03/23/11 2:46pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: GO DISCO, DISCO KROGER! “’Stina – is there a petition or FB page or something for your effort? Can we also request a DJ booth, or at least a curated playlist for the sound system? Maybe get the King of Grief to do a few special Kroger Classic Club Hour sets?” [Nonsequiteuse, commenting on Discovered at Disco Kroger: Historic Disco Wall Print]

02/10/11 7:25pm

The city of Houston and the Cordish Company are “deep into negotiations” with Sundance Cinemas to take over the former Angelika Theater spot at Bayou Place, Steven Thomson reports. Robert Redford’s Sundance Group has operated 2 Sundance Cinemas since 2007 — an 8-screen complex in San Francisco and a 6-screen multiplex in Madison, Wisconsin. If Sundance does end up taking over the vacant Angelika space at 510 Texas St. and maintains all existing screens, it would tie with the Sundance Kabuki Cinema near Pacific Heights as the largest complex in the small chain. The company appears to have scaled back the aggressive expansion plans it announced 4 years ago, which included new theaters in Chicago and Denver. The Angelika Film Center closed suddenly last summer.


02/09/11 10:18am

CHANGING WITH THE TIMES ON NORTH MAIN “The Heights could certainly use a great drag revue,” concludes Katharine Shilcutt in her survey of the not-so-new restaurant at 4002 N. Main in Brookesmith, across Walton St. from Shipley’s Donuts: “Linda is the chef here at La Casa de Frida, a family-run place that’s been run by the same folks for 30 years on North Main. It was formerly Rico’s Cantina, then — for a very brief period last year — Rico’s Luchadores. That Mexican wrestling-themed concept didn’t pan out, so the family has now switched gears to a Frida Kahlo-decorated Tex-Mex cantina that offers Italian and Chinese food on the menu in addition to college ‘club’ nights on Fridays and drag shows on Saturdays.” [Eating Our Words] Photo: Swamplot inbox.

01/11/11 11:10pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE KEY TO THE CITY “Just what the heck is regionally appropriate in style for Houston? That is the most idiotic comment that I have heard. Everything about Houston is imported from someplace else in order replace or augment what is natural to Houston. This include the folks who have moved here over [the] last 150 years. Going back to the Allen brothers, the whole idea has been to cover up what Houston “Is” and make it into what is is not.” [Bubba, commenting on Comment of the Day: Importing the Right Look for Houston]

01/10/11 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: IMPORTING THE RIGHT LOOK FOR HOUSTON “Let me get this straight: we’re upset that an Austin-based store looks like it’s from Austin? Has anyone explained to Houstonians that a city 2.5 hours away is a helluva a lot closer to “regionally appropriate” than Tuscany or Greece will ever be?” [cooperella, commenting on Austin Powers the New North Montrose Whole Foods]

12/10/10 1:44pm

Back in August, Swamplot noted that a demolition permit had been purchased for the home at 306 E. Friar Tuck, the notable former estate of strip-mall king Jerry J. Moore. Moore’s chateau was a true Houston-style original. In other words, it wasn’t your usual pretentious imitation of some old building style from some faraway country; instead, it was an imitation at least reputed to have included actual original old French building parts transported from across centuries and an ocean or 2 to Houston, and reassembled here with great care and some semblance of appropriateness. All of which has over the years allowed the entire assemblage to gain a certain authenticity — you know, in that uniquely Houston way.

Moore died in 2008. In May of this year the home was sold at a much-discounted price of $3.75 million to — appropriately enough — the CEO of a firm that helps other companies outsource their business processes. But three months later, after the property popped up in the Daily Demolition Report, Swamplot was unable to confirm the extent of the planned demo. Sure, work was already taking place on-site, but the permit was broad, and different sources were providing incomplete and contradictory information about whether the new owner planned to demolish all, some, or simply minor portions of the structures on the lot. Now, the dust has cleared enough to give us a partial answer.


12/01/10 10:25am

Turkestanian-rug dealer Geoffrey Vaughan was the mastermind behind that strange sign posted a couple of years ago threatening a 10-to-14-story mixed-use building on the corner of White Oak and Oxford — right next door to the Onion Creek Coffee House. His latest project is a bit more modest: Getting a variance approved by the city tomorrow that will allow him to build a 2-story law office building a few blocks to the southeast at 409 Cortlandt, just north of 4th St. There’s another commercial building a block to the south, along the I-10 feeder, but there are homes directly around Vaughan’s site, which isn’t platted for a commercial building. To build one there he’ll need the approval of the planning commission.


08/26/10 12:16pm

Just what is it that gives this Sweetwater chateau that authentic French je ne sais quoi? Could it be the multipurpose wine room? The big-enough-for-giant-pancakes breakfast area? The Vince Young seal of approval? No telling if any actual chateaus were harmed in the making of this grand home, but that’s all likely ancient history anyway — this place dates from the last century!

Listed earlier this week for just under $3.5 million, this little cul-de-sac palace backs up to the grounds of the Sweetwater Country Club and packs in 4 full bedrooms and 3 full and 3 half baths — all in just 7,744 sq. ft. Many delights await you in this photo tour:


08/06/10 8:12am

Even Later Update, 1:05 pm: A city permit official tells Swamplot she’d assume from the way the permit is written that it covers the demolition of all 3 structures on the property. But the inspector who wrote the annotation can’t be reached today.

Later Update, 10:01 am: All right, this is a little weird, but we’re going to have to retract the confirmation below. A demolition on this site is scheduled, but it’s possible it does not include all the structures.

Update, 8:50 am: We’ve confirmed it. The entire French estate (well, this one) is coming down.

As one version of the legend goes, in the mid-1960s strip-mall mogul and multi-millionaire Jerry J. Moore had this 18th-century château disassembled and shipped from the French countryside to Friar Tuck Ln. in Houston’s Sherwood Forest, where it was painstakingly rebuilt, brick by brick. Except, of course, Moore wasn’t the home’s original owner by more than a decade; and 8 years ago when he first tried to sell it (at first for $18 million, then $12.5 million), the real estate agent was careful to describe the 3-story concoction as a miniature “residential scale” reproduction of the French mannerist Palace of Fountainebleau outside Paris, as envisioned by local architect Armon E. Mabry. Oh — and the little Memorial-ish palace isn’t made of brick, anyway. Its exterior is limestone.

But that’s limestone quarried in France, “assembled with precision by French craftsmen,” Martha Turner Properties agent Marlene Rhoden explained to the Houston Business Journal in 2003. And the slate roof tiles — those came from France too!

Whatever its old-world pedigree, the home received a demolition permit on Thursday. Whether that permit covers turning the entire 12,734-sq.-ft. estate into rubble or just the whisking away of its 26-car air-conditioned garage — where Moore stored a tiny portion of his considerable antique-car collection — public records don’t say. But no renovation work has been permitted on the property, and the sewer line has already been disconnected. 

Maybe the chateau is just being carefully packed up for a move to Phoenix or Atlanta, or a return trip over the pond? Nice try, but the demolition contractor hired for the job isn’t exactly known for his careful disassembly work.

It sure looks like this is it. How’d such a classic Houston real-estate legend come face-to-face with such a classic Houston ending?


08/04/10 6:43pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE’S MY FLORENCE NIGHTGOWN? “That closet – omg! – I could live in just that space! But the trouble with such thematic interiors is that your furnishings have to coordinate with it. Certainly none of your prized artwork could ever hang in there. You’ll probably feel your wardrobe isn’t quite right for the house. And your dumb dog doesn’t quite fit in either. (The cat under the pool table looks nervous.) It’s just too much stress to match your surroundings.” [movocelot, commenting on Huckleberry Tuscan: Unloading the New Farmhouse in Town]

08/04/10 4:43pm

This new concoction in Briardale, just steps from the corner of San Felipe and Sage, isn’t your ordinary farmhouse-themed Tuscan-style mansion. No, this home is loaded up with actual materials snatched from actual old buildings in Europe! Among the repurposed Yurpian booty: limestone floors and stone surrounds from France, 19th century doors from a palazzo in Florence, and an 18th century stone sink. Plus plenty of antique brick from Chicago. A stone-vault-like Powder Room affords a relaxed, yet secure environment for guest excretions.

Completed just last year, the home was built by Burton Construction — best known locally for its not-so-Tuscan work at CityCentre — for the family of the company’s founder, Brad Burton. But the Burtons are now ready to sell, if one of you is willing to cough up the $3.5 million asking price. Here’s what you get:


07/19/10 5:33pm

BRUSHING IN THE OLD EUROPE Art-school graduate, grinder, and faux finisher Michael Bise pays the bills: “Last week for instance, I found myself in front of an eight-foot tall, three-panel window (of which there were 18 total) brushing blue milk-paint (a sturdy, old-master-y kind of paint made from lime—not the kind used to flavor Mexican beers, but the kind used to dissolve dead hookers—and cottage cheese, the delicious curdled-milk treat), which requires three or four applications of slightly different blues, each layer requiring sanding before the subsequent application, with a final application which necessitates a vigorous once-over with steel wool, leaving your arms and face covered in a fine layer of blue lime and steel shavings and your nostrils crusty with black boogers. This process yields the rough equivalent of a tastefully aged barn door, on a barn next to a cottage in the French countryside, if the barn were to have a Bentley parked in it with the sounds of Aryan children splashing around in a nearby lap pool echoing off its rough timbers. The other mainstay of fauxing consists of creating an approximation of Venetian plaster on top of good old Texas drywall. This is about as labor-intensive as hanging and floating the drywall in the first place. The “Venetian plaster” is made out of standard drywall mud from Home Depot mixed with paint tint and a few secret ingredients to make it smoother and shinier. The key of course is in the application. My partner Joe and I have dubbed this well-guarded application secret “punch, punch, drag.” This is the same application process used in every Mexican restaurant in Texas, but, as in all things, the devil is in the subtlety of the details. Some clients prefer their plaster to approximate the walls of Castle Dracula while others, perhaps having read Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice (or maybe not), seek a subtler version of decay. Ultimately, whether wood, plaster, concrete, or beam, the most essential aspect of my job is making new stuff look old. It’s an amazingly stupid job when you think about it (and you don’t have to think very hard to realize how stupid it is). . . .” [Glasstire] Photo: Michael Bise

05/07/10 1:21pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: YE OLDE DYNAMO WAREHOUSE SOCCER STADIUM AND EMPORIUM, NIXED “. . . we met with the architects Wednesday before the game. Received assurances that the design will be modern and eye-catching. Someone suggested the possibility of sticking with the red-brick warehouse motif, and that was summarily dismissed. Not gonna happen.” [Nord, commenting on Dynamo Stadium Is Just a Sketch]

04/16/10 4:24pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW MUCH TO TURN IT TUSCAN? “It’s not even $8 million! Merely $7,999,000! I’d love to buy this place but I’m afraid I’d end up baroque.” [wilf, commenting on Deep Discount Madness Returns to Piney Point Village: Megamansion Now 60 Percent Off!]