Demos appear to be ready to commence on a good-sized swath of Independence Heights surrounding Booker T. Washington High School at 119 East 39th St.
“Seems everything between Yale and Main is about to be bulldozed… an entire neighborhood vanishing,” writes a reader. “It’s really kinda spooky looking — like an abandoned ghost town”:
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ANOTHER IMPORTANT HISTORICAL SITE IN HOUSTON THAT DESERVES RECOGNITION The account may be a tad more florid, but Harbeer Sandhu’s satirical tale of an inmate-turned-entrepreneur’s plan to create a Houston museum dedicated to the private prison industry is only slightly more bizarre than the true story behind the birth of the Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s largest for-profit prison operator, in the still-operating Olympic Motel at 5714 Werner St. (less than a half-mile down I-45 from Gallery Furniture). Fences, barbed wire, and iron bars went up on the former hot-sheet motel in early 1984 to create the world’s first for-profit private prison, a detention center for 87 undocumented immigrants. Much has changed in the private prison industry since those humble feeder-road beginnings, where several detainees were able to escape by dislodging the air-conditioning units and climbing out through the holes. [Free Press Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photos: Harbeer Sandhu
A collection of a couple dozen or so bungalows along E. 31st 1/2 St. between Yale and Cortlandt in Independence Heights just a block or so north of the 610 Loop is the city’s newest historic district — and perhaps the one with the most colorful name: Starkweather. The subdividing of the neighborhood predates the establishment of Independence Heights as an actual independent city in 1915, but most of the homes were built between the late 1920s (when the city was annexed by Houston) and the 1940s. They were originally marketed to the African American community in the neighborhood. Here’s a map:
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GIGGLING CO-FOUNDERS OF NATION’S LARGEST PRIVATE PRISON FIRM RECALL HIJINX BEHIND THE CONVERSION OF HOUSTON’S OLYMPIC MOTEL TO IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTER And that motel is still standing, says a rep from Corrections Corporation of America; you can drive by the history yourself at 5714 Werner Rd. — just north, incidentally, of Independence Heights. Of course, the motel doesn’t seem to be taking reservations; the phone has been disconnected. But if you can’t book a room in the building, you can watch these fellas — CCA founders Tom Beasley and Don Hutto — reminisce about it. Though CCA’s practices have been called into question recently by Grassroots Leadership and Hair Balls, you wouldn’t know it from the fondness with which Beasley and Hutto tell the story of flying to Houston on New Year’s Eve in 1982, seeing the motel sign, and fixing up the place for the INS. It was quite a turnaround: Just a few weeks later, on Super Bowl Sunday, Hutto says, the facility was open, processing “87 undocumented aliens” its very first day. You can watch the video here. [Hair Balls; Grassroots Leadership; CCA] Video still: CCA
The finishing touches are being put on this somewhat totemic new building at the ReUse Warehouse site in Independence Heights. This one’s built on the concrete slab and with the steel beams of the old Public Works machine shop here at 9003 Main St., downcycling that building’s roof for use as its ceiling. It’ll serve as office space for Solid Waste Management staff; it’ll also house a workshop to process donated materials (usually the leftovers from new builds and the salvaged stuff from demos) and feature a recycled-art gallery. Zen T. C. Zheng reports that the building should be ready to go by June.
Photo: Allyn West
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ART THAT EVEN A BANKRUPTED DEVELOPER COULD MAKE “It’s actually a field of sewer hookups that never grew into being the apartments (presumably) that they were meant to become. The Art Guys simply appropriated the site for an afternoon to be a sculpture. It’s what they do.” [Robert Boyd, commenting on Headlines: Parking Meters on Washington Ave; Census Finds 812 Missing Houstonians] Photo: The Art Guys
COMMENT OF THE DAY: AND LIVING THERE WOULD DRIVE ME HALF OUT OF MY MIND “I pity the homeowner who has to enter ‘1513 1/2 E. 32nd 1/2 St.’ into any online form where they try to verify an address, or, god forbid, describe it to someone over the phone.” [j, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Double Barbecue Toast]
After taking in this weekend’s open house at the thriving shipping-container art colony ensconced in Stephen and Thedra Cullar-Ledford’s Independence Art Studios at 419 Janisch Rd. between Shepherd and Yale (above), fine-arts hound Robert Boyd pokes around a few more streets in Independence Heights — and finds a lot more art lurking in the neighborhood’s big lots. Boyd writes: “I think we can say that this is a little hidden art neighborhood. And if it follows the pattern of other art neighborhoods like Montrose and Rice Military, in 25 years or so, it will be full of expensive townhomes.”
Photos: Robert Boyd. Sculpture: Jonathan Clark
RECYCLING HOUSTON BUILDING PARTS A new city-run Reuse Warehouse that’s been open for just 2 weeks at 9003 N. Main St. (just north of Crosstimbers) is designed to reduce the amount of excess building materials dumped into landfills. The warehouse accepts donations of extra building materials, and offers them for free to nonprofit organizations. What can you donate? “Cabinets, copper, doors, electrical fixtures and equipment, fans, flooring material, glass, gutters, hardware, lighting, lumber, metal, mirrors, pipe, plumbing, plywood, roofing material, screens, sheetrock, sinks, showers, trim, tubs, wall coverings, or windows” but no paint. “More than one-third of the waste stream in the Houston area is made up of construction and demolition material.” [Green Houston, via Hair Balls]