10/10/16 1:00pm

DEEP: SeaspaceDEEP: Seaspace

To cap off a series of Houston-landmark-linked performances carried out over the past few years, Karen Stoke’s dance company will put on bayou-and-space-themed DEEP: Seaspace at Hobby Center the weekend after next (that’s October 20th through 22nd). Stokes, whose previous work includes that well-timed dance about flooding in Discovery Green right after Memorial Day last year, tells Swamplot she has been mulling over appropriately grand Ship Channel choreographies since at least 2003, when she cut a related section from her piece Hometown with plans to tackle the topic later in greater depth.

On the list of historical places given a nod in the choreography (or in the short film to be shown during the live performance): Ship-Channel-side spots like the site of Santa Anna’s capture near the San Jacinto battlegrounds (the historical marker for which is located along Federal Rd. where the Washburn Tunnel crosses under the waterway); Allen’s Landing in Downtown; and the area around the former Willow St. Pump Station (just north of where White Oak Bayou meets Buffalo, by the Harris County Jail) — that spot is shown below, with dancers placed for atmosphere:

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Industrial Art
08/30/16 11:15am

Allen brothers' Houston sales ad

It’s that time again — Houston’s birthday celebration, observed traditionally on the anniversary of the publication of the Allen brothers’ newspaper ads offering land for sale in the area in 1836. Among the more eyebrow-worthy claims put forward by the founders: that the “beautifully-elevated” area (depicted nestled amid a clutch of towering hills) was already the site of regular steamboat traffic (the Laura wouldn’t make the first steamboat run up the sandy twists of Buffalo Bayou to Allen’s Landing until the following year), and that the area “[enjoys] the sea breeze in all its freshness” and is “well-watered” (that part, at least, is likely undisputed).

The ad text also claims that “Nature appears to have designated this place for the future seat of Government,” though Lisa Gray suggests this morning that a few well-timed gifts to members of the newly-minted Texas Legislature may have been responsible as well. Gray writes that the city hosted the Texas government from 1837 until the legislators, tired of the heat and mosquitoes, voted to move elsewhere in 1839.

Here’s the ad in its entirety, as it appeared 180 years ago today in the Telegraph and Texas Register:

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And Many More
04/22/16 11:00am

900 Commerce St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

A charrette will be held at 9AM tomorrow for anyone interested in entering the design competition for the American Institute of Architects’s new Houston chapter headquarters, to be located at 900 Commerce St. across from Spaghetti Warehouse.  After being outbid on the blue mod Christian Science church on Main St. back in January, AIA and Architecture Center Houston are instead purchasing around 8,000 sq. ft. of space in the 1906 B.A. Reisner building, adjacent to the storied Bayou Lofts occupying much of the block. Part 1 of the competition will solicit ideas only for the 5,400-sq.-ft. storefront, 2,200-sq.-ft. boiler room, and some connections between the spaces; teams making it to round 2 will win a bit of cash and be asked to create detailed designs for the storefront and the building’s facade.

The view of the Reisner building above was snapped from Commerce looking south; below is a black-and-white shot of the building from further east across Travis, taken back in the days of its early-1900s employment by Southern Rice Products Company:

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Rice Roaster Reimagining
03/08/16 2:30pm

Renovation of Sunset Coffee Building at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A shiny new cistern is now in place at the former Sunset Coffee building at Allen’s Landing, which Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston First have been redeveloping into an office-topped boat-and-bike-rental spot.  The 1910 coffee roasting facility has once again donned walls after moving past a Summer 2014 minimalist phase, and is currently decked out in a muted Café du Monde orange.

The no-longer-see-through structure is back to limiting the view from the Harris County Jail across the bayou (visible on the far right, above). A set of stairs are in place alongside the new cistern, along with railings around what appears to be the planned rooftop terrace.

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Nearing Launch at Allen’s Landing
01/22/16 11:30am

CELEBRATING LAURA DAY, AND THE CON THAT MADE THE CITY Packet steamer LauraOn this day in 1837 — according to Houstorian, Houston’s “loudest preservation group” — the packet steamer Laura shoved its way up Buffalo Bayou through sand bars and tortuous snags to Allen’s Landing in what is now Downtown Houston. The trip proved publicly for the first time that such a voyage was actually possible, though the Allen Brothers had already been promising as much to investors for months in their “highly exaggerated” advertisements of the new town. Houstorian teamed up with the Bayou Preservation Association last night to celebrate the grand con’s success; the now-annual Laura Day event took place this year at Public Services Wine & Whisky, housed in the 1884 Cotton Exchange Building at the corner of Travis and Franklin — just a few blocks west of the Laura’s purported landing site at the foot of Main St. [Houstorian] Historic photo of the steamship Laura: Houstorian

06/30/14 12:30pm

Adaptive Reuse of Former Sunset Coffee, International Coffee Company Building, Commerce St. Between Main St. and Fannin, Allen's Landing, Downtown Houston

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
04/28/14 11:00am

THE SWEET SMELL OF HOUSTON HISTORY Allen's Landing, HoustonEmbarking on a tour of Houston by means of a “site-specific narrative” created by 3 artists as part of the Mitchell Center for the Arts’ first CounterCurrent Festival earlier this month, critic Betsy Huete picks up her “survival pack” of a bottle of water, a Metro day pass, a phone charger, and a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer enclosed in a koozie, and heads to the first stop: Allen’s Landing. There she encounters one of the artists, Lacy M. Johnson: “Johnson suggested I begin reading the essays accompanying The Invisible City, a series of writings tied to specific coordinates within the city of Houston. I would have to read each excerpt at each location to fully understand the work. The writing tied to Allen’s Landing was a brief recalling of Houston’s history, starting with its birth as a settlement at Allen’s Landing and, eventually, a meditation on the city’s rabid desire to erase itself and rebuild, leaving a palimpsest of memory and history. As I descended the stairs overlooking the bayou’s lush greenery on that crisp spring morning, with an erect corporate sky line as backdrop to errant clothes and shards of glass, with the stink of urine-saturated concrete pervading my nostrils, Johnson’s statement could not have rung more true. It was beautiful.” [Glasstire] Photo: Scott Ehardt [license]

02/20/13 11:00am

The same architecture firm that transformed Wilshire Village into the H-E-B Montrose Market across town has been pegged to redo 1910 International Coffee Company Building (aka Sunset Coffee Building), resuscitating the derelict shell on Allen’s Landing into use as a Downtown tourist attraction and kayak rental shop. San Antonio firm Lake Flato submitted this drawing of the building at the coffee-with-cream-colored confluence of White Oak and Buffalo Bayou underneath Main and Fannin to Buffalo Bayou Partnership, which plans to begin the project in April.

Rendering: Buffalo Bayou Partnership