There’s Now a Gap on 19th St. in the Heights Where That Open-Air Non-Building Once Stood

The sheet metal façade backed by an assortment of shipping-container parts is now gone, and mountains of stuff have been removed from the longtime junk emporium at 317 W. 19th St. in the Heights, perhaps better known as the open-air building with a front but no roof that lent the shopping district its perhaps now diminished air of funk. The photo at top, sent Swamplot’s way by a flabbergasted reader, shows the now-vacant lot with everything removed. Below it, a rare aerial view from a few years ago reveals secret stashes maintained behind the lot’s corrugated streetfront.

But perhaps what you remember of this lot is different: a mysterious supply house behind whose shiny gate backdrops for hundreds of street scenes emerged over the years? Or a backdrop for fashion shoots?


Public records show the 6,600-sq.-ft. property was sold last month to an entity connected to the adjacent Maryam’s Cafe.

Photos: Roy Olson (top); Adam Brackman (aerial); Manready Mercantile (others)


14 Comment

  • Wondering where the junk man might re-emerge.

  • I used to call that place “Tetanus Mart.” I was very amused with myself for coming up with that.

  • This mans collection was incredibly vast and unique. At first glance it may not have been the most attractive, but it was soulful and was a maze that was a pleasure to behold. For the salvagers amongst us, I raise a glass to a 19th street holdout that is no more.

  • My question is, what can be built here which won’t require streetscape-ruining offstreet parking? Heck, is there even room on this lot to meet off-street parking requirements? Valet parking off-site, maybe?

  • It’s an episode of ‘ Hoarders ‘ , commercial version !!!!

  • make it a plaza! #PlacesForPeople

  • I’ve only been in the neighbourhood three years, but I’ll miss this immensely – a clear sign of the funky “no-zoning” Houston I tell my relatives back home about.
    Did anyone ever notice the casket/coffin he had in that pile ? I wonder what happened to it all…

  • Very sad, I always made a stop there when browsing 19th. Found a few unusual items there for my home, always gets plenty of compliments on them. Will definitely miss it.

  • I find it funny how people think an abandoned/underutilized lot filled with junk is emblematic of “no-zoning.” Do ya think you wont find this in other cities with more formalized land use regulations? If you’re looking for good examples of no zoning try suburban parking requirements being enforced along light rail lines in midtown or low density single family town homes replacing commercial properties along established commercial corridors e.g. Kay’s on Bissonnet, or the fact that ADU’s are permitted in all corners of the corporate city limits.

  • Such a shame. That shop epitomized the DIY spirit of Houston to me, along the lines of the Orange Show and Art Car Parade. I remember talking to the owner long ago about his travels around the country to Rust Belt cities in order to scavenge vintage furnishings and ephemera from demolitions of old buildings. Given where the Heights is now compared to where it was in, say, the 90s, it was unrealistic to hope that 19th Street would always be a funky home to folk art galleries, resale shop, and Tetanus Mart. But I’m sad to see it go anyway.

  • I hate, hate, hate this news. He was there when I moved to the Heights almost 20 years ago. I just called it “You know…junk man.” It was different, unique, funky, interesting – a hot mess of fabulous. The old Heights.

  • I was wondering how they built a clothes store in that spot so quickly; I was just in that area a couple of weekends ago.

    Watch your unnecessary capitalization…

  • My best to my bud, Joe White, who after years and years on 19th Street, finally sold out! He was known among us as “Junk Man Joe” and everyone who shopped on 19th Street knew his place well.

    Wishing you the best to come!


  • Hopefully the Planning Commission will commit to allowing zero building line and zero parking for this site.