07/23/13 10:00am

GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION CLOSES ON BISHOP’S PALACE With the Moody Foundation’s $1.5 million donation as a nice starter, the Galveston Historical Foundation was able to raise the rest of the $3 million it needed to buy the 1892 Bishop’s Palace from the Catholic archdiocese and keep it open as a museum. Designed by Nicholas Clayton for Col. Walter Gresham, the 17,420-sq.-ft. Victorian mansion at the corner of 14th and Broadway had housed clergy since 1921 before the foundation opened it up for tours. The Houston Chronicle reports that the archdiocese plans to use the windfall to renovate the St. Mary’s Basilica, also in in Galveston, while the foundation “plans to restore the roof, the front of the building and do repainting [and] other general repairs” to the Palace. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Galveston Historical Foundation

06/11/13 10:00am

UNLOADING GALVESTON’S BISHOP’S PALACE The Galveston-Houston Archdiocese has put up for sale the 1892 Bishop’s Palace, a.k.a. Gresham’s Castle, at 14th and Broadway. The price? $3 million. But the archdiocese isn’t going to let just anyone buy the 17,420-sq.-ft. Victorian clergy digs-turned-museum — at least not for a while: “The Galveston Historical Foundation has an exclusive right until the end of this month to raise . . . the money or the archdiocese can open the sale to all comers,” reports the Houston Chronicle. Foundation director W. Dwayne Jones tells the Chronicle that they’ve already raised $2.3 million. And why the sale? “Jones said the archdiocese has been looking to get out of the museum business for a while. ‘They are in the business of saving souls.'” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Galveston Historical Foundation

03/19/12 11:26pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AT THE EDGE OF EXEMPTION “Churches and private education getting a pass on property taxes is just wrong wrong wrong. it opens up too many loopholes. things become clouded, like when 2nd baptist buys the adjacent shopping center. they own it, they operate a portion of it for church activities, does that take the entire property off the tax roles? That’s easily a $20MM property now not part of COH taxes, and yet using an unusually high pro-rata portion of traffic control, road maintenance since the remaining businesses there are high traffic. another example — i want to buy a piece of real estate. i start a ‘church’ and then buy it. i now have a free hold on a piece of dirt forever, don’t I? . . . private schools and universities are no different. st agnes now has taken a 4 corners hard corner off the tax roll @ bellaire/fondren so they can have athletic fields, and theoretically could continue to take in the same manner forever. who is to say a board member there wouldn’t buy/BTS a building for them, then pass on the effective tax savings through a long-term cheap rent deal??? HBU – same thing. the list goes on and on.” [HTX REZ, commenting on There Was a Church, and There Went the Steeple]

02/24/12 4:42pm

Does the Saint Germain Foundation qualify as a church? That’s the story the listing agent sticks to in her description of the property for sale on the corner of Greenbriar and Portsmouth. As a qualifying religious institution, it’s exempt from local property taxes. The Illinois-based group, founded by mining engineer Guy W. Ballard in 1934, is selling its longtime Houston home across Greenbriar from the Shepherd Plaza shopping center and worldly-goods discounter Tuesday Morning. According to followers of Ballard’s teachings, the organization’s founder had previously completed earthly stints in the person of Achilles, Alexander the Great, Kings Richard I and Henry V of England, and George Washington; in 1939, in lieu of dying, he became Ascended Master Godfre. The 3,000-sq.-ft. home at 3700 Greenbriar was built a year later.


04/01/10 10:23am

Houston’s City Council voted 13-2 yesterday to sell the former Compaq Center to the nation’s largest megachurch for a grand total of $7.5 million dollars. Sure, that’s considerably less than the $22.6 million the city would have received for a 30-year extension of Lakewood Church’s current lease on what used to be homecourt of the Houston Rockets. But the city wouldn’t see the beginning of that income stream for 24 years, and it might be a full 54 years before the city could get the building and those 7 acres of Greenway Plaza land back — presuming either is worth anything at all by then. And really, who’s even going to want to be around this city in 2064?

That $7.5 million isn’t exactly chump change, either. If each of the church’s approximately 43,500 weekly visitors throws a dollar into one of those collection buckets, it’ll take them all of 3 and a half years just to pay the darn thing off!

But did the city even have a choice in the matter?


01/11/10 4:24pm

Some neighbors of the Annunciation Orthodox School and cathedral in Montrose are not too happy about the institutions’ plans to build a parking lot on the site of an apartment complex at the corner of Yoakum and Marshall it tore down a year or so ago. But Clifford Pugh suspects even more pavement may be on the horizon:

Even though the lot is prohibited under the deed restrictions, representatives from the school told residents at a meeting last week they plan to proceed anyway. “Our interpretation is that the deed restrictions are not valid and not enforceable,” a school official said.

Actually, the deed restrictions allow the school to petition residents for an exemption. But that would set a precedent I believe the school doesn’t want to acknowledge. It owns several other homes in the area and I suspect officials are itching to tear them down in the future, too. Between the school and the church, they’ve already torn down the equivalent of a block-and-a-half of housing to make way for parking lots — but there’s always room for more.

Photo: Clifford Pugh

10/21/09 4:34pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THERE’S BLACK GOLD IN THEM THAR CHURCH! “I was involved 7 years ago to save the old church but it was a battle then. The people of Immanuel don’t know what they have. They want to demo the church so they can move on to phase three . . . of their master plan. Problem is they don’t have enough money to finish phase two much less start phase three. One of the reasons, I was told by a trustee, that they are demoing the bldg. now is that a couple of their old members died and left them some money . . . He went on to say that one of the [deceased] left them some oil well money not much he said but just enough to maybe pay the light bill each month. They have an oil well over there right now and don’t even know it. Yea it will take money and effort but I guarentee every girl in the Heights would love to get married in that old beautiful church. . . . The church is not rotten as some say. that thing is solid, some remodel work and that Bldg. could be a gold mine for the church. If they do tear it down it will be a shame.” [Mike Batterson, commenting on Can This Lutheran Church Be Saved?]

07/03/09 11:54am

There’s a new $2 million bed and breakfast going up in Midtown? The Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff reports that the project’s developers were “able to persuade a lender” to finance construction of their 3-story “New Orleans-style” B&B, which has already broken ground at 2800 Brazos, at the corner of Drew St.:

“It was a little challenging early on in the process,” [developer Genora] Boykins said. “The thing that made the difference is we really didn’t give up on the vision we have.” . . .

That sort of positive thinking is apparently nothing new for Boykins, an attorney for Reliant Energy who serves on the Downtown Management District board of directors — along with her La Maison partner, Centerpoint Energy community relations VP Sharon Owens.

Kirbyjon Caldwell, the pastor of 14,000-member Windsor Village United Methodist Church, provides more insight into Boykins’s real-estate techniques in Chapter 3 of his now-decade-old bestseller, The Gospel of Good Success: A Road Map to Spiritual, Emotional and Financial Wholeness:


02/27/09 4:17pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOME OF THE 150-FT. BUDDHA “I don’t think there would be outrage over a Buddha. Everybody would think it was ‘cute’ and look for the adjacent Chinese restaurant.” [EMME, commenting on Sagemont Cross: New Higher Power Lines Beltway 8]

02/20/09 6:42pm

What’s this? A new clean, modern design for the high-voltage power line structures along the Sam Houston Tollway, just west of I-45 South?

Naah — it’s Sagemont Church’s new 170-ft.-tall steel cross, viewed in its natural setting. Plus: It lights up at night!


07/10/08 4:05pm

[youtube:http://youtube.com/watch?v=dkUjSpRr93Q 400 330]

The two “Marking Our City” billboards near Grace Community Church‘s north and south I-45 locations depict a plain white cross, an American flag, and the words “150 FT CROSS COMING SOON.” But they probably show only the top portion of the structures the church is planning — and the 150-ft. label may be selling the project short. The Chronicle‘s Lisa Gray says

. . . the pastor hopes both structures will be 200 feet tall, roughly the height of a 20-story building. The Federal Aviation Administration, he said, may limit the south campus’s cross to 150 feet because it’s near Ellington Field.

Five-and-a-half minutes into the Grace Community Church video above, Grace senior pastor Steve Riggle walks viewers through a drawing of a more elaborate structure. Riggle asks

What if there was one of these at every entrance to the city? And it was there for the prayer movement in the city, not just a church. You talk about marking our city for God.

After the jump: More crosses on the side of the highway!