10/12/18 11:45am

Spotted on the Instagram story for a not-yet-open venue calling itself The Gypsy Poet: TABC signage going up where it plans to move into Core Church Midtown‘s former home at 2404 Austin St. It’s the fifth liquor-purveying establishment planned for the block — bounded by McIlhenny, Austin, McGowen, and Caroline streets — in the past year-and-a-half, none of which are open yet. But which together have now succeeded in reserving almost all of the space there for themselves.

According to its pastor Jim Stern, Core Church had been negotiating to move into a smaller spot at the back 2404 when the landlord tabled that option and switched its current lease over to a month-to-month agreement. Shortly after, in mid-February, the church was given 60 days to hit the road. It left in mid-March. “I am wondering if we were ‘pushed’ out because of the bars,” Stern tells Swamplot.

Photos: The Gypsy Poet (sign); Core Church (Jim S.)

Change Comes Knocking
05/22/18 11:30am

Salem Lutheran Church has plans to expand its current religious and pre-K–8 school campus, which sits just over 2 miles west of Hwy. 249 in Tomball. The idea: to develop roughly 100 acres adjacent to its existing facilities, adding new school structures and landscaping behind the pond-front church building shown in the photo at top, taken from above Lutheran Church Rd. The parking lot pictured on the left would also be enlarged, and a new complex of athletic fields would abut it to the south.

The master plan also includes not only these additions, but also a 73-lot residential area to the far west:

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Live, Learn, and Pray
05/09/18 4:30pm

Construction broke ground in March on America Gardens, the star-spangled first venue Syn Hospitality has planned as part of a 4-bar complex dubbed Midtown Common it’s developing on Caroline St. And already, Core Church Midtown has fled the block and taken refuge in the CrossWalk Center, a 2-story structure in the Near Northside. Formerly home to Employment Training Centers Inc., it’s on N. Main 3 blocks south of Quitman — next door to Label Warehouse’s building — and houses a facility that assists convicts recently released from jail.

The 5,000-sq.-ft. now-vacant strip center in Midtown had been home to the church since 2016. When the neighboring construction wraps up, America Gardens and its 3 planned accomplices — Don Chingon, the Social House, and Wishful Drinking — will abut the empty building’s west side, as indicated in the map below:

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Midtown Common
04/20/18 5:00pm

During- and after-school views east across Oakdale St. show the 4-story, Gensler-designed school building that First Presbyterian Church plans to build adjacent to its current one in the Museum District. The new building is tucked into the pie slice of streets and parking lots north of the MFAH between Montrose Blvd. and Main. It sits on 2 vacant lots totaling just under one fifth of an acre in the loop formed by Oakdale and Pinedale streets. Catty-corner to it is the existing First Presbyterian School’s driveway — visible at the bottom of the daytime view above.

A sliced-open view from the building’s backside shows its lobby fronting the existing pre-K-through-8 school:

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Museum District
04/04/18 4:00pm

Exterior renovations are nearly complete on the 39,213-sq.-ft. building Houston’s First Baptist Church took over from a local branch of the Communication Workers of America on the corner of Jefferson and Chenevert last year. The new location is number 4 for the church — existing worship centers include the flagship spot on the Katy Fwy. just outside 610, as well as other sites in Cypress and Missouri City.

Crews began whitewashing the brick walls adjacent to the curved entrance drive along the building in January:

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Downtown Christening
03/23/18 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AMID DEMOLITION, SOME SOJOURN HEIGHTS CHURCH PARTS FIND SALVATION “. . . We couldn’t find a taker for the limestone. I’m not a mason, so I’m not sure what turned so many off from it when they came to look at it. I know one flaw is that it was quarried with inconsistent thicknesses throughout, which made it not an ideal candidate for paving stones and challenging in vertical applications. We would rather it have been reused, just couldn’t make it happen. We were, however, able to salvage most of the steel windows that were in good shape from the building to be repurposed. Hopefully that brings you some good cheer. They’re beautiful windows.” [Scott, commenting on Churchyard Excavator Now Breaking Down Walls Between Sojourn Heights’ Current Home on Aurora and Its Soon-To-Be Sanctuary] Photo of windows salvaged from demolished building on Sojourn Heights campus, 608 Aurora St.: Joe Meppelink

03/20/18 12:30pm

Crews are now digging a hole through the middle of the Sojourn Heights church campus off Gostick St., south of Aurora in Sunset Heights. The rendering above looks west across Gostick to show the fenced-off lawn that will eventually grow in place of the demolished building. The new green space is bookended by renovated street-fronting structures and backed by a smaller addition that’s planned on the far west side of the just-over-an-acre church property.

Before the takedown got started yesterday, the complex consisted of 3 buildings that lined Gostick:

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Prayer Semi-Circle
02/27/18 4:45pm

14 PEWS’ SURPRISE NON-ENDING On her way into a new job as executive director of a larger church-turned-arts center in Portland, Cressandra Thibodeaux appears to have had a change of heart. Which means 14 Pews — the microcinema and performing arts venue that picked up where the Aurora Picture Show left off 8 years ago — will not be closing any time soon. The original movie house at 800 Aurora St. took over the building from the Sunset Height Church of Christ in 1997 and hosted screenings, plays, workshops, and art exhibitions there (as well as a few weddings and memorial services) before turning it over to Thibodeaux in 2010. Since then, programming has continued along those same lines — even as audiences anticipated the venue hitting the market in mid-Februrary. With that plan scrapped, Thidobeaux writes: “We are now teaming up with community leaders to curate several film series, as well as talking with other organizations about bringing unique festivals to Houston.” [14 Pews; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Ed Schipul [license; modified from the original]

09/29/17 4:00pm

Continuing arrangements set up for the Jewish New Year last week, families from the nation’s largest Conservative synagogue will assemble this evening and all day tomorrow for Yom Kippur services at the nation’s largest megachurch. Congregation Beth Yeshurun’s own facilities have been unusable since the synagogue on Beechnut St. — on the other side of the West Loop from Meyerland Plaza — took on as much as 4 ft. of water after Hurricane Harvey.

The interfaith arrangement was brokered initially by Congressman John Culberson. After receiving extensive criticism for not opening its doors to flooding victims immediately following the first Harvey storms, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church eventually served as a shelter for as many as 450 evacuees. For Rosh Hashanah services last week, Lakewood arranged for a rotating slide show of 40 high-resolution photos depicting portions of Beth Yeshurun’s damaged sanctuaries to be displayed on the 24-ft.-by-12-ft. Jumbotron behind the stage of the 16,800-seat former Houston Rockets basketball arena in Greenway Plaza.

Photos of Rosh Hashanah services in Lakewood Church, in front of projected image of stained glass from a Beth Yeshurun sanctuary: Lakewood Church

Your Best Yom Kippur Now
07/20/17 5:30pm

A Sunday field trip earned a reader a peek into the main sanctuary of the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral, now being cracked open so a dome can be placed on top (along with more seating down below). The renderings of the planned changes, shown here facing the corner of Kipling St. and Yoakum Blvd., have been updated since they were submitted last year for that variance request application:

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Montrose Revelations
06/02/17 12:45pm


The partially ruined former Jefferson Davis Hospital nurses quarters at 1225 Elder St. — until very recently in the running for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places — was recommended for demolition at last week’s Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting following a public hearing the day before. The building, tucked west of the elevated freeway tangle where I-45 splits from I-10 near Downtown, would have joined the nextdoor former Jefferson Davis Hospital itself on the historic registry — instead, it looks like the structure will finally meet meet the ‘dozers after its long slow decline, accelerated by damage from a fire in 2013 that lead to last year’s semi-collapse.

Next door, the 4-story hospital structure (built in 1924, and replaced by 1938 with another Jefferson Davis Hospital where the Federal Reserve building now stands on Allen Pkwy.) cycled through various modes of use and disuse until its early 2000’s restoration into the Elder Street Artist Lofts, which serve as low-rent apartments and studios for artsy types. That redevelopment, of course, involved carefully digging around the dozens of unmarked graves turned up on the surrounding land, which beginning in 1840 had served as the second city cemetery (and as the final resting place for a hodgepodge likely including  Confederate soldiers, former slaves, victims of the 1860s yellow fever epidemics, people who died in duels, Masons, and a variety of others). The hospital’s name is still carved above the lofts’ entrance:

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First Ward Fire Damage by HFD
05/30/17 12:00pm

Catty-corner to the southwest of the area’s newest self-storage midrise, the block at N. Shepherd Dr. and Nett St. housing Bethel Church is now broadcasting plans for a mixed-use development from several large signs standing around on the property. A couple of readers reported the new decor from various angles late on Friday (including the one above, which includes a glimpse of finally settled, named, and opened FM Kitchen + Bar on the former Alva Graphics lot across the street). The church’s 1.48-acre block (bounded by Durham Dr. and Center St. on the other 2 sides) hit the market last summer, and looks to be getting wrapped into the Hunington development fold.

The conversion of the church property would put a mixed-use development right next to the Azure Apartments midrise currently going up right across Durham:

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N. Shepherd Conversions
05/16/17 4:15pm

Last month Dominion Church International, the church most recently inhabiting the triangular block at Dallas St. and Telephone Rd. holding Eastwood’s former Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, finally sold the land after putting it up on the market last August. A couple of readers tell Swamplot that Nextdoor is abuzz with the claim that Mir Azizi‘s company Caspian Enterprises, which bought the property, plans to turn it into some sort of lofts or apartments. Caspian does have something of a habit of splitting up old buildings into residential units; a permit for some interior wall teardowns in the church was issued last month, but no formal announcements have been made about what the site’ll become.

A document filed with the county transfers the rooftop lease to the new owner for that T-mobile cellular relay visible atop the church’s belltower); Caspian has already gotten permission to knock down the complex’s parsonage, however:

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Eastwood Relay
04/10/17 11:30am

Bible Days Church, 501 Quitman St., Near Northside, Houston, 77009Bible Days Church, 501 Quitman St., Near Northside, Houston, 77009

Bible Days Church, 501 Quitman St., Near Northside, Houston, 77009Showing up on the market this month, just in time for Easter: a couple of buildings and lots belonging to Bible Days Revival Church, formally located at or around 501 Quitman St. in Near Northside. The church gives 1935 as the construction date for at least one of the included structures up for grabs, which sit on a block along the northern light-rail line next to a formerly Exxon-branded gas station. Along with the sanctuary, the new listings include a few multifamily structures and empty lots: 

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Come Into the Light-Rail
01/18/17 2:30pm

Spire Houston in former First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002

Spire Houston in former First Church of Christ, Scientist, 1720 Main St., Downtown, Houston, TX 77002Steeple-themed nightclub and Swampies also-ran Spire is now up and running in Downtown’s converted First Church of Christ, Scientist at 1720 Main St., following last winter’s covert purchase by the group running Clé bar. The remodeled Mod space officially opened last weekend and is currently advertising upcoming events on a marquee along Jefferson St., including a Playboy-sponsored pre-Super Bowl party (scheduled against the Taylor Swift concert at temporary 3-story nightclub Club Nomadic, among other goings-on).  Other upcoming Spire events include this weekend’s Waka Flocka Flame concert and the VS vs Fredericks Lingerie Contest scheduled for next Wednesday.

Some promotional photos from the club provide a few views of the former altar (above, with a view of the original for comparison), as well as the added balconies and new seating arrangement possibilities in the main sanctuary:

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Downtown Conversions