
    Although the bar was trashy, it served as the oldest and longest open gay bar in Houston. It’s Houston’s version of Stonewall. There’s a good documentary of Montrose that the local PBS station aired that really illuminates Montrose in it’s early days as the “gay” neighborhood besides the rest of Montrose’s history. Mary’s was a part of that.

    Ross,
    As for the graffiti, the owners were told by the city that they must paint over the mural because it ran afoul of the graffiti ordinance. If any of you remember the mural, it depicted a busy bar scene with men making advances at each other and kissing. The owner’s guess is some of the “new” residents in the area complained a lot about it and pushed the city to force Mary’s to paint over it. Since the bar isn’t really central to the gay scene anymore, there wasn’t much care about it until after it was painted over, which by then was too late.

  • kjb34,
    Blah blah blah. Anyone who has lived in Inner Loop Houston for years knows what the place was. It isn’t worth preserving anymore than some re-sale clothing boutique that passed its prime or a Hollywood Convenience store that may decide to fold up shop. Just because it was gay doesn’t give it landmark status. Are you going to clamor to preserve the dude’s living room that started the Diana parties?

  • As usual with “historic” buildings, there’s always far more sentiment than action.

    Not that it matters anymore, but blame the owner(s) of Marys for letting it slide, for not chasing out the riff raff, for not keeping it interesting and new customers coming in the door. That didn’t happen surreptitiously overnight, it was years in the making.

  • Mary’s like the original Charlies will just fade into the past. Though do sincerely hope the Tower fairs better. Montrose is vastly different from the 80′s and 90′s I remember, for better or for worse. I have a feeling about the only area “club” people would really rally over would be numbers..

  • Blah blah blah. Anyone who has lived in Inner Loop Houston for years knows what the place was. It isn’t worth preserving anymore than some re-sale clothing boutique that passed its prime or a Hollywood Convenience store that may decide to fold up shop. Just because it was gay doesn’t give it landmark status. Are you going to clamor to preserve the dude’s living room that started the Diana parties?
    __________________________

    Well obviously you didn’t live in Montrose back when it was. And want it the way you want it. “It’s MY neighborhood now…”

    You really should move to Southampton if you haven’t already.

    People took the same attitude about Westbury Square. And years later lamented its demise. Those little stores along Westheimer, particularly along “antique row,” are very much a part of our history along with Mary’s and the restaurants that are still there including Felix’s which hopefully will be “reincarnated” at some point. Our history. Obviously not yours.

  • Mary’s like the original Charlies will just fade into the past. Though do sincerely hope the Tower fairs better. Montrose is vastly different from the 80’s and 90’s I remember, for better or for worse. I have a feeling about the only area “club” people would really rally over would be numbers..
    ____________________________

    Some people remember Katz’s was once a “gay” restaurant called Art Wren’s where everyone would go to “see or be seen.” And usually be seen by a cop and stopped and asked if they were cruising for sex. I was stopped once. I was tempted to say “well, not with you.” But thought better of it. Simply because they liked to bash people’s heads in back then. And got away with it. The cops loved to watch for the teenagers and loved to harass them. And also loved to write down their license plate numbers and call their parents. To warn them that their children had been seen in Sodom and Gomorrah and were headed to hell. Ah, Montrose. Such memories. Particularly for those who were just curious about Sodom and Gomorrah.

    I would suspect most of the “yuppies and guppies” have Numbers on their list of clubs to go. Right after everything on Pacific Street.

    The guppies are the worst. Their goal is to turn Montrose into a gay Southampton.

  • Pacific street is for the regulars that go for happy hour or want a neighborhood bar feel in Montrose.

    Jump over to Fairview (Crocker, George), Ralph (EJ’s), and Richmond (Michaels Outpost) to find those places for local gay happy hour.

    If you’re in the Heights, hit up Shepherd where you’ll find “In and Out”.

    Don’t forget Tony’s on Dallas which has cool view of downtown.

    Houston’s gay bar scene is like the city, spread out and offers something for everyone. You can even hit up the gay bar in the Woodlands and Humble if you live in the northern suburbs.

  • Oh and let’s not forget Sybil Leek and The Cauldron which as I recall was in the same building as Charlie’s. Now that was a horrible time for the cops. Checking license plate numbers and finding the latest “freaks” were primarily from River Oaks. Ruined their “Friday Night Fun” let me tell you. And then of course she bought a house in West U and moved The Cauldron to the Village. And drove the West U cops nuts as well. Bash the wrong head in and you’re toast, you know?

    Such memories. Sybil wanted to put in a pool. The neighbors protested. Thought she was going to use it to sacrifice vestal virgins. As if there were any. Particularly in West U.

    She got tired of the more pretentious ones and moved back to Florida. Her observation of Houston was it reminded her of a karmic cesspool.

    She seems to have been proven right as the years have gone by.

  • Houston’s gay bar scene is like the city, spread out and offers something for everyone.
    _____________________

    Yes but the bars in Montrose just have a certain “allure” the others don’t. Maybe the slight sense that despite it all the cops may come rushing in, batons in hand, just like in the good old days…

    The biggie was The Farmhouse on Albany. Maxine Mesinger was a regular on Sundays for the drag shows. One of the other regulars was usually in the back seat of a patrol car. But not with handcuffs on. Shocked everyone when she married the son of the police chief. Who apparently thought she was a vestal virgin.

  • Those are the stories I would love to have in a book!

    I have some friends that lived here during that time and always have good stories of the past.

    If I could write well, I would work on putting it together.

  • The Sybil Leek karmic cesspool quote, Southampton bashing….all we’re missing is some Annise Parker criticism and we’ll have the Matt Mystery Swamplot trifecta!

  • I only criticize Annise Parker on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    One of my cats likes her. So she isn’t all bad.

  • As for Southampton it reminds me of what’s now called Little Holmby in Los Angeles. Once known as Westwood. The pretentious ones who couldn’t afford Bel-Air or Beverly Hills and certainly couldn’t afford Holmby Hills moved to Westwood. And decided to call it Little Holmby. As if.

    Maybe we will soon be calling Southampton “Little Oaks?” Little oaks with big egos.

  • I miss Houlihans on the Lowest of Lower W’heimer.

    I want to thank them for letting this (then) 15-16 yr. old inside to buy/drink beer and watch Shake Russell, Eric Johnson (w/the Electromagnets) and Nanci Griffith.

    Did the same @ Carnaby’s and Damian’s (were they on Jackson?) There was once a great bungalow/beerjoint circuit in Montrose that didn’t give a damn about gender preference, just good music and beer.

    I’m very glad Anderson Fair exists (and hope it always does) but not the same vibe – the crowd acts like it’s a chamber music festival. I’m afraid to scrape my chair on the floor, lest the noise police….
    Still a gem of a spot!

    BTW, Lelia has expanded Rudz on Waugh.
    An amazing, versatile place w/ good pub fare. Ear plugs for upstairs recommended when the bands crank up!

  • In the old, old, old days we all had fake drivers licenses. That’s off-the-record of course.

    Montrose always had the “best” nightspots. Ernie Criezis’ daughter Trina had a club in a house somewhere. It’s been so long I can’t remember where but I think it was in this new “historic district” and that house certainly would justify an historic designation. If walls could talk…

  • I think it’s a little dramatic to think of Mary’s as our Stonewall. We just don’t have a gay landmark like that. And if we do, and it’s Mary’s, yikes.

    It’s not like Houston of today has any shortage of gay bars. There are more where it came from.

    That said, I’m always sad when I drive by Mary’s and see it in its current, sad state.

  • And we’ve come full circle to one more yawnfest in the form of a diatribe about Southampton. How refreshing. Can we PLEASE get the Neighborhood Guessing Game back????
    I beg of you O’ Blogmeister!!!!!

  • Mary’s has ALWAYS been about the hustlers and drug deals. For at least the last 35 years.

  • Tex,

    I guess the gay clientele has wanted better atmosphere then.

    Mary’s customers and trash has pretty moved to TC’s (formerly Cousin’s). The 611 and EJ’s are holding their fare share also. Other bars generally try to kick them all out.

    As for drugs, you can find that in any bar anywhere all the time. I can spot a drug dealer in bar pretty easily. It’s kind of sad I can direct friends to the person when they want something in Montrose. Some bars have dealers that work in shifts (a happy hour guy an a night guy). Even if I meet my straight friends out for a drink at the nicest establishment, you can find a dealer. It’s all kind of sad, but it’s reality. Also, most of the users today are professionals anyway. Since it seems more and more prevalent, it makes you wonder how bad are they really?

  • The next issue of Cite is about 60 and 70s counterculture. Some good info about Mary’s (though not its future), Montrose, and the evolution of queer space in Houston. It would be a good time to join RDA or subscribe — https://securews.rice.edu/rda.rice.edu/cite/index.cfm

  • I stop and ask permission just as a courtesy, knowing permission is not needed as long as I am not standing on their property. I am a design stalker so when I ask permission, I will explain my reasons and tell them where I live in the hopes of eaasing their minds. It is a compliment. Believe me, those with nefarious agendas won’t ask.

  • For nostalgia’s sake, I think a plaque should be put up at the Old Plantation….excuse me – Admiral Linen.

  • Forgot to add that the most memorable thing for me about the Mary’s mural was good old Mr. Balls perched on his usual barstool. :)

  • per Matt Mystery’s post 22 and Art Wren’s Restaurant.

    I don’t know exactly when it first became popular but one of my co-workers (at the time) was asked to leave there because of her behavior. I never got the whole story about the incident but she used to joke about it whenever the subject came up. She was straight but may have been ‘acting out’ as she was prone to the dramatic.

    This was somewhere between ’66 and ’69.

  • Udunno, thanks for naming the ’70′s clubs on and near Lower Westheimer. I’ve been trying to remember what they were called! Those were the places for us under-age kids who were desperate to escape suburbia and have a well-behaved good time eating out, listening to music and imbibing less-than-legal beverages. You could park in one place and then wander the clubs and restaurants for hours.

  • per Matt Mystery’s post 22 and Art Wren’s Restaurant.

    I don’t know exactly when it first became popular but one of my co-workers (at the time) was asked to leave there because of her behavior. I never got the whole story about the incident but she used to joke about it whenever the subject came up. She was straight but may have been ‘acting out’ as she was prone to the dramatic.
    ____________________________

    Or maybe she was “having a little fun making fun” of the other patrons? As I recall, that usually was what got you bounced out on the sidewalk. Other than that, well, everyone was welcome. The food, by the way, was as good as the show.

    The real “scandal” of the time was the transsexual, transgendered today, who went from man to woman and became a lesbian. That was before “whatever makes you happy.”

    Westheimer. Back in the day. It was just Westheimer. When you said you were going down to Westheimer, everyone knew where on Westheimer you were going. And it was a show. But lots of fun. Very “bohemian.” Few realize it but that is where Tootsie’s began. Just a shop selling “vintage clothing.” The appeal of Art Wren’s was it was open 24 hours. Many wandered in quite innocently. But came back. For the food. And the show. And the, well, fun of just being around really “normal” people that no one else at the time considered normal.

    All of Montrose was fun. Something for everyone. Until the yuppies and guppies arrived.

  • Maybe if all of you “bohemians” or whatever you want to call yourselves actually didn’t let Montrose run down into a glorified dump, then the “guppies and yuppies” would have gone elsewhere. Preach your trite class warfare crap to someone who gives a damn.
    In case you don’t get it, Matt Mystery, people grow up, move on, die, etc….and nothing ever stays permanent. I’m sure there are those who would say that you bring down whatever neighborhood you live in.

  • Melanie:

    Bear in mind that the young bohemians that lived in most of Montrose at the time did NOT actually own the real estate.

    They lived there because rent was cheap. It was also cheap in the Heights but that area was not nearly as much fun.

  • Preach your trite class warfare crap to someone who gives a damn.

    _______________________

    Melanie you really should move to Southampton.

  • Hey kjb434 do you or anyone have the contact for the owners of Marys building and or the lot next door? I am having a hard time finding it on HCAD

  • The May family owns the property at 1018 Westheimer. If you look at the associated map for that address, it seems to incorporate the property at 1022 also.

    There is much information available on this land if you visit the Harris County Clerk’s web site. Real Property records as well as Probate records.

  • One of the problems with that property is that there are at least 75 confirmed sets of human cremains (ashes) spread on the property. That fact has to be disclosed to any potential buyer, and it may well scare most of them off.
    Considering the presence of human remains, someone can’t just go in and scrape the lot. The process involves the Texas Funeral Service Commission and a whole mess of other issues that will have to be resolved before the property can be redeveloped.

  • Ags Win,

    Does this really apply to ashes?

    Does the city have get approval from this commission before making our drinking water from Lake Houston after ashes have been scattered out there?

    It would be a different story if there was an actual grave site back there.

  • As I recall if ashes are interred in a cemetery they are protected under applicable laws just as bodies are. If they are spread in a public place, well, they have merely completed the biblical cycle of dust to dust.

    You’re not really supposed to spread the ashes in a public place but many do.

    I’m not sure anyone could be charged with anything. Except maybe littering although I suppose they could claim in court they were fertilizing.

    As for spreading the ashes in a private place like a patio at a club, the same principle would probably apply. If they buried the ashes in urns, well, legally they wre not interred since Mary’s was not a cemetery.

    As for spreading ashes in Lake Houston, I would rather have traces of sterile ashes in my drinking water than rotting corpses no one has found yet.

    There was a private cemetery on Wynden off Post Oak in Tanglewood that everyone forgot about when Wynden became “chi-chi” and the remains had to be interred elsewhere before the land was developed. Supposedly they were. But in Houston, well, you never know.

  • Would Matt Mystery or anyone be able to tell me exactly where Sybil Leek’s Cauldron was located in Rice Village and in Montrose?