The Battling Owners of the Bella Terraza Sold the Place, But a Proxy War Continues through Their Lawyers


That opulent Italianate edifice at 2840 Chimney Rock Rd. that formerly housed the Bella Terraza (later Villa Rinata) reception hall has been sold by former uneasy business partners and willing courtroom foes Stephen Montieth Clarke and Harris L. Kempner III, but the property at 2840 Chimney Rock is still generating litigation. This time around, Clarke’s attorney Brantly Harris is suing Kempner’s attorney Robert E. Bone.

The suit has but one, well, Bone of contention, but it’s a wee bit knotty:



Clarke and Kempner were limited partners in 2840 Chimney Rock LLC, the entity listed as the property’s former owner.


Harris claims that in order to facilitate the building’s sale, Bone communicated to Clarke, in writing, that he — Harris — had approved letting the building go for $1.65 million with no money down. “This was libel,”claims Harris, who filed the suit pro se. “In fact [Harris] did not even know the property was being offered for sale, and would not have recommended Clarke’s approval of the sale if he had been so informed. The purpose of [Bone’s] lies was to defraud Clarke and thereby benefit Kempner.”

Clarke continues: “Defendant’s defamation of Plaintiff has caused Defendant intense mental anguish, and sleepless nights.”

The suit seeks damages not to exceed $100,000. Bone has yet to file a response.

Court records show that in addition to the civil trial and ensuing appeal linked in this article, Clarke took Kempner to court again in 2011, alleging that Kempner had misappropriated funds and failed to insure the building, resulting in out-of-pocket Ike damage expenses. That suit was dismissed in 2012.


A West University-based catering company now owns the building, now open as Dukessa Houston.


Though all members of the same dynastic Galveston family, Harris “Branch” Kempner III is not to be confused with his son, Harris “Reed” Kempner, nor his father, Harris “Shrub” Kempner, husband of “Peaches” Kempner.

Photos: Yelp (La Villa Rinata); Dukessa Houston / Plum Tree Studios (Dukessa Houston)


2 Comment

  • “Branch”, “Reed”, “Shrub” and “Peaches”. There has to be either a movie or reality TV show in there somewhere. And I doubt that the North Koreans would be offended.

  • So that is what the place is… when I visited Houston as a child, I always thought it was a bordello.