Thursday, December 27, 2018
Thursday, December 20, 2018
4020 Southwest Freeway
This hotel was later branded as Comfort Inn based on lingering Internet references (also part of the Choice Hotels brand). Sometime around late 2006 the hotel was closed and demolished as per Google Earth and HCAD records. It was presumed to be built in the 1970s based on Google Earth imagery. The ad is from a tourist guide from the mid-1980s.
This hotel was later branded as Comfort Inn based on lingering Internet references (also part of the Choice Hotels brand). Sometime around late 2006 the hotel was closed and demolished as per Google Earth and HCAD records. It was presumed to be built in the 1970s based on Google Earth imagery. The ad is from a tourist guide from the mid-1980s.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Brick House Tavern + Tap opened January 20091. It was originally built as Joe's Crab Shack in 1997 and all records indicate that it was the first Brick House to open, with the underperforming Joe's closing in 2008 for the new conversion into the restaurant concept.
Picture taken by the author September 2018, Google Street View of the building as Joe's
1Based on how many weeks from the February 11th 2009 publication date
Thursday, December 6, 2018
9125 West Sam Houston Parkway North
This post was originally posted at Safeway and Albertsons in Texas Blog, another blog of the author's (currently mothballed and in talks to change hands). When Albertsons Inc. pulled out of Houston in early 2002, a great number of the stores were sold to Kroger, which quickly reopened them. The stores originally kept all the Albertsons décor (this store, formerly Albertsons #2766, was remodeled in 2013 according to official sources, so that's probably when they went, unless it changed sooner) due to the stores being practically brand-new when the plug was pulled. The store's layout is a copy of the Port St. Lucie, Florida store closed in 2012, with some minor changes.
The Starbucks was in the same place, the deli and meats were in the same place, and while the center store probably saw a rearrangement at some point, there were a few notable changes in the front. The old camera center had been converted to offices with the pet supply area converted to HBA, with the pharmacy next to it (it also added a walk-up pharmacy), and a bank space as well (this may have been part of the original layout), as well as a few other changes. The area around the florist was downsized (didn't see evidence of the former in-store dry cleaners), as the customer service desk was moved either next to the restrooms or in front of the "Albertsons Reading Center" area. According to HCAD, the store was built in 1999, and all photos here were taken in summer 2016 by the author.
Current Street View
Thursday, November 29, 2018
This two-level shopping center has distinct addresses (including South Shepherd addresses) for its tenants. The Randalls opened in December 1989 (possibly January 1990), and there was a commercial on YouTube that showed sketches of the new store including floral, deli, and pizza departments, but it disappeared shortly before writing. This Randalls closed in fall 2018. In May 1990, Churrascos opened at 2005 Westheimer. This restaurant is still in operation as of this writing, and the Starbucks was part of Randalls (it was a very large Starbucks and evidence suggests it was the Flagship Café, which was part of the store). Despite many upper levels of Flagship stores and the two level strip mall, Randalls did not have an upper level.
Thursday, November 22, 2018
In early 2004 the Adam's Mark hotel was rebranded as the Houston Marriott Westchase following an announcement in 2003. An alternate version of this 1985 ad (from the Houston Post) using full color photos can be seen at old Texas Monthly ads. The hotel was built in 1980.
Editor's Note: Happy thanksgiving!
Thursday, November 15, 2018
This building was a former bakery operation (as of the early 1980s directory, listed as "Heights Bakery" though it's possible it was something originally), with a large three-point sign located at the corner that has faded off completely. As of this writing, the building is scheduled to become a wine bar/shop called "La Grande Rue" and a restaurant called "Savoir". Their websites are (also as of this writing) almost identical. According to HCAD, the build date is 1930 but Loopnet says 1950. However, the building does not seem to be on Google Earth's 1944 view but is on 1953, which suggests 1950 is perhaps the actual build date. More information can be seen on the Houston Architecture Forums.
Picture above is from May 2018 (by the author); picture below from Loopnet before renovations began.
Thursday, November 8, 2018
5850 Highway 6 North
Advertisement from the Houston Post, June 1985. The 5850 Highway 6 address is no longer in use, but the building adjacent to the modern Captain D's may have been part of Tommie's at one point at time, or even was a larger building before being reduced later. (Aerial photography makes this difficult to determine).
Thursday, November 1, 2018
This is the third of at least three posts on a small collection of fast food restaurants which the author has taken a personal interest in, to be further explored in a future post on the Northwest Freeway site (this link will be updated soon to reflect that). Along with McDonald's and Wendy's, a Taco Bell was also among the three fast food sites and others on the south side of Highway 290 to be leveled for road widening. According to HCAD, the Taco Bell was built in 1993 and had red, green, and yellow striping outside. Like the other restaurants it closed around fall 2012, and was demolished within months of when these pictures were taken in March 2013 by the author. (The above photo is one of the only ones I have of the building, and the photo below shows the back of the restaurant). Previously, these photos appeared on Carbon-izer and Brazos Buildings & Businesses.
Street View of Taco Bell still in operation
Thursday, October 25, 2018
Memorial Drive once was the busiest road in Houston during the 1960s prior to the opening of the Katy Freeway, but the road was removed from the freeway plan by the early 1950s and the Holiday Inn opened in 1969 (according to Harris County Appraisal District), within months of Katy Freeway opening. As a result, the hotel (already only one way to access the front of the hotel) was left with terrible access points no matter the access.
The hotel, referred to the "Civic Center" Holiday Inn or the "Memorial Plaza" Holiday Inn (sources vary), had 13 floors (likely labeled "ground" and floors one through 12), and less than 300 rooms1. It was also operated directly by Holiday Inns of America Inc. itself rather than being a franchised operation. Details are unavailable if it changed hands before it closed permanently in 1986, and by 1989 it was already considered to be converted to housing for the elderly, though renovation and reopening plans fell through.2
In 1998, the property reopened as 2100 Memorial, and was at some point repainted burgundy from beige. The flooding and subsequent fire control damage from Hurricane Harvey nearly closed 2100 Memorial until courts ordered the building to stay open and make repairs. Pictures taken in October 2018 by the author.
1. Sources vary on the rooms. The 1970 Hotel & Motel Red Book says 297 but an article in the Houston Post reported 271.
2. Various articles found through NewsBank.
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Previously, this content was posted on the Houston Architecture Forums in two posts: "Children's Palace at Greenspoint Commons" and "The Commons at Greenspoint". Built in 1989 right at the time Greenspoint Mall (and the surrounding area) was declining, The Commons at Greenspoint was a modern power center some of the trendy "big box" stores at the time, though many folded by the early 1990s. A listing from the 1990-1991 directory outlined most of the addresses of the stores.
12001 - Media Play (originally built as Phar-Mor)
12009 - Suzannes Shops
12025 - Office Depot
12031 - Sportstown (a chain that went bankrupt in the mid-1990s)
12061 - Highland Superstore (went bankrupt in 1992 and closed all stores by the end of 1993)
12075 - Cloth World (opened 10,000 square foot store in 1990)
12145 - Houston Photolab (this is probably one of the smaller stores)
12159 - Hit or Miss (owned by the parent company of T.J. Maxx, but smaller)
12167 - Sound Warehouse
12175 - Marshalls
12181 - Pier One Imports (stand-alone store close to I-45)
12231 - Marcos Mexican Restaurant
12245 - Children's Palace (see above ad, closed 1992)
Notes from the Chronicle mentioned a few more things:
- Clothestime was here (clothing store), it closed in 1995
- By 1996, Media Play was closed along with other Houston locations ( Almeda Square, Memorial City Mall, Meyer Park Center, Presidio Square and Westchase Center.)
- There was also a store here called Computer City.
- When the center was sold in 1998 to be a telecommunications center, Office Depot was still there.
Greenspoint Technology Center, as it was known from 1999 on, even featured an outpost of Enron and other telecommunications companies but still resembled a strip mall. In 2013, new buildings were built on the parking lot and the property was sealed off from public access.
(Right click to see the image in full size)
Thursday, October 11, 2018
This apartment complex is typical of the Greenspoint area apartment complexes, one of the inexpensively built apartments built in the 1970s for the Greenspoint area and hit hard by the oil crash in the early 1980s never to really recover. It was built as the Woodvalley Apartments in 1977 (316 units), and by the mid-1980s considered to be "deteriorating". In 1985, it received a significant upgrade where it became "The Hollywood" and even in 1989 (according to the Houston Post article "Latest marketing ploy? A poolside beach") had 90% occupancy. This was more than a name change and a repaint, the new name came with "lush California landscaping", with other amenities including "fountains, reflecting pools, an outdoor poolside amphitheater, waterfalls, sand volleyball, lighted tennis courts and even an imposing entry gate".
However, by the mid-1990s, it was known as Summerlin and was now a "Section 8" apartment (based on a government document detailing such apartments from 1994-1996, still found on the Internet). Ownership change history indicates that the namechange to Summerlin came in the early 1990s and to Biscayne at CityView in the mid-2000s. The apartment also absorbed 17030 Imperial Valley (214 units), built in 1978, and today known as Biscayne at CityView II, but marketed as part of Biscayne. This apartment complex was known as Sunlight by 1986 (it possibly had another name that predated that, but that is still unknown at this point) and seems to have kept that name before being absorbed into Biscayne at CityView.
Current Street View, notice the palm trees from the Hollywood days
Thursday, October 4, 2018
This is the second of at least three posts on a small collection of fast food restaurants which the author has taken a personal interest in, to be further explored in a future post on the Northwest Freeway site (this link will be updated soon to reflect that). The Wendy's was among the three fast food sites and others on the south side of Highway 290 to be leveled for road widening. According to HCAD, the Wendy's was opened in 1984 and had the "solarium" design as Wendy's had during that time. It is unknown if the tarp was put on the solarium before or after it closed, as the windows made it harder to heat and cool the building (there was no tarp in 2011). The restaurant closed around fall 2012, and was demolished within months of when these pictures were taken in March 2013 by the author. Previously, these photos appeared on Carbon-izer and Brazos Buildings & Businesses.
Street View of Wendy's still in operation
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Built as the Houston Airport Hilton in 1979, this hotel has a somewhat odd history. For years, the hotel was essentially two two-story buildings connected via skywalk. The author of this post later received a brief history of the hotel from "PurpleDevil" on HoustonArchitecture.com, who is unavailable for comment.
This was the original Hilton Inn Intercontinental Airport. Built in 1978, and opened in '79, it originally was just 500 North Belt. The original hotel was 220 rooms, on 2 floors, no elevator, a full service restaurant called "Wicker Works", a country night club called Chaps, and a full service bar named Cycles. It also featured 5 townhome suites occupying both stories, in a back building in the courtyard of the main building, which can be seen from aerials, which had 2 pools surrounding the townhome suites and a full size sauna beneath them. The hotel also featured a 4 bay grand ballroom that held around 800 people in total.
In 1980, the hotel was added onto on the adjacent property to the east, which added another 157 rooms, including a presidential suite featuring an in room jacuzzi, several full size meeting rooms, another bar named "The Wildcatter" which had an indoor/outdoor pool and another jacuzzi. The glass catwalk that you referred to was also built with the addition.
We now are at 1995 when, lo and behold, the property owners reach an agreement to bring the Hilton flag back to at least the addition, splitting the hotel in half, and reopening the addition as a Hampton Inn. The Hampton/Clarion combo lasted at this location for over 20 years, and seemed to maintain quite a clientele. It was typically packed with cars.
Then came 2006. It was sold by the Richfield Corporation to a private company named Riya Group. The place went from a dated, but bustling pair of hotels, to an absolute hell hole. I swear, within 6 months, this place had police cars or an ambulance and fire truck in front of it every night. Some of the drivers for our hotel used to say the clerks at the Clarion would stand out front smoking cigarettes, but not the ones you find at the store.
By 2009, the hotel had lost both the Clarion and Hampton flags, yet somehow continued to keep the doors open, with only (I kid you not) the employees' cars in the lot, and operating two hotels with no operating system or branding in place. I know that it got so bad at that hotel, that IAH would not even send distressed passengers to it at one point. After several months, the original hotel was branded, not a Days Inn, but a Days Hotel & Conference Center. The Hampton became the Baymont a few months after that, and has remained so since. The Days Hotel lasted about a year, then it changed to a Settle Inn for around 6 months, then to its current Park Inn. They've done quite a bit of work on the building's interior over the past couple of years, and I've seen brochures where the bedding and room decor has been modernized, oh and btw, it now has an elevator. On the Park Inn side. Apparently, not one on the Baymont side, in the old addition quite yet. Also, within the last couple of weeks, a new stone and iron fence is being erected around the property. I guess they are through having people cut through their parking lot, over their curbs, and across their ditch, when a driver feels the urgency to exit the freeway and cut down Spence to avoid Hardy.
The biggest problem I see, and have seen there a lot, is a lack of business. There's more cars there now, than there was a couple of years ago, but nowhere near the cash cow it was in its heyday. I remember when that Hilton had a line of patrons going from the back of the hotel, where Cycles was, clear out the front door just to get in. Those days are long over for this old girl.
I think the building itself lost a lot of its charm in '93, when in the conversion to Clarion, it had all that stucco slapped on its exterior. I always thought the dark brown brick it originally was, especially with that catwalk lit up right in the middle, very sharp and rather classy. Not so much now. It is still in use, as I've seen people walk across it from time to time, while passing by.
This is a bit inaccurate as HCAD shows that the transfer to Riya in 2005, and that per Google Maps Street View show that Days Hotel was in operation by 2007, likely just rebranded from Clarion. Baymont opened in 2008 (the same year the hotel was sold to Hornet Investors), and Park Inn Houston North Hotel & Conference Center was opened by 2010, and HCAD records show that the hotel was renovated in 2010. At some point after the 2010 renovation, Wicker Works became Sam Houston's Grill and today (post-2014) appears to be now known as Bistro 500.
Unfortunately, change would come soon. Up until 2017, both hotels remained under the same ownership and the skywalk provided access, Baymont (at 502) was sold to Red Roof Inn, and the skywalk was demolished. While the floor still slopes upward at the second floor of Park Inn, there's a new wall and door for a storage area. [Pictures are by the author, September 2018]
Thursday, September 20, 2018
10700 Telge Road
Houston-based Randalls opened a warehouse along Northwest Freeway in 1983, and expanded it in the late 1990s, adding a large traditional warehouse to the south and a freezer addition to the north (the old building had just perishables), consolidating from a location at 3350 Rogerdale Road. This came at about the same time as the chain was purchased by California-based Safeway Inc., which continued to operate the Randalls distribution center as one of two Texas facilities (the other is in the Dallas area, purchased from Food Lion) to serve primarily the Austin and Houston areas.
When Safeway bought Randalls, it was #2 in market share behind Kroger at 20.2%, almost bigger than #3 and #4 held together (Fiesta Mart and H-E-B, respectively).1 In the years that followed, Safeway made a series of decisions that alienated customers and did not expand the chain, especially as Kroger, H-E-B, and Walmart made aggressive growth. By 2016, about a year after Safeway was acquired by Albertsons, Randalls had fallen to less than 4%, not that Albertsons had much to work with before.
After purchasing Safeway, Albertsons initially reorganized the divisional structure to divide up the "Texas" division, taking Randalls' Tom Thumb chain and combining it with the Dallas-area Albertsons (in the "South" division) while combining Albertsons South's southern Louisiana stores and Florida stores with the Houston division. The Florida stores disconnected as part of a rebranding to Safeway and a realignment with Eastern (until they finally exited the market for good) and in spring 2017, Albertsons gave up on the Houston Division as a separate division (again) and combined it with the South Division, and sold the building.
As of this writing, part of the 1983 building will be demolished (to make the southern 1999 addition a separate building), and three new buildings are to be added under the name "Highland Grove Business Park".
Crossposted from Carbon-izer Presents the Northwest Freeway Corridor.
1 - `Right' store was ripe for picking - Randalls joins trend with dealHouston Chronicle (TX) (Published as Houston Chronicle) - July 24, 1999
Pictures taken September 2018
Thursday, September 13, 2018
The Colonial House apartments were originally built in 1970, and in the mid-1980s, they were marketed by Michael Pollack as a trendy place to live for singles in a well-publicized turnaround attempt that had the apartments actually renovated in just three months.
Unfortunately, the revival of Colonial House did not last, and by 1988, the apartments went into foreclosure. In 1989, new ownership renamed the apartments to Lantern Village Apartments. Some directories say that in 1982, the name of the apartments were Gulfton Square, but no advertisements or other writings have corroborated if that was the pre-Pollack name.
Advertisement originally from the Houston Post, edits made to reduce noise.
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Because of a plan this site had not to cover the same territory as other sites, it will only add to what Arch-ive has already covered. The Eckerd was here as of 2001 as per newspaper articles, and the renovation did not just add Lola, it added Anytime Fitness, Flooring in the Heights, and Nutrition Epicenter. Nutrition Epicenter has closed (Flooring in the Heights has only one mention beyond Street View, and it is also gone). Sharkey's Cuts for Kids has taken over the nutrition store, and it appears Anytime Fitness has expanded into the flooring store. While this site aims to cover full histories of the sites it covers, sometimes that is not feasible with the schedule. Photo taken by author, August 1, 2018.
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Built as part of a redevelopment of the former John Eagle Honda location, this was an Eckerd drug store, and opened in late 2003 or early 2004 (the building was built in 2003 as per HCAD records), and one of the last stores to be built as an Eckerd. However, the building was built at the wrong time. By the time it opened, Eckerd's owner, J.C. Penney, was about to divest the chain to competitors, the finalists being Jean Coutu Group, which operated primarily Canadian drug stores but had a U.S. division in the form of Brooks Pharmacy (in the New England area), and CVS Corporation, which had recently entered the Houston market, and had a store by February 2004 less than a mile away at Fallbrook and FM 1960. In mid-2004, Eckerd was sold. The stores in Houston and much of the South were sold to CVS Corporation, and the stores in the Eastern Seaboard were sold to Jean Coutu Group, which merged them with the Brooks Pharmacy group to create Brooks Eckerd Pharmacy. Initially both chains ran the Eckerd stores under the Eckerd name, but in September 2004, CVS announced it would shut down "at least 50" Eckerd stores in Texas, with the rest becoming CVS stores. (Brooks Eckerd would continue to run the stores as Eckerd until 2007, when Jean Coutu Group sold the division to Rite Aid). The store at FM 1960 and Eldridge (officially 12620 W. FM 1960 as per HCAD) changed hands in mid-2004 to Anthony G Jr. Mancuso Trust, associated with CVS, and it is likely that the store had never become a CVS, as CVS changed out the oval-shaped Eckerd signs in favor a traditional rectangle, and aerial images indicate that by spring of 2005, the virtually-new Eckerd was empty. At an unknown point later (sometime before December 2007), Sound Fitness moved in, but it has been vacant for the last few years (it was definitely closed as of January 2017, and the last time it was known to be open was in 2013). In 2017, the trust divested the property. Picture above was from the author, January 2015.
Current Google Maps Street View
Thursday, August 23, 2018
This is the first of at least three posts on a small collection of fast food restaurants which the author has taken a personal interest in, to be further explored in a future post on the Northwest Freeway site (this link will be updated soon to reflect that). The McDonald's was among the three fast food sites and others on the south side of Highway 290 to be leveled for road widening.
While technically in Jersey Village, the McDonald's had the address and zip code of Houston, and to reduce confusion, that's what the "labels" of this post represent.
The address of the McDonald's is a bit in question. Normally, addresses on the north side of Northwest Freeway or Hempstead Road (when they parallel) are all even-numbered, as there's nothing on the south side (railroad), and when they are together they share addresses as they are in parallel. When Northwest Freeway is split away from the railroad, they have odd-numbered addresses. The McDonald's and the other stores in the "wedge" approaching Beltway 8 had both. As a result, legally this McDonald's is 16001 Northwest Freeway but also operated as 16002 Hempstead (despite the signage being 16001).
The McDonald's was built in 1980 (as per HCAD's paving records) and was listed as being rebuilt in 2000 (as per HCAD), which is a bit unusual given that the previous restaurant was not very old at the time. It is possible that it was just renovated, and the paint job of white and red was common to what McDonald's was repainting their older restaurants at the time. The paving record also indicates that it was a renovation as opposed to a rebuild; full rebuilds usually involve a new parking lot as well.
In 2012, the McDonald's closed, and stripped most of its iconic roof in the process. By June 2013, the building was demolished. The pictures were taken in March 2013 by the author. Previously, these photos appeared on Carbon-izer and Brazos Buildings & Businesses.
Street View of McDonald's still in operation
Thursday, August 16, 2018
According to both HCAD and Emporis, this hotel opened in 1984, certainly by May 1984 when this advertisement was published, advertising the hotel's bar/nightclub, The White Rose Cabaret. While the hotel wasn't quite as tall as the Holiday Inn Downtown (no Holiday Inn was), it was probably fancier and would be in better shape (even as the oil downturn hit).
In August 1994, just about two years after a renovation, it was reported that Holiday Inn Greenway Plaza was being sold to Dallas-based Harvey Hotels Corporation (this is all cross-referenced with HCAD), and the Holiday Inn sign was removed, replaced with the Harvey Hotel branding (and it was branded as Harvey Hotel for a while, with references to the hotel being named as such as of May 1995).
Prior to this, the hotel had flipped hands several times back and forth from Greenway Plaza Inn Inc. to other companies, none lasting more than two years (so says HCAD), but keeping the Holiday Inn name. Despite some articles of Harvey Hotel rebranding some acquired Holiday Inn hotels to its own name, Harvey Hotels began a restructuring, and in late 1995, became Bristol Hotel Company. By March 1996 (the earliest reference found), Harvey Hotel had returned to the Holiday Inn branding, but as Holiday Inn Select, a brand of Holiday Inn Worldwide (owned at the time by Bass PLC, not to be confused with the Bass family out of Fort Worth). While research was unable to find when Holiday Inn Select was created, it looks like 1995, and the Houston hotel may have been one of the very first to get rebranded, even under the Harvey Hotels ownership. Meanwhile, Bristol continued to be a major Holiday Inn franchisee, which took control of a number of formerly company-owned locations in 1997 (for some reason, transfer of the title of the title officially to Bristol Lodging was not official until October 1997).
While the Harvey Hotel name did not last long on the hotel, Harvey/Bristol would have Holiday Inn Select for over a decade until Holiday Inn Select Houston - Greenway Plaza Area (as it was known by this time) would remain until ASDN Houston (from what it looks like, only owned that hotel) bought it in 2006. That being true, it meant that the hotel was briefly owned by Holiday Inn's parent company itself, as Bristol was purchased in 2000 by Bass, shortly before Bass sold their flagship brewing business to Interbrew in 2000 (becoming Six Continents, reflecting the holdings of the worldwide hotel company) and spinning off the pubs and restaurants division as Mitchell & Butlers in 2003, becoming InterContinental Hotels Group. Soon after ASDN purchased Holiday Inn Select, IHG announced a redesign of the Holiday Inn name, which included (among other things), discontinuing the Holiday Inn Select and Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort names. The Holiday Inn Select hotels would be phased out for either traditional Holiday Inn hotels or Crowne Plaza, and by 2010, this hotel would become Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks. (There was one other Holiday Inn Select in the Houston area, at 14703 Park Row, though today it is a Wyndham).
The 2002 Six Continents hotel directory reports that the Holiday Inn Select (which is what the author remembers as the building during his trips to Houston prior to 2010) featured 355 "executive guest rooms" and 36 suites, plus 18 floors, 12,000 square foot of meeting space (up to 500 to 800 people depending on configuration), and a "Restaurant & Bar".
Google Street View from the present to the days when it was Holiday Inn Select
Thursday, August 9, 2018
The current Ruth's Chris Steak House in Houston is at 5433 Westheimer, when a renovation of an office building built it into a former bank lobby, but the original was located on Richmond. It may not have been a Ruth's Chris Steak House originally (built in 1975), but it was from c. 1984 to 2013 when it moved. By fall 2014, it was V Live (despite signs of "Vintage Steak & Seafood", it was a strip club). Newspaper articles say that V Live was closed in November 2016 due to not paying taxes, and it later became Karma Houston 6213 (which did not last long) and Draise Houston (also similarly fly-by-night looking). Image picture above is from a Houston tour guide from the 1980s and the bottom is from Loopnet.com.
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Inspired by Arch-ive's recent exploration of the defunct Astroworld in the 1970s (and being summer), today's post is on Splashtown USA (as it was called then) in the early 1990s. Like with The Galleria, more information on the early days of Splashtown can be found here on Carbon-izer, it hasn't been touched in almost a decade (it looks like more than that based on the crude HTML, admittedly), at least as of this writing.
Editor's Note: It depresses me that the first time I visited Splashtown, circa 1999, was probably closer to the opening than today.
Photo courtesy Mike Brister
Thursday, July 26, 2018
641 West Crosstimbers Road
This was originally a location of Kroger, possibly built as a grocery companion to a 1950s-era Sears store (like the Midtown Fiesta, and the Sears is still there as of this writing, and they even turn the big neon lighting on occasionally), as it is connected to it via parking. It is an unusual building that doesn't quite match with Kroger prototypes (similar to the "Superstore" designs but with significant modifications), likely to fit into lot requirements. The store was built, according to HCAD, in 1978, and has cars in it according to Google Earth's 1978 aerial (though Google Earth seems conflicted between whether the picture was taken in December 1977 or December 1978), but it's also the first and last time the lot has cars in it (empty in 1989 and 1995), although a directory lists it in 1991.
Kroger seems to have disposed of this around fall 1998, coincidentally the same time they rebuilt the former Safeway/AppleTree at 43rd Street, but it was sold directly to Charles Bertani, who owned Family Bingo (originally located at Pinemont and Ella, and moved it to here shortly thereafter). I would venture a guess it closed between 1994 and 1998 after absorbing a number of AppleTree stores (as there were two AppleTrees that were sold to Kroger within two miles of this store), but if Kroger SOLD it in 1998 it could've been closed for years. The two pictures are the author's, taken this month, but a day apart.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
During the 1980s recession, a number of hotels ended up closing outright. Some of them were surprises, some of them not. Some of them were able to reopen as hotels as the economy improved, and some were converted into senior housing. The fates of these hotels were entertaining to research, and many were easy to find, including Preference Inn (an Americas Best Value Inn these days, it's on the Beltway) or the Rodeway Inn Towers (torn down sometime in the early 2000s), some were not. The one that was most perplexing was just one, the Americana Motor Inn on Southwest Freeway. It took a lot of time to research it, but it was real, and located at 3301 Southwest Freeway.
It is a ghost, in more ways than one. On a technical standpoint, the hotel was an eight-story hotel with 201 to 207 rooms (for some reason, the number of rooms always seem to vary between sources, a problem noted with research for the Comfort Inn) and built in 1967. It was also very difficult to research (in part dealing with trying to look up the wrong address), but once the address was fixed, everything else researched fell into place, and a great postcard image (drawn) from a CardCow page on Amazon was found. Other advertisements mention that it had everything one could want from a modern (but modest) 1970s hotel--color televisions, meeting space for 375, a swimming pool, free parking, a lounge, and a small restaurant/coffee shop, the "Sabre & Saddle". One of the reasons it was hard to research was the Americana Motor Inn name only existed on the hotel for less than five years.
From all research, access was very limited. The hotel was located at the corner of Buffalo Speedway and Southwest Freeway, but the Buffalo Speedway entrance/exit was right-turn in, right-turn out with no back entrance, owing to the lack of Westpark Road. Like some of the other hotels on the stretch (including Greenway Inn), U-turns were a necessity.
There was an unoccupied pad site at the direct southwest corner of Buffalo Speedway and Southwest Freeway, perhaps intended for a separate restaurant or fast food, but it appears that this was never built. The railroad located behind the hotel did not likely play a part in its demise, by the 1970s it was already a spur with just a few customers and sometime shortly after the hotel met its untimely end, the railroad was completely abandoned.
An early 1980s directory mentions it had a Compacts Rent-a-Car but no listing for a restaurant inside. Given how shockingly little information there is on this hotel there is on the Internet plus how it flat-out closed during a recession, it may have been that it never had a restaurant in its later days.
In the process of researching, Americana Hotels (with Americana Motor Inn hotels included) were owned by American Airlines (complete with a similar logo, the above is from The New York Times, 1976). It is not clear if it was related to the 1960s-era Americana Motor Inns Corpus Christi. It may have been disposed of by the 1970s.
In 1979 a number of the Americana hotels were sold to Pick Hotels, which were owned by Bass Brothers of Texas, and the Americana chain continued under him with the addition of a new Americana Hotel in Downtown Fort Worth. Soon after that, Pick Hotels Corporation became Americana Hotels Corporation, and a separate publicly-traded company, Americana Hotels & Realty, was created to actually own hotels. The hotel was renamed Albert Pick Motor Inn to the Americana Motor Inn as part of this change. It seems odd that a first-rate hotel like Americana Motor Inn, located directly off the freeway (some of the other hotels that closed in that era like the Shamrock or Holiday Inn off Memorial didn't have nearly as good as a location, and closed after Americana), would close in that era.
The above article features the photo the author originally wanted to license and put up in color, but when an inquiry was made, the Houston Chronicle refused to license it for free media, not even offering a picture for personal use.
As to why the hotel was demolished, things got ugly between Americana Hotels Corporation and Americana Hotels & Realty, with the real estate arm pulling out and ending contracts with the operational hotels, and the hotel side merging out of existence. What probably happened was that the REIT got the hotel (the hotel was still standing in June 1986) and unable to re-market it in the brutal Houston hotel environment (see photo and picture above), decided to simply demolish it to avoid it being vandalized beyond repair or spending money to protect it from such.
By 1989, the hotel was gone, with only the scars of where the buildings were and crumbling parking lots, and that's how it would remain until around 1997. That's when Summit Center Ltd. (named after, but not owned by the former Summit arena across the street) took over and redeveloped the property (and adjacent space) as Summit Square. The space where Americana Motor Inn was only encompasses the left building of the shopping center (if one was looking it at from Southwest Freeway, that is, the building on the east side of the access road that cuts between the two), Chili's, and a Chase bank, the latter of which occupies the unused pad.
None of the 1960s-era construction would survive (some parking lots exist off of Westpark, but those were built afterwards, as they are located on the railroad right of way).
Thursday, July 12, 2018
According to HCAD, the main warehouse has been here since 1940, but according to aerials, was built after 1944 and before 1953. Tejas Materials has owned the space since at least 2007, but it appears to have been a similar business even dating back to the 1950s. Originally, there was a storage yard out back accessible through an extension of Silver Street, but reconfigurations from highway construction would mean that Silver Street was truncated past Weber, and the space to the east of the warehouse used instead. Of interest is an abandoned spur that was cut off in the early 1990s (or even 1980s), connecting to the Katy line and cutting between the buildings owned by Martin Preferred Foods to the south. You can see that some rails still remain just beyond the repaving of the road, with the original Weber surface buried about four inches or so below the current pavement.
Thursday, July 5, 2018
The above appeared in The Eagle originally but I've previously posted it on the original Northwest Freeway page. Today known as the Sheraton Houston Brookhollow Hotel, the hotel opened (built) in 1979 as Marriott Hotel Brookhollow, part of the big building boom of hotels during that time (before the crash and several ended up closing, and the ones that did not close had severely reduced rents, like the 1985 ad above). Despite premiering a new restaurant called Cimarron in early 1992 (New Southwestern food, buffet), in May 1992, new ownership (Medallion Hotels of New York, which bought it from Aetna Insurance in 1990), renamed the hotel as Houston Medallion Hotel. In 1998, the hotel became Sheraton Houston Brookhollow, and as of 2018 means that it has been that name longer than the previous two combined. (The hotel was Medallion in fall 1997 and Sheraton in January 1999, and the hotel had changed hands again in 1998). This is the current Google Street View showing the hotel as-is.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
This was built in 1993 as a Shoney's and still shows up as such in some 1995-era listings. However, Shoney's did not last long and a small addition was built to the north side of the building being recorded in 1997, likely after Shoney's closure. In 1998, it reopened as Yank Sing (possibly relocated to 2005 Mangum later). Little exists of this location on the Internet, but it was listed on this list of Chinese restaurants in America. This second incarnation appeared to have a rounded red sign from Google Earth. In 2004 ownership transferred to Mambo Seafood, which has a neat neon sign that failed to be captured in the photograph above (taken the week this was posted).
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Known as Garden Ridge for many years, the original Katy "At Home" location opened as a Buyer's Market off-price shopping mall in November 1984 at the same time as a sister location close to North Houston. (As I don't have, or don't have permission to have, a proper facade picture, an ad will have to do, originally from The Houston Post and posted on HAIF)
Like many of the things we will cover, we don't know a whole lot about the Buyer's Market beyond confirmation of existence, except that from a few pictures it looked very much like Garden Ridge/At Home did, except the "store" areas had walls and names, but it, along with another location on I-45, became Garden Ridge Pottery stores soon after the closure of Buyer's Market. Louisiana and Texas Southern Malls & Retail does have information including opening, closing, and what a total failure it was. After the closure of it and the Airtex location, they became Garden Ridge Pottery's second and third Texas location (as it was known at the time) beyond its original location in Schertz, Texas. (I say Texas location because an Oklahoma location was opened in October 1985 but sold in 1987 due to a disconnect from the partnership).
One of the things about Garden Ridge was that all the way until 2015, it lacked access from Katy Freeway! This stems from the fact that originally a railroad ran between the frontage road and the parking lot. The access question was mitigated somewhat with the development of commercial businesses in the mid to late 2000s, but in the 1990s, only Foxlake crossed the railroad, and Atrium Place did not connect with Fry Road (you had to go up to Park Row to work your way back around). With weird ways to get in like this, it's no surprise that Buyer's Market was a miserable failure, and Garden Ridge nearly filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter (years before the actual filing).
From what I could find, from moving in around 1986 up until 2014, Garden Ridge Pottery (later simply "Garden Ridge") maintained headquarters here. They also had a snack bar inside the original store (nothing too special, from what I heard mostly hot dogs and other similar fare), using the restaurant facilities from Buyer's Market. While snack bars were introduced in other stores in the late 1990s, they all closed during the mid-2000s bankruptcy of Garden Ridge.
As part of the transformation into At Home in 2014, the company moved its headquarters out of the building and toward Plano, leaving a number of back offices vacant and virtually abandoned, able to wonder inside them. I didn't wonder go too deep (didn't want to get in trouble) but the store was so understaffed (the front end area was massive but only a few people there) that no one seemed to mind. Like many stores past their prime, it was both a functional store and an abandoned urban exploration site at the same time.
I'm glad I saw it when I did. Later that year, I got word that it would be closed, with the At Home being "temporarily" closed.
By late 2017, At Home rebuilt with a new store but it was 127,000 vs 269,000 square feet (though during the At Home days, that 69k square feet used for offices was vacant). There was space for an additional retail store next to it.
Better pictures can be found elsewhere, but I only have two pictures of my own, one of an older map in the offices (I tried to take a picture so it could be easily read, despite in the dark, but lightening it up didn't help it out), and one of a sealed mall entrance.
Friday, June 15, 2018
777 North Post Oak Road
This 1980s retirement home community (the smaller building next to it is a nursing home, completed shortly after the tower) is one of the "landmarks" seen by travelers coming from 290 and going toward 610 South or Interstate 10. Opened in fall 1989, it features 209 apartments and 108 nursing beds. From newspaper articles, the smaller adjacent nursing home was built as a second phase within a few years. It advertised itself as being an upscale building in the middle of everything. Here's an advertisement from those days (I believe from the Houston Post). Right-click to see larger view.
In 1996, it became part of the Marriott Senior Living Services brand and according to the Houston Chronicle, was rebranded to "The Forum at Memorial Woods, A Marriott Senior Living Community". If it ever did change names, it reverted to its original name when Marriott International sold off the Marriott Senior Living Services division, but either Sunrise or Marriott sold it off at some point, as it is not owned by Sunrise.
Above picture is by me, 2018. Advertisement was previously posted by the author at the HAIF.