The Invention of Upper Kirby

THE INVENTION OF UPPER KIRBY Among Houston’s grids, strips, and cul de sacs, let a million neighborhoods bloom! Perhaps the story of how the area around upper Kirby Dr. came to be known as Upper Kirby can form some sort of template for this city’s vast numbers of undifferentiated districts just waiting to be branded? “We weren’t Greenway Plaza, we weren’t Montrose, we weren’t Rice Village,” Upper Kirby Management District deputy director Travis Younkin tells reporter Nicki Koetting. It was a section of town that lacked identity. “This nameless neighborhood, Koetting adds, “was the sort of place you drove through on the way to other, named neighborhoods.” One helpful step along the way: Planting the shopping areas with red phone booths. “The authentic British phone booths are an homage to Upper Kirby’s acronym, and actually operated as phone booths for a few decades until cellphones became the norm,” Koetting notes. “Now, the telephone booths are lit from within and locked, serving today as a visual indication to visitors that they’ve arrived in Houston’s own UK.” [Houstonia] Photo: WhisperToMe

13 Comment

  • I miss the used car lots and Jalapeno’s.

  • Original home of the Hard Rock Cafe!

  • I remember in the 80s, The Houston Post ran a series in the Sunday editions proposing the beautification and modernization of different parts of the city. This stretch of Kirby between 59 and San Felipe was discussed, and it included the hiding and burying of electrical and phone lines, as well as applying a British theme like the red phone boxes we have now. I wonder what Lynn Ashby would say if he saw it today.

  • Upper Kirby has been very successful – traffic is usually at a complete stop during the day.

  • @Chris Bard, Lynn Ashby is still around, writing for The Leader you could send him a note and ask.

  • All these years with the phone boxes and I never knew the association of that to U.K. and Upper Kirby.

  • There is absolutely no sense you are in a master-planned area when in Upper Kirby. None whatsoever! Nada. I’ve never understood the designation, this “upper Kirby”. Please. What a waste of marketing money. It hasn’t been useful at all.

  • The Upper Kirby creation does have a benefit since it describes an area that is NOT Montrose, Rice Village, Greenway Plaza, et cetera as noted by the UK’s deputy director quote.
    As an Inner Looper, it helps visualize what “zone” we’re talking about with other Houstonians.
    And, kudos to Ross for pointing out that news of Lynn Ashby’s demise is premature.

  • Did Upper Kirby exist before West Ave. though? That to me is the sole reason we use this terminology now. In the past I thought it was just kirby area since the Rice/Village so well defined the southern portion.
    Even now it defines such a narrow region though that even on something like google maps it still shows it as being greenway/upper kirby.
    Either way agreed on the marketing/money spent being useful in driving further development interest.

  • @Ross – Dang! I don’t know why I had it in my head that he had passed away. O_O

  • Thanks for clarifying that whole U.K./Upper Kirby/red phone booth matter.
    I’d always thought the British theme was a nod to some of the local watering holes: Rudyard’s (on Kipling), the Ale House, and Richmond Arms.

  • Part of the grease the wheel theory behind these branding names are probably fueled by the sign industry and the cabals that run these districts–every management district/TIRZ has to litter the landscape with signage to make sure everyone knows where they are. Example: the 22+ signs every so many feet down the one mile Broadway Blvd that say Hobby District. It is a gross expenditure of tax dollars with no accountability. Those asinine Montrose District signs with their transformer boxes are barely visible at night but someone cashed in when the order was placed.

  • Most random decoration ever.