Comment of the Day: Houston’s Missing District of Good-Enough Old Buildings

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON’S MISSING DISTRICT OF GOOD-ENOUGH OLD BUILDINGS “I think the general feeling on this one from historically/architecturally sensitive people like myself is that while it’s not the greatest building ever built in Houston, it’s a lot greater than what is on at least 100 of the blocks downtown. This is where you get to the difference between Houston and a city like San Antonio, which still has a significant historical flavor in its downtown. Most historic buildings are not great, they’re average. If you only preserve the landmarks, most of your historic stock gets wiped out and you lose that historic dimension in your city. San Antonio does not allow its historic buildings to be torn down, and thus maintains a vibrant historical (and walkable) downtown core, while leaving plenty of room for new buildings. Houston started out with roughly as many early 20th century buildings as San Antonio had, it just didn’t preserve them.” [Mike, commenting on Houston Club Building Will Be Demolished, Say Auctioneers]

12 Comment

  • Please tell me no one really wants Houston to be more like San Antonio.

    I don’t see anything wrong with tearing down old, obsolete (and usually ugly) buildings so that the land they occupy can be put to better use. Let’s just build all new buildings. They’ll be old and historic soon enough.

  • I am actually ok, in a way, with seeing Macy’s and the Houston Club building get knocked down. In Houston, you need to pick your battles carefully when it comes to preservation. The Macy’s was a giant brick box in an attempt to show off the fact that it had central air and would not get hot from lots of windows. One side of the building has a nice late decco design, but the rest of the building is just a box. The Houston Club building is very average. A bit of the homely cousin to the Esperson and Chase buildings. I will save my pitch fork and torches for another day. This means you Weingarten.

  • Our historic district is main by the bayou and there’s plenty of old buildings there to preserve. The Macy’s was an obsolete 50’s relic nowhere near the old city core. If we’re worried about tourism, spend te preservation money where we’ll get the best bang for the buck, by the bayou.

  • @Bernard – if someone could simply make a collection of all the “old, obsolete” buildings torn down in Houston over the years, they could build a beautiful small town that would be on the cover of Texas Highways and draw tourists and business.

    Left in the wake of those buildings, for the vast majority, is not “a better use.” Just a parking lot.

  • Yeah, let’s just knock all these historic buildings down and not build on all of these surface lots in Downtown. I don’t know why it is so easy for historic structures to be torn down in this city.

  • Mayor Parking Lot: Ever heard of a guy
    named Raymond Loewy? Ever downed a coca-cola
    (out of the 6.5 oz bottle)?
    Mayor Parking Lot: whatever the developers
    want . . . right? Thanks.

  • Part of the reason that Houston has developed into a much more economically viable city than San Antonio is that we do encourage the active regeneration of our landscape to meet the new needs of the community. If we blocked tearing down ‘average’ buildings of questionable historic value, the added cost of trying to renovate or use the buildings would push developers to other, easier to develop properties… so we’d just be left with abandoned and neglected buildings downtown and even more suburban expansion.

  • I agree with Old School. Also, fluorescent lighting meant reduced heat load and more importantly less merchandise damage/fading from sun exposure. Sounds pretty boring now, agreed, but in 1949 it was the height of modernity. And Franzheim’s work is fast disappearing in Houston.

  • Okay Scott, but there are over 100 blocks downtown with nothing or next to nothing on them. If we didn’t let developers tear down the historic buildings, they wouldn’t go to the suburbs, they would just go to those.

    The reason we’re more economically viable than San Antonio is that we’re on the coast.

  • So true marmer – also, the removal of historic buildings is much more than just the structure. The HPD Central Patrol – 1950 I believe – on Riesner near Houston Ave is probably not far off either. Excellent composition of volumes with one of Franzheim’s signature elements: artwork integrated into the architecture. It was sad to see the Pru Building go for this same reason.

  • I think we do a serious disservice to preservation when we confuse “old” buildings and “historic” buildings. There is a classic line from the Roman Polanski movie Chinatown that goes, “Ugly buildings, politicians and whores all become respectable if they stick around long enough”. I haven’t seen anyone anywhere give any reason why the Houston Club building should be considered “historic” rather than just “old”.

  • From Mike: “Okay Scott, but there are over 100 blocks downtown with nothing or next to nothing on them. If we didn’t let developers tear down the historic buildings, they wouldn’t go to the suburbs, they would just go to those.”
    Why are they not building on those now? It seems starting on an empty lot would be easier than buying an income generating building, closing it up, knocking it down, and hauling it off.