Thursday, July 26, 2018

Kroger (West Crosstimbers)

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

Albert Pick Motor Inn / Americana Motor Inn

3301 Southwest Freeway

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

Tejas Materials Inc.

1902 Weber Street

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

Marriott Hotel Brookhollow

3000 North Loop West

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.