Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sound Fitness

12600 FM 1960 West

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

290 / Beltway 8 Demolition - McDonald's

16001 Northwest Freeway

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

Holiday Inn - Greenway Plaza

2712 Southwest Freeway

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

Ruth's Chris Steak House

6213 Richmond Avenue

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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Splashtown USA in the Early 1990s

21300 Interstate 45 N

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