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

08/06/14 12:30pm

A LONGTIME HOUSTONIAN’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE RECENT ONSLAUGHT OF NEW DEVELOPMENTS AND RESIDENTS Southland Hardware, 1822 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, HoustonShe throws in a few traffic tips for good measure (“never take Kirby to south side of 59 unless you have to, especially on a Friday, opt for Alabama vs. Richmond when driving towards town, and my new favorite: never go to the Galleria unless someone pays you”) but native-born Houstonian Sarah Lipscomb’s advice for herself and others who feel “like the city is closing in on me” includes a restatement of purpose: “to ensure that Houston, its people old and new, be reminded that there is still a culture here that hasn’t changed.” Which leads her to a quick but still traffic-filled driving tour of 5 longstanding Houston institutions that have somehow escaped demolition (so far), for reassurance. Her picks: Nielsen’s Delicatessen on Richmond (“same sandwiches, same service, same spread” for 60 years); Southland Hardware (pictured above) at 1822 Westheimer; Bellaire Broiler Burger on Bellaire Blvd.; the River Oaks Theater on West Gray (“same seats, same smell, same popcorn; don’t eat it though”); and M and M Vacuum on Kirby. [Slips Photo Blog; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Sarah Lipscomb

07/30/14 4:15pm

Capitan Theater, 1001 Shaw Ave., Pasadena, Texas

Capitan Theater, 1001 Shaw Ave., Pasadena, TexasThe city of Pasadena is likely to go ahead with the sale of the Corrigan Center at Shaw Ave. and Pasadena Blvd., which includes the once-grand Capitan Theater, to a New Jersey oil-industry inspection and lab-test company called Camin Cargo Control. Under the $4.6 million deal, already approved by city council once earlier this month in a 6-3 vote, the city would lease back the 31,982 sq. ft. of the property — the parts currently occupied by fire department administrative offices and the city’s municipal court. The lease-back wouldn’t include the long-vacant 1,500-seat art deco theater.

But a reader tells Swamplot that decorative pieces from the front of the 1949 theater — which after an exterior renovation looked pretty spiffy until recently (see photo at right from last year) — have already been removed. “The marquee boards, neon, and the whole vertical metal section that said “Pasadena” are gone, leaving just brick behind it,” Spence Gaskin writes. “The marquee stuff had been gone a few weeks at the least, but I just noticed the Pasadena sign removal.”

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Art Undecoed
07/17/14 1:00pm

UNMASKING THE CRAFTY NSA, NFL PLAN TO TAKE AWAY OUR PRECIOUS ASTRODOME AND MONITOR YOUR PHONE CALLS AN/FLR-9 Radio Direction Finder at United States Army Security Agency (USASA) Field Station AugsburgUsing techniques, he explains, from “The Consipiracy Theory Style Manual” (“I used as many facts as I could come up with, then I made up a few more”), Houston Chronicle penpal Dave Nagel notes the striking similarities between the reconstructed ring of drive-thru concrete pillars meant to be built as part of a memorial to the Astrodome in a proposal released last week by the Rodeo and the Houston Texans and the circular antenna array called the AN/FLR-9 built in several locations during the Cold War to support U.S. intelligence operations. And concludes: “[I]t’s obvious. The National Security Agency has plans to construct a listening post here in Houston. We know the Supreme Court says the police cannot grab cell phones without a warrant, but now the NSA will just grab all the signals emanating from Texas and will process them from the new intel center at Reliant/NRG. By the way, in military parlance, NRG is National Reconnaissance Group! I believe the NSA is planning to collect intelligence on all known and suspected Republicans here in Texas, and turn it over to the Administration. Every proper conspiracy theorist will say YES! Or, does the NSA plan to eavesdrop on all those nefarious and dangerous children pouring across the border from Honduras and Guatamala? If you have ever worked in a school, you know how dangerous children are, especially ones without parental supervision! Children carry cell phones. Cell phones transmit and receive signals. Do you understand now?” A chilling prospect! But what’s the upshot? Continues Nagel: “[I]f the NSA wants to run an intelligence gathering station at Reliant/NRG, then we won’t have to use local tax money to tear down the dome, we can let NSA do it with their classified budget!” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of AN/FLR-9 radio direction finder at United States Army Security Agency Field Station Augsburg: Wikimedia Commons/Chaddy [license]

07/08/14 10:15am

DE-MAD-MEN-IZED DOWNTOWN EXXONMOBIL TOWER REMINDS ME OF MY DOCTOR’S OFFICE, COMPLAINS CHRON COLUMNIST Lisa Gray, already on record as a non-fan of Shorenstein Realty’s plans to remove all the distinctive sun-shading fins from the soon-to-be-former ExxonMobil Tower at 800 Bell St. downtown (and incorporate all the space they occupied into the floor plates), says the sleek new video (with only semi-robotic, live-action scalies!) put out by the San Francisco real estate company (embedded at right; click in bottom right corner to see it full-screen) reveals that the renovation plans for the building are “even worse than I thought.” What’s the problem with removing what’s left of the building’s Mad Men-era accoutrements, and sheathing the recaptured space with shiny glass? The video shows that Downtown architecture firm Ziegler Cooper’s resulting design will be “a dead ringer,” she claims, for the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza tower at the northern tip of the Med Center at 6200 Fannin. That building was designed by the firm’s Uptown-ish rival, Kirksey Architecture. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Video: Transwestern

05/20/14 2:00pm

2309 Wichita St., Riverside Terrace, Houston

More than a month after purchasing the duplex-turned-31-year DIY renovation-and-expansion-project that became the life’s work of its owner, former VA nurse Charles Fondow, buyer Nick Ugarov tells the Chronicle‘s Craig Hlavaty that he’s “still mulling over plans” for the 5-bedroom, 4-and-a-half-bath, 2-turret still-not-quite-finished home at 2309 Wichita St. near Dowling. Ugarov picked up the foreclosed deck-bedecked structure for $251,000, from a bank sale that closed on April 11th, according to MLS records. That’s $101K over the ridiculously low asking price the sales agent had placed on the property, a well-known and much-gawked-at oddity in Riverside Terrace that’s been described as a poor man’s version of the Winchester Mystery House.

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Will It Stay or Go Now?
04/08/14 10:15am

Here’s some raw footage from a camera-wielding drone flight landscape artist and researcher Steve Rowell piloted earlier this year over portions of the Baytown Nature Center, the Crystal, Scott, and Burnet Bay peninsula that not too long ago was the home of the tony Brownwood subdivision — before it got all sinky and decided to subside 10 or so feet into the water. In some portions of the video, you can still spot the occasional home or garage slab from a fifties- or sixties-era rancher or 2, not to mention concrete broken up from other foundations and driveways and recycled on-site into surge barriers that now control the more recent, court-ordered wetlands environment.

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Touring Brownwood by Drone
03/12/14 1:30pm

Martel Building, Former Rice Museum, Rice University, Houston

The Brown Foundation has agreed to provide funds for Rice University to disassemble the corrugated campus building once known as the Rice Museum and reassemble it on a site in the Fourth Ward, the school’s student newspaper reports. A story posted last night by the Rice Thresher‘s Jieya Wen doesn’t precisely identify the intended new location of the building, but art professor and photographer Geoff Winningham tells her that plans are being developed to turn the metal-sided structure into a public art center on its new site: “The building was designed so that it can be disassembled and moved in parts,” he tells Wen. “The university has agreed to allow [the] building to stand for a couple more weeks [in order] to come up with the actual plan for moving the building.”

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A More Public Art Center
03/11/14 10:45am

Former Rice Museum, Rice University, HoustonAn excavator may now be parked onsite, but alumni objections have prompted officials at Rice University to delay demolition of the 45-year-old corrugated metal building identified as the “Art Barn” — but known for decades as the home of Rice’s School of Continuing Studies, and before that the Rice Museum. The university’s plan “is still to remove the building from campus,” a spokesperson tells Swamplot. But exactly what form that removal might take is now apparently up for discussion. Officials now plan to “explore a couple of options for removing the building.”

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‘Stay of Execution’
02/24/14 1:30pm

Former Rice Museum, Rice University, HoustonFormer Rice Museum, Rice University, Houston

Online arts publication Glasstire is reporting that Rice University’s public-affairs office has confirmed plans to demolish the University’s most famous metal-sided structure. Known since the mid-1980s as the School of Continuing Studies Speros P. Martel Building, the southern half of the 45-year-old duo was dubbed the “Art Barn,” and was originally home to the Rice Museum, a predecessor to the Menil Collection.

John and Dominique de Menil paid for the construction of both corrugated buildings in 1969, and selected the architects, Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry. The structures were created to house Rice’s art and art history departments, along with the de Menils’ Institute for the Arts, which the couple moved from the University of St. Thomas after a dispute with that institution. The de Menils later left Rice to start their own little Menil Collection in Montrose. The simple, unassuming design of the structures they left behind became the inspiration and model for a series of “Tin Houses” — Galvalume-clad homes designed by Houston architects primarily in the West End and Rice Military area.

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But Andy Warhol’s Tree Will Stay
02/18/14 4:30pm

Still from Closing Scene of Reality Bites, W. Clay St. Looking East Toward Downtown, Houston

Robocop may have moved on to the real Detroit, but Houston will always have Reality Bites. And today folks around the movie biz are celebrating the movie’s twentieth anniversary. The Winona Ryder-Ben Stiller-Janeane Garofalo-Ethan Hawke pic filmed here and there about Houston (with a few disguised-L.A. settings thrown in for good measure) was released on February 18, 1994. In and around the Gen X coming-of-age coming-out reality-TV disaffection storyline, the movie depicted the overgrown charms of Alden Place, the little North Montrose neighborhood of duplexes and 4-plexes that made living in the shadows of Downtown seem so easy and affordable back then. Twenty years on, how’s it doing?

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Alden Place and Time