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.
Turner, known as “the Flower Man” to the many people who saw him riding his bicycle on regular flower-and-castoff-gathering expeditions through Third Ward neighborhoods, practiced his singular form of curation, painting, and creation as a form of alcohol recovery and personal transformation. He had turned this last house, which he moved to after a 2003 fire destroyed an earlier residence on Sampson St., into a vibrant envelope of redefined garbage inside and out. Art assemblages were arrayed on the living room floor; gardens of flowers, okra, cotton, chickens, and bright doodads graced the exterior.
An agreement with Project Row Houses allowed him to live there for the rest of his life. He passed away, after receiving treatment for stomach cancer, in December 2013.
The decay and “highly toxic” mold problem means the Flower Man’s contributions to Houston quirk won’t reach the permanence of enshrined predecessors like the Orange Show and the Beer Can House. But his fans are ensuring it’ll go out with a glorious musical crunch.
Highlights of the astounding juxtapositions assembled for the Saturday event: A Second Line from the First St. Matthew’s Missionary Baptist Church on Simmons St. to the house on Francis St. beginning at 10 am; memorial remarks by MacArthur “genius” grant recipient (and Project Row Houses founder) Rick Lowe and others at 10:45; incantations by the church choir in front of the doomed home at 11 am, followed immediately by the “main event” at 11:15: an excavator operated by Cherry Demolition rendering the singular infected house of art into a cloud of . . . er, “dust” within a matter of minutes. Next: a group flower-art and bicycle-decorating project; some storytelling and music at 11:45; and a neighborhood bike ride at 1 pm.
It’s a valiant attempt at an authentic Houston-style
funeral demolition mold abatement land clearance happening. If the event lives up to the heady, smelly mix of hometown themes, could this kind of real estate commemoration become a thing? What passings would deserve be honored in similar fashion next?
- Flower Man Day [Project Row Houses]
- A Year After Houston’s Flower Man Died, His House Will Join Him in the Great Beyond [Texas Monthly]
- Flower Man’s house to be demolished, but his legacy lives on [Houston Chronicle]
- Houston’s Flower Man to be celebrated at demolition [Houston Chronicle]
- Time to Say Goodbye to the Flower Man’s House [Houstonia]
- Previously on Swamplot: The King of Houston Yard Art Is Dead