The Death, Life, and Continuing Obituary of Montrose, Still Texas’s ‘Coolest Neighborhood’

THE DEATH, LIFE, AND CONTINUING OBITUARY OF MONTROSE, STILL TEXAS’S ‘COOLEST NEIGHBORHOOD’ Nostalgia for Montrose’s good old days as a counterculture hub has a history almost as long and involved as the neighborhood itself, curator of Houston lore John Nova Lomax points out in a new essay for Texas Monthly. “I’ve heard generations of these death-by-gentrification declarations. Hippies might tell you it died around the time Space City! went under in 1972,” he writes (Lomax himself was “conceived in Montrose by hippie parents, in a house on the corner of Dunlavy and West Alabama.”) “There have almost always been laments about rising rents: In 1973, Montrose was featured in Texas Monthly’s third-ever issue, with folk singer Don Sanders fretting about a mass exodus of creative types brought on when area leases topped a whopping $100.” Since then, however, the losses have only mounted: “Gentility has encroached on Montrose from the snooty, River Oaks-lite Upper Kirby district to the west, while Midtown’s party-hearty bros have invaded from the east and north. Property taxes and rents have both skyrocketed; despite the oil downturn, it’s almost impossible to find a one-bedroom for less than $800 a month. Having gained more acceptance from society at large, the LGBT community has scattered to neighborhoods like Westbury and Oak Forest. Bohemians have fled to the East End, Acres Homes, and Independence Heights — the gentrified Houston Heights no longer an option — or have left Houston altogether.” [Texas Monthly] Photo of house across from Menil Park, 1999: Alex Steffler, via Swamplot Flickr Pool [license]

5 Comment

  • Oy vey ! I’ve been hearing from various self-appointed “journalists” for over 40 + years , about the demise of Montrose. And yet, here we are in August of 2017 Montrose is still here .As freaky, diverse, kooky ,weird and strange as ever. Long live the Strose ! In all of it’s various incarnations. It’ll NEVER die. It’ll just re-incarnate itself as a townhouse development / a commercial strip shopping center/a gay bar/ a straight bar / a rock n roll club / a dance club / a multi-service-community center / a gas station / a school /church/ art store /coffee house -like we need another one of those ( Montrose is over-caffeinated anyway ),et al !!

  • No one likes it when a fun edgy neighborhood like Montrose gentrifies. Seeing original funky local haunts replaced by chains and high end destinations is like losing an old friend. But this process of gentrification is actually good in the long run because each generation gets a new chance at building a home for the local counterculture. Without that cycle of displacement and rebirth, the counterculture becomes entrenched and turns into an establishment culture within the counterculture. Rising rents in Montrose pushed out lots of artists. But it also created demand for studio space that gave birth to the 1st Ward arts district and great new developments like the Silos. And the same dynamic is playing out for bars and clubs popping up all over the east side. The counterculture lives on and thrives when each generation has a chance to find their own voice by converting a forgotten part of the city into the next counterculture hub. In the end, the kids are alright. They just need a push out into the wilderness every few decades to keep things fresh.

  • I originally came to Montrose as a cishet gentrifier, but it turns out I’m gay. I must have subconciously known something when moving here. So maybe all these encroaching Midtown bros are just closeted and need some time.

  • When Omar Afra tried to get the Montrose Fest (more or less) back on Montrose, there was a lot of hand wringing on the local forums (mainly HAIF at the time). I’ve lived in Montrose for 17 years, and the Heights for 12 years before that. I had some punk kids (he said he was 24) telling me that I didn’t know what Montrose (or the Heights was all about). Honey, I was living here before you were born!

    Anyway, these “death of [fill in the blank]” stories are fun, and should be taken as such. No need to try and make great literature (or journalism) out of them.

    Now, *I* remember when the Public News did the story on mummification. THAT was MONTROSE!

  • I miss the “Old Montrose” terribly. It was a vibrant and life-loving “real people’s” enclave. A place of wildness, adventure and rewards. Today’s Montrose is becoming sterile… unrecognizable. This is NOT a good thing. Once it’s completely ‘gone’.. it’ll never return to those glorious, glorious days past. The “old Montrose” was absolutely spectacular. Today’s Montrose is literally boring and becoming pointless.