BART TRUXILLO, 1942-2017 In 2006, the former brewery structure now hosting the Magnolia Ballroom was the first building in Houston to get protected landmark status — and was not the last, probably thanks in part to the life work of its restorer. Bart Truxillo bought the then-vacant building on the edge of Market Square in the late sixties, not too long before buying and restoring the crumbling Queen Anne Mansfield house in the Heights; both structures are now on the National Register of Historic Places. Truxillo later helped found what’s today known as Preservation Houston, and start the organization’s Good Brick Awards during the demolition-rich years of Houston’s first oil boom, as Lisa Gray notes today in the Chronicle; after years of work restoring historic buildings around town and serving a bunch of other history-minded groups, he died yesterday at age 74. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Magnolia Ballroom building on Franklin St.: Brewery Tap HTX
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN HOUSTON KEEPS ITS HISTORICAL RELATIONSHIPS STRICTLY PROFESSIONAL “Houston is a city of practical and economical people. Emotion does not drive the focus of our communities like San Francisco or New Orleans. If it is economical to refurbish an old establishment for modern luxury, Houston will do it. If neighborhoods neglect their historic landmarks for 20 to 30 years and have the institutions fall into disrepair, they will cost the tax payers in a time where our budget is upside down.” [Mr.Clean19, commenting on Until We Forget the Alamo Wasn’t Always Just a Tex-Mex Chain] Photo of melted Witch’s Hat, since restored: Claude B. Anello
UNTIL WE FORGET THE ALAMO WASN’T ALWAYS JUST A TEX-MEX CHAIN “Once you start erasing history, who knows where it ends?” writes Cort McMurray in today’s Chronicle, scripting out a taste of potential dystopian franchise future for Houston and Texas’s most prominent landmarks should that bill that would gut preservation rules across the state make it through the legislature this session. The problem with the bill, he argues, is that it “makes forgetting easy” — and “in a place with no patience for memories, no place is sacred.” Before launching into a scene depicting how the Alamo might come to be repurposed into imaginary family-friendly megachain Casey Dilla’s, McMurray writes that “using a broad, vaguely worded standard — just what does ‘widely known’ mean? — to address the question of what’s historically significant to a community is a little like rewriting Hamlet entirely in emojis: a lot of really important stuff is going to be lost. And we will be left with a state that’s little more than the affable hell of FM 518 at Highway 288, traffic and pavement and an endless supply of family-friendly chain restaurants, serving an awful pastiche of Tex-Mex.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Mural commemorating Peacock Records, the former home of which was demolished last month: Spectrum Audio
COMMENT OF THE DAY: CAN WE LAY TO REST THAT POSITIVE VIEW OF HISTORY? “If one of the Georges (or let’s say King George to round things out a little) happened to have been responsible for the destruction of some place — notable or otherwise, regarded as new or old at that particular moment in time — is that not an event deserving the adjective historical? Why must history be construed to reflect the addition to some facet of our tangible world, and never a subtraction from it? Is a repository of construction waste not historic simply because it lacks gingerbread affectations? If cemeteries can be historic, then why not a dump? . . . As a society, I think that we must acknowledge that the physical manifestation of our civilization is an ongoing work in progress. We should not mortgage our future to honor the past in this way.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: History is in the Eye of the Deedholder; previously on Swamplot] Photo of eroded grave in Olivewood Cemetery, ca. 2010: J.R. Gonzales
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HISTORY IS IN THE EYE OF THE DEEDHOLDER “Demolish your great aunt’s soup tureen! Every person wants to preserve her or his family history, yet is bonkers to bulldoze the neighbor’s. BS. All of it is Houston’s history — whether, or not, George Washington or George Bush slept there.” [movocelot, commenting on Texas May Demolish Your Local Preservation Laws] Illustration of demolished historic structure: Lulu
TEXAS MAY DEMOLISH YOUR LOCAL PRESERVATION LAWS Ever worry that Houston’s historical preservation rules are just too darn strict? Tired of having to wait a whole 90 days to go ahead and do whatever you were going to do anyway to that non-protected city landmark? A public hearing has been scheduled for next Tuesday in Austin on a state bill that would gut and restructure local historic preservation procedures across Texas. The bill, as Preservation
Houston Texas put it to VBX‘s Adolfo Pesquera last month, “clumsily attempts to impose a woefully old-fashioned ‘George Washington slept here’ standard of historical significance:” The measure appears to limit new historical designations to either 1) structures lived in by a famous person or 2) places where something “widely recognized as a historic event” happened. (Under that standard, the Astrodome might make the cut for Evel Knieval’s 13-car motorcycle jump.) Houston’s own District 135 rep Gary Elkins is the only sponsor of the measure, which would also require that any movements to designate areas of “historical, cultural, or architectural significance” get support from 3 quarters of the city council or the local planning commission. The measure also may put the final say on any proposed changes to a protected structure in the hands of a single “municipal official,” who will have 30 days to give a yea or nay. [Virtual Builder’s Exchange; bill here; previously on Swamplot] Photo of protected former home of August von Haxthausen at 2120 Sabine St.: HAR
YOU TOO CAN BE THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF OBSCURE HOUSTON HISTORY YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD Got questions about early Texas drinking culture? Looking for info on Houston’s most prominent Bulgarian philosophers? Need to know who took the photos sketched in around that famous map of 1869 Downtown? All this and more is now archived for your online perusal in the Houston History Alliance’s new Handbook of Houston, which went live yesterday. The HHA (which the handbook says was established after then-mayor Bill White started looking for ways to make Houstonians care about the city’s history) says it had been tossing around the encyclopedia idea since 2008, but finally got a grant from the Houston Endowment to work on it with the state’s historical alliance in 2015. The initial launch includes about 1,300 articles; you can browse them all here, or help write more of them yourself. [Houston Historical Association via Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of new-ish street tiles styled after Houston’s historic ones: James Glassman
The removal of the “Right Store Right Price” sign tacked onto the side of the Kroger at 239 W. 20th St. briefly revealed long-buried evidence of the building’s long-hidden relationship with Weingarten, a parking lot cruising reader notes. Yes, that Weingarten (which currently owns the shopping center): the company’s account of its own history notes that the Weingarten family started out in the grocery biz, then got into real estate to build its own stores. The company dropped supermarkets altogether in the early 1980s and went into real estate full time.
By mid-afternoon yesterday, the newly unearthed traces of the company’s former association with the building had already been beiged out:
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
Uncovered on W. 20th
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ON HAVING YOUR ART DECO STRIP CENTER AND EATING IT, TOO “’Everybody wants walkability, but nobody wants density’ is the urban-planning equivalent of ‘everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.’” [Angostura, commenting on Where Weingarten Plans To Stab That 30-Story Residential Highrise into the River Oaks Shopping Center] Site plan of future highrise development: Weingarten Realty
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HIDDEN COSTS OF THE HOUSTON DEMOLITION REFLEX “I know nothing about this particular situation — but having seen some examples of this sort of renovation scene play out, I wonder whether there is a lot of anti-renovation bias that pushes the estimates beyond what they really need to be. I have family on the East Coast that have done renovations of homes built in the early 1800s. These were homes that at some point fell into disrepair and had pretty serious issues with wood rot all over, and expensive foundation issues. But there was never a second thought about tearing the building down, even though there was no historic protection in place. All the builders up there do historic renovations all day long and can price them reasonably. I think builders in Houston just do not have the experience and are afraid of taking on the job so they provide an astronomical bid to try to get the owner to tear down.” [Old School, commenting on River Oaks Mid-Century Preservation Turns Demolition, with Reincarnation In the Works] Photo of demolished to-be-rebuilt 2 Tiel Way: HAR
The remodeling permit issued last fall for 2 Tiel Way (shown above in its previous listing portrait) was augmented by a demolition permit at the end of January, as Diane Cowen reports in this weekend’s Chronicle. The 1960s house (designed by Karl Kamrath, like a few others of the not-yet-demolished original houses on the street) was bought last July after a 10-month stint on the market; Cowen writes that the new owners had planned to restore the home, but structural issues including uncovered termite and water damage boosted cost estimates to around twice the likely cost of a rebuild.
The house was torn down to the slab and fireplace late last month, and some of the interior redwood paneling and light fixtures were salvaged. The new home designed for the site will purportedly mimic the old one to a significant extent — here’s a rendering from Robertson Design, the architecture firm of the new owners’ son:
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
The front of Weingarten Realty’s Alabama Shepherd Shopping Center now sports some big dark blocks on its Shepherd-facing facade, Houstorian James Glassman notes in a drive-by of the scene this afternoon. The gradated yellow vertical fluting above the movie-theater-turned-bookstore-turned-sandbox-turned-grocery store’s marquee sign (which the city’s landmark designation writeup says is made of enameled steel) has been done over in a single swath of brown, matching the shade applied above the formerly tan Petsmart facade as well. Marketing materials on Weingarten’s website for the shopping center still show the old color scheme:
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
Trader Joe’s Trade
After a few years of mulling it over, the Texas Historical Commission voted this morning to give State Antiquities Landmark status to the Astrodome (formally known, the agency notes, as the Harris County Domed Stadium). About a dozen Houston buildings have the designation (which can also go to shipwrecks and archaeological sites); the status means that any attempts to “remove, alter, damage, salvage, or excavate” the Dome — a spread of activity which probably includes installing that parking garage in the bottom — will now also need a permit from the state.
THC’s Executive Director Mark Wolfe says in this morning’s statement that the Dome is “one of the most significant sports and entertainment venues in history, setting the standard for modern facilities around the world.” The structure will continue adding to its sports resume during the impending Super Bowl week by storing Super Bowl-related things and being lit up nearby (as rendered above).
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
Under State Protection
The crossing of Yale St. over White Oak Bayou is open again as of yesterday, beating that initially announced estimated reopening date by close to a year. The new structure should reduce the chronic weight anxieties of those using the crossing, which has been subject to various pounds-per-axle limits for years.
And what of the original 1931 Yale St. bridge bricks, and their fundraising Friend group? The online component of the crowdfunded save-the-bricks campaign launched last year fell short of that $100,000 goal by more than a bit, but the organization says that pretty much all of the bricks are still being preserved — most of them were just bought by someone else, for incorporation into a not-yet-officially-announced “art-centered mixed use project in First Ward.” Boulevard Realty, headed by Bricks and Fountain Friend and instigator Bill Baldwin, also recently posted a photo purportedly showing the incorporation of some of the bricks into new segments of the White Oak Bayou greenway trail, something the crowdfunding effort helped pay for:
CONTINUE READING THIS STORY
White Oak Crossing