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
09/12/16 1:45pm

Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Master Plan excerptThe gospel-soundtracked video above, showing Wheeler Avenue Baptist’s plans to plant a larger sanctuary next door to its existing facilities, appears to show that new structure landing on top of the original Frenchy’s location at 3919 Scott St. The creole chicken chain, which announced last year that it would be pushing for national expansion to 500 locations, also previously announced plans to tear down the original spot and rebuild bigger, though the exact location of that rebuild wasn’t specified. (Just up the street, meanwhile, a Frenchy’s-connected entity called 3919 Scott Street appears to have purchased the entire city block southwest of the corner of Scott St. and Hadley back in 2009. )

The property at 3919 Scott St. was bought over the summer by the church; the renderings in the video (posted just this week) more or less match up to a few older depictions featured on Harrison Kornberg Architects’s website for the project:

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Third Ward Chicken Prophecy
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
03/24/16 4:00pm

Rendering of Buffalo Bayou Cistern Converted to Bathhouse
Rendering of Buffalo Bayou Cistern Converted to BathhouseAs Buffalo Bayou Partnership continues to seek out tour guides for the cavernous 1927 city water reservoir and maybe-future-art-space buried in Buffalo Bayou Park, University of Houston architecture grad Sheridan Staats sends over her design for turning the structure into a split-level public bath house, complete with pools, saunas, gardens, a bike trail connection, and a cafe. Renderings and schematics are showcased in Staats’s undergraduate thesis, which also dives into global bath house and infrastructure history and the case for reusing the site in a way that nods to its utilitarian aquatic past.

The kelley green box on the map above shows the cistern’s buried footprint on the north shore of Buffalo Bayou (in blue), just west of Sabine St. and south of Memorial Dr.; the darker green line passing through the southwest edge of the cistern shows a plan to run the bayou’s bike trail into the cistern and onto a suspended causeway:

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Underwater Underground
03/17/16 10:45am

For Sale sign at the Banta House, 119 E. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A for sale sign has appeared on the fence outside of the 1918 house on the northwest corner of 20th and Harvard streets, notes a reader. The 2-story brick-over-concrete home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as the Banta House, was listed for sale in February along with the Ink Spots Museum next door at 117 E. 20th. The 21,120 sq.ft. now mentioned by the sign as up for grabs and division appears to include the parking lot behind the 2 buildings, along with the land holding the blue house at 2005 Harvard St. (also penned in by the fence).

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Houses Divided
03/10/16 10:45am

The Cistern, Buffalo Bayou Park near Sabine St. at Memorial Dr., Houston, 77007

Update, 3/24: BBP has updated the link to and language of the job posting; this story has been updated.

Wanted: Buffalo Bayou Partnership is seeking some college types folks to show people around the long-empty city drinking water reservoir near the intersection of Sabine St. and Memorial Dr., which the group also hopes to turn into a temporary art space some day. The “accidental cathedral” was only accessible by a set of hatches and 14-foot ladders back when BBP first examined it; a $1.2-million grant is being used to bring the 87,200-sq.-ft. underground space up to code for visitors.

The cistern, nicknamed after the 6th-century reservoir beneath Istanbul, lies just north of the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park beneath what will become a raised outdoor lawn intended for concerts and events at Buffalo Bayou Park. The 1927 reservoir was drained and decommissioned decades ago after it started leaking uncontrollably; the structure was planned for demolition and fill-in by the city around the time the park’s planners took an interest in the space, initially imagining uses like parking and mulch storage.

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Work in the Underground
03/03/16 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DRIVING HOME A ROSY VIEW OF HOUSTON’S BLUE TILE DAYS Blue tile sign at 2500 block of Westheimer Rd., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098“Hopefully [the tile signs are] not just a trend, but a desire to revert to a time when life was much simpler. Maybe one day you’ll be able to walk into a gas station and ask for directions, and if not, call the operator from the closest pay phone to ask where the nearest diner is, because it’s late and you’re tired and hungry from your long drive into Houston. Maybe at the diner the friendly waitress will give the kids an extra cherry on their sundaes while chatting up where a few of the best nearby motels are located. Afterwards, as you drive your 10,000-pound Honda Civic with whitewall tires to the closest motel, you’ll get there by way of curb tiled street signs.” [Toby, commenting on Brand New Vintage Blue Tile Street Sign Now in Place on Upper Kirby Curb]

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

12/03/15 9:15am

Leon's Lounge, 1006 McGowen St., Midtown, Houston

Leon’s Lounge is back in business: following an abrupt January shutdown and months of rustling behind closed doors, the undisputed reigning oldest bar in Houston (comma, sorta-continuously-operating-under-the-sameish-name, comma, that-was-not-a-restaurant-or-ice-house-first) is once again serving drinks beneath those signature chandeliers. Leon’s closed in January with the colorful severance of the leasing relationship between building owner Scarlett Yarborough (daughter of Leon himself) and then-operator Pete Mitchell (proprietor of Under The Volcano on Richmond Bissonnet), including the swift dismantling of the outdoor patio.

A new patio is now in place, and service resumed following the bar’s soft opening in the weeks before Halloween. An official Grand Reopening under new operators Duane Bradley and Jim DeFoyd (joint owners of The Davenport, purveyor of “quality lounging” on Richmond just off Shepherd) took place last Saturday. While many of Leon’s familiar features remain intact following this round of renovations, the updated interior may no longer qualify the longtime Midtown dive for full dive status.

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Back To Lounging Around
06/26/15 12:00pm

WESTBURY SQUARE HEADED FOR SALE, EXILE OF REMAINING TENANTS The Company OnStage Theater, 536 Westbury Square, Westbury Square, Westbury, HoustonA sales contract is pending on the remaining portions of faded pedestrian shopping district Westbury Square, a note posted to the home page of The Company OnStage and sent to the group’s subscribers announces. The note does not address rumored plans to divide the purchased site near the intersection of West Bellfort and Chimney Rock into more than 100 townhome lots, but does indicate that completion of the sale will likely bring an end to the company’s 33-year residency at 536 Westbury Square (pictured here). The theater group is postponing the announcement of its upcoming season, and says it is looking to relocate. Two buildings in the complex were torn down early last year. [The Company OnStage; previously on Swamplot] Photo: The Company OnStage  

01/29/15 1:15pm

Former Home of Flower Man Cleveland Turner, 2305 Francis St., Third Ward, Houston

Where else but Houston will you ever come across a day-long urban celebration that brings together demolition, visionary art, inventive gardening, a stirring memorial, water infiltration, and toxic mold? These core elements of the city’s essential funkytown identity and more will be highlighted in the Third Ward on February 7, when Project Row Houses, the owner of the last of 3 homes the late Cleveland Turner serially transformed into environments festooned with yard art and brightly painted junk, ceremonially rips apart the rotting property at 2305 Francis St. on account of they discovered a month or 2 ago that it (along with many of the works stuffed inside) was contaminated “beyond any chance of salvation” with varying dark hues of dangerous and smelly mold spores.

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It’s a Houston Thing
11/19/14 1:00pm

THE NEXT BIG EVENT PLANNED FOR THE ASTRODOME WILL BE A WASH Pressure Washers from Green Team Services, HoustonWhen was the last time anyone bothered to clean the exterior of the Astrodome? Long enough ago to merit media coverage for word that the Dome’s caretakers have now decided to do something about the building’s growing exterior grunge. The Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation, having presided for 15 years over the former sports stadium’s steady decay, is about to embark on its first notable Dome maintenance operation since firefighters used fans to blow smoke out of the building in the aftermath of a 2011 transformer fire in the vacant facility. With approval from the Texas Historical Commission, reports Fox 26’s Mark Berman, the agency will award local building restoration and pressure-washing practitioners Green Team Services $63,800 to clean the outside of the structure. [My Fox Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Green Team Services

10/08/14 10:45am

Proposed New Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Pressler St. at Holcombe Blvd., Texas Medical Center, Houston

Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, Former Shamrock Hotel Ballroom, 2151 W. Holcombe Blvd., Texas Medical Center, HoustonHISD intends to demolish the last remaining non-garage portion of the Shamrock Hotel complex early next year as part of its plans for a new DeBakey High School for Health Professions. The Shamrock’s former ballroom (pictured at right), now called the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center, has been operated as an event space by Trevisio Restaurant since 2011, but closed in May of this year. That structure will be scrapped, but the parking garage that shares the conference center’s 2151 W. Holcombe Blvd. address will remain, according to renderings of the new high school project. (The garage is the building bathed in white at right in the rendering above.)

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Still Getting Rid of the Shamrock
09/24/14 4:45pm

Gibbs Boats, 1110 West Gray St. at Montrose Blvd., North Montrose, Houston

How cool is it that a boat store with metal siding and a groovy sixties-era sign stood at the corner of West Gray and Montrose Blvd. for 56 years? Well, pieces of the iconic Gibbs Boats sign floated away after the last hurricane; if the property sells, the store won’t be around much longer either.

The giant for-sale sign that went up on the storefront windows yesterday has drawn a bit more attention from potential buyers than the online listing for the 24,925-sq.-ft. L-shaped property, which has been posted for about a month now. The listed asking price is $150 per sq. ft. of land.

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Setting Sail
08/25/14 3:45pm

JUDGE EMMETT SAYS HE’LL REVEAL A ‘MAJOR’ PROPOSAL FOR REUSING THE ASTRODOME TOMORROW Astrodome Interior, HoustonFor a good while now, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has been dropping hints about a new proposal to renovate the Astrodome. He’s set to reveal a few details about it tomorrow afternoon, after he holds a press conference set up in a “special little section” of the Astrodome made safe for media attendees. “Emmett has been in discussions with a series of elected officials, stakeholders and interested parties in recent weeks, laying out the general concept for an innovative reuse of the world’s first domed stadium,” a press release from the judge’s office declares. “All [the judge’s spokesperson] could tell me is that it’s ‘public use,’ tweets the Chronicle‘s Kiah Collier. [County Judge Ed Emmett; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Joe Stinebaker