Unearthing the Splendors of Hwy. 59’s Egyptian Tomb

UNEARTHING THE SPLENDORS OF HWY. 59’S EGYPTIAN TOMB “Unless people were here the first time,” a renovator at the mock-Egyptian temple on 59 tells the Chronicle’s Craig Hlavaty, “they had no idea of the magnitude of it inside.” (And even if they tried to find out, they might still be left in the dark: “There is no longer a lick of electrical wire inside,” adds another worker.) And so, for the crew’s next trick: “We need to tear everything out and start over.” In doing so, some of what’s been left behind in the shadowy former club known as Magic Island is now being brought to light: “A covered patio and valet area on the building’s east end is today a graveyard of tables and chairs ripped out of the dining rooms,” reports Hlavaty. “Egyptian art and murals sit idle, some covered in graffiti. Broken marble and glass are strewn about the grounds.” On the opposite side of the building, a few doors down, “renderings of what the two-story, 22,000-square-foot property could look like in the future reside on a table at a doctor’s office” where neurologist Mohammad Athari — who owns Magic Island — practices. After years of on-and-off work to revive it, his current plan is to have it back up and running by the end of the year as a “Houston nightlife destination.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplox inbox

20 Comment

  • Hey this is a good, if not overly lengthy, historical inside look at the place from the resident prestidigitator: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JupOr0DENgM
    I recall going there for my birthday and, after greetings, the hostess inserted a card into the cobra and the elevator doors opened. Wow. Just makes me miss places like Tokyo Garden and San Francisco Steak House even more, too.

  • Was originally a Philip Johnson designed showroom for Knoll I believe. International style anyway before all the cheap stucco.

  • How has this been allowed to sit derelict for so long? Who can afford to pay taxes on this extremely valuable land for decades while it sits and doesn’t earn any revenues? It was in disrepair even when it was in operations. Last time I paid attention driving by it was tagged with graffiti.

    Seriously though? What are the COH codes for derelict and vacant properties?

  • Must’ve been the mid 80’s when my whole department went. I remember our distinguished department chairman on stage with a magician who was making a fool of him. Chairman was a man of humor though and we all had a splendid time.

  • a few months ago i was driving by on the feeder road, and i watched a homeless guy laying on the ground next to the front door convulsing and throwing up on himself.

  • Hard to believe they want to rehab it. I just assumed it was waiting for a buyer to tear it down.

    Gonna spend a lot of money undoing damage that could have been prevented with much less money. With that sort of management acumen, I don’t have high hopes for the new version.

  • Splendor:

    Did you call an ambulance for the convulsing homeless man ? Or otherwise offer to help him? Just curious

  • ken, i’m pretty sure that guy could not afford an ambulance.

  • Splendor:

    Commonsense, is that YOU ???

    Several months ago, I saw a homeless type dude lying on the sidewalk at the intersection of Main and Gray. He seemed to be in “distress”. I asked him if he wanted me to call an ambulance. He said yes. So I did. Not once did I ever think about the cost of said ambulance.

    But my homeless dude didn’t seem to be under the influence of any substances. If he had, perhaps I would have handled the situation differently.

  • I’ve always wondered why someone didn’t buy this place and knock it down or fix it up or do SOMETHING with it. I mean, the owner, for the last decade, just decided to eat a giant tax bill each year? Crazy. I lose sleep about 1 apartment being empty. I couldn’t imagine a huge building sitting there rotting away.

  • Nice: How is it “allowed” to sit derelict? Because there is no law that forces someone to keep their business open. Personally I think it’s crazy to sit on an empty building but you can’t be forced not to. So long as they’re keeping the property relatively secure (you can’t keep everyone whos determined out), it’s not the citys business.

  • @XCellKen @splendor
    I was downtown (Main & McKinney) and saw a man lying comatose on the sidewalk. This was about 6:00 pm on a weekday, and there were plenty of people on the street. No one stopped.
    Didn’t have a phone, so I eventually flagged down a cop – that is, I stepped in front of his car and waved my arms until he reluctantly stopped, and radioed in a report.
    A few minutes later the ambulance arrived. I asked the EMT if the guy was still alive. “Oh, yes,” he replied. “We pick him up a couple of times a week. He’s diabetic and an alcoholic. I’ll be surprised if he lives more than a week or two.”
    This raises all kinds of questions. Do we want people dropping dead on the street? If so, how long do they have to lie there before the corpse is removed? Is it cheaper for us to repeatedly pay for his ambulance and hospital stay, or to place him in a rehab facility?
    I’d prefer to not think about these things, but that’s the reality of our current system. And it seems like there must be a less expensive and more merciful way of dealing with people such as him.

  • Love it. I went there for my birthday with my Dad and we had a cool time. MI was so mysterious- with all of the winding hallways and such..

  • Magic Island was a fun place!
    I went there twice in the 2000’s and it was a bit worn around the edges, maybe even had a musty smell. But we were there to be entertained! Close-up sleight-of-hand is a trip.
    Next favorite thing – especially for my kids: the sinking bar stool.

  • @bigtex
    you value life, I value life, do you know if the diabetic alcoholic values life? Did you query him as to his wants/needs? Maybe he’s done with it and you made him suffer more by extending his life?
    How do you know that he wants to be rehabilitated? How did you know that he wanted to be helped at all?
    The least expensive way to help him is to buy him a pine box when he kills himself, rather than try to fix him (either through forcing him through the current episode, or rehabilitating him). Without knowing his needs or wants though, it’s hard to know whether that is the most merciful solution.
    In a clockwork orange they ‘rehabilitated’ people who did very bad things, and they didn’t want to be rehabilitated, in the end the guy killed himself because he was rehabilitated into a living hell. Imagine, if you rehabilitate this guy that was doing no harm to anyone else, you may be putting him into a living hell, and he didn’t even do any of the things that were done by the boy in a clockwork orange. There’s no mercy in that.
    Let people live, let people die. If they don’t seek help, they don’t want help.

  • Methinks toasty is a true Trump supporter and is doing his best to MAGA.

  • GlenW: To be fair, he makes solid points. And if you have counter points, you should address his facts vs. just name calling (I’ll assume you’re calling him a Trump supporter to be negative — which is odd given that statistically more people than not on this site voted for him thus wouldn’t view it negatively)

  • Just a little humble comment on the tangents in this section. First, since the fire during Ike, the building has always had a doomed feeling to me. Second, it always surprises me how many people seem to lack knowledge of the directive, “What you do to the last of these, you do to me.” The last thing a homeless person in distress is worried about is the cost of an ambulance ride – call them some help. Third, regarding having to jump in front of a cruiser for police assistance in downtown: I’m skeptical. The Downtown District has a VERY capable and VERY willing division of HPD officers on foot and bike patrol who do an unbelievable job on a daily basis of managing care for our homeless population and serving the thousands of daily visitors. Walk the Main Street corridor and get to know them, they’re awesome. If by chance you can’t find them, the District also has a very present Safety Guide Team that are just as capable and willing. They are the ones in blue slacks and white button downs and they also are an incredible asset to our city. It’s hard to not find assistance in the 77002 these days.

  • @toasty
    “do you know if the diabetic alcoholic values life? Did you query him as to his wants/needs? Maybe he’s done with it and you made him suffer more by extending his life?”
    Perhaps I didn’t explain it correctly. The unconscious man on the sidewalk did not identify himself as an alcoholic with diabetes. My queries (“Hey! Can you hear me? Are you OK?”) went unanswered, so I didn’t ask about his wants and needs, or his views on the futility of life. Totally my fault.
    “How do you know that he wants to be rehabilitated? How did you know that he wanted to be helped at all?”
    Again, unconscious people are reluctant to discuss these things.
    “The least expensive way to help him is to buy him a pine box when he kills himself, rather than try to fix him (either through forcing him through the current episode, or rehabilitating him).”
    Generally, dead people are beyond help. If your concern is the expense of corpse disposal, a cardboard coffin or cremation may be cheaper than a pine box. Have you priced solid wood furniture lately?
    I hope this has helped to clear up any confusion brought about by my original post.