Mary'sLoungeMural

Remembering Mary’s: Where Leather Picked Up Politics

In advance of Cigna Sunday Streets this weekend along Westheimer, OffCite is republishing a piece from the counterculture special issue of Cite (82, Summer 2010) with a postscript by its author Brian Riedel. The building that housed Mary’s is now home to the Blacksmith coffee shop.

Mary’s is closed for good. Now only “Keep Out” signs and realtor placards jostle for attention at this former hub of Houston’s gay bar scene. Its passing, however, did not go unmarked. Shortly after the bar was locked down in late October 2009, local activists put up a Facebook page, “Mary’s Naturally Closed,” to organize a historical salvage effort. Richard Connelly of the Houston Press picked up the story. After Hours on KPFT featured an interview with members of the family that owns the land at 1022 Westheimer. Even Fox 26 News ran a segment spotlighting the closure, timed to air on the eve of World AIDS Day.

more >


Drawing by Raj Mankad.

Drawing by Raj Mankad.

A Bottom-Up, Unofficial Guide to the Westheimer Cigna Sunday Streets

Cigna Sunday Streets HTX is March 29 from noon to 4 p.m. on Westheimer from Woodhead to Taft. Watch the one-minute video of the unofficial guide below.

To learn more, check out OffCite’s extensive archives on Sunday Streets here.

more >


Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest History Museum. All photos by Timothy Hursley.

Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest History Museum. All photos by Timothy Hursley.

Small-Town Avant-Garde: The Building of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest History Museum

If you want more reviews like this one by William Hartman, a Rice School of Architecture alum and assistant professor at Louisiana Tech, subscribe to Cite or call (713) 348-4876 to purchase the forthcoming special issue on museums.

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest History Museum is located in Natchitoches (pronounced NAK-uh-tesh), a city of almost 20,000 people that last year celebrated its 300th anniversary, making it the oldest settlement in the vast area that in 1803 was included in the Louisiana Purchase. It was founded as a French outpost in the alluvial plain of the Red River and in the nineteenth century served as a port for the shipment to New Orleans of the cotton produced in the entire region. Today, the historic character of Natchitoches is maintained by a cadre of retirees and more than a million annual visitors. The city is home to Northwestern State University, Cane River National Heritage Area, and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

Even prior to its completion, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, as it has become known, gained the attention of the design and industry press. Designed by Trahan Architects of New Orleans, the museum’s many accolades include recognition for its use of digital technologies and materials of cast stone and copper and as “best of the year” by several architectural journals. Its design has received AIA Honor Awards from both local and state chapters, and this year the museum attained an AIA National Honor Award for Interior Architecture. One might ask: How did this award-winning museum, requiring a team of consultants from as far away as Boston and Copenhagen to design and detail the structure, actually get built in the heart of a historic district in a mostly rural region of the Deep South?

more >


Küchenmonument or Kitchen Monument. Courtesy Raumlabor.

Küchenmonument or Kitchen Monument. Courtesy Raumlabor.

Under the Overpass: Lessons from Mexico and Germany

On Saturday, March 14, Metro broke ground on a light rail overpass at Harrisburg that upset many Houstonians in the East End, believing it couldn’t be anything but an eyesore. Can we imagine the Houston underpass as shelter for life instead of an unwanted and dangerous dead space?

Berlin architect Markus Bader recently discussed his “Kitchen Monument” project at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for the RSA/RDA “Plug-Ins” lecture series. The project began with the activation of an underpass with a giant bubble where dances and dinner parties were held. Watch an excerpt from the talk below or the full talk here.

more >


Thomas and Daniel Garcia-Prats at Finca Tres Robles. Photos: Nick Panzarella

Thomas and Daniel Garcia-Prats at Finca Tres Robles. Photos: Nick Panzarella

Finca Tres Robles: Urban Farming on the Rise in Houston

Down Navigation Boulevard, past the popular Mexican restaurants and beyond the majority of the new townhouses, an urban farm sits a block south across from the U.S. Zinc factory. Finca Tres Robles, Spanish for “Three Oaks Farm,” is the project of brothers Thomas and Daniel Garcia-Prats, two native Houstonians who founded the farm in June 2014.

Urban farming has been on the rise in the U.S. for the past few years, and Houston has not been overlooked. Planted: Houston and Sown and Grown are for-profits in the city limits, and Last Organic Outpost is a long-time nonprofit institution. Plant It Forward is expanding their work with refugees. The idea is to make use of unused space within the city to produce food, as opposed to consuming more wild lands outside of the city.

more >


Four Leaf Towers (Cesar Pelli, 1982) on left and  BLVD Place (AECom, 2014). Photo: Alex MacLean.

Four Leaf Towers (Cesar Pelli, 1982) on left and BLVD Place (AECom, 2014). Photo: Alex MacLean.

Beyond Groceries: New Post Oak Whole Foods Blurs Boundaries of Urban and Suburban

The newest Whole Foods in Houston opened last November on Post Oak Boulevard in Uptown (or the Galleria area, as some natives might still be conditioned to say) to great fanfare: it is the first Whole Foods in the United States to contain a craft beer brewing operation and pub within the store.

However, what’s more newsworthy about this particular Whole Foods is its location, its build, and itself as a manifestation not only of the changing fabric of the area, but also of the suburban/urban mashup that is Houston, and what we want from something as seemingly straightforward as a grocery store.

When Gerald Hines built the anchor to the Galleria mall in 1970, it set a new precedent in the mall explosion of its times: giant, chain department stores connected together by hallways lined with other chain stores, flanked by widespread parking on all sides, located on the edge of town — a new and private Main Street giving shoppers an opportunity to buy things without having to go downtown.

more >


Photos: Sean McNeely.

Photos: Sean McNeely.

A Much Wilder Place: A Review of Tom McNeely’s Ghost Horse

Thomas McNeely’s new novel, Ghost Horse (2014, Gival Press, 246 pages) is set in Houston in the 1970s. Not coincidentally, it’s a difficult book to read. The characters lead difficult lives, some broken by divorce and others shadowed by fear, child abuse, domestic violence. The lines between race and class are sharply drawn and harshly spoken; the novel turns when the main character, Buddy, a young boy whose parents are separated, plays a cruel prank on a friend and spits a racial epithet at him.

Much of the action takes place in the car, as Buddy, the novel’s main character, is shuttled back and forth between a private school where he struggles to make friends and his mother’s house near Telephone Road. As good as McNeely is at bringing Buddy’s confusion and frustration to life, as the boy tries to figure out whether he ought to align himself with his father, or mother, or both, or neither, he is even better at capturing the ambiguity of Houston’s built environment, especially in the neighborhoods near Telephone: “All the way back to his mother’s house,” McNeely writes, “past El Destino Club #2, where purple lights revolve, and Tellepsen Tool, where sparks shower night and day, and Andrew Jackson Grammar School’s cement playground, enclosed in a barbed-wire fence; past the orange duplexes at the end of his mother’s street, whose porch roofs sag like heavy-lidded eyes, where Mexican children stare at his father’s car, then vanish into the houses, or around corners, or under gutted cars.”

more >


Exterior of Creation Evidence Museum. Photos: Allyn West.

State of Museums: Creation Evidence Museum of Texas

Follow OffCite’s State of Museums series in advance of the forthcoming issue of Cite. Use the hashtag #StateOfMuseums to view related content on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The road to the Creation Evidence Museum of Texas was blocked. Just outside of Glen Rose, the two-lane 1001 is crossed by the Paluxy River, which splits off from the Brazos a few miles away. I passed small ranches until the pavement ended and the road funneled down to a rocky ford. That morning, the water was running so high I had to put my Honda into reverse and take the long way around.

Just upstream from there you can see in the riverbed hundreds of fossilized tracks of the Paluxysaurus and Acroca­nthosaurus, dating back, most paleontologists agree, to the Cretaceous Period, the last era before dinosaurs went extinct around 65 million years ago. Dr. Carl Baugh, who founded the Creation Evidence Museum in 1984, claims that you can also see fossilized “man tracks.” For Dr. Baugh, these tracks show that Man and Dinosaur co-existed, refuting theories of evolution and proving that Earth was created by God about 6,000 years ago.

His Creation Evidence Museum houses a variety of objects thus appointed: fossils, Bibles, bones. The building, a two-story rock cabin with a peaked roof and walls of sun-stained Plexiglas, is long and narrow with an open plan on the inside. Perched on a short hill and shaded by a few trees, it’s flanked by portables and a prefabricated shed and backs up to the Paluxy. Dr. Baugh, a trained Baptist minister now in his late 70s, has said that the museum receives about 15,000 visitors a year, many of them making a kind of pilgrimage to see what he alone can show them.

more >


Paris. Photo: Rashed Haq.

Paris. Photo: Rashed Haq.

Love Is Everyday

One of the most intimate moments I’ve ever come across between two people is a personal anecdote the poet Mary Ruefle relates in her book Madness, Rack, and Honey. She describes finding herself in a Belgian taxicab on a Sunday night in 1969, when her driver began exclaiming something in Flemish, a language she did not understand. As the driver pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car, she recalled that this was about the time the Americans were supposed to land on the moon. When he pointed to the moon, she nodded, and they observed it together in silence for a few moments. Then they drove on.

Although these two strangers did no more than stand beside each other, the intensity of their shared awe is as moving as a joyous public display of affection between an affectionate couple. Our photographer here, Rashed Haq, whose work has been exhibited nationally in over a dozen juried shows in the last two years, talks about being fascinated by these couples’ disappearance into a universe of their own. In his series “Love is Everyday,” he is drawn in by their joint aura; sometimes even finding himself able to anticipate their shift into an increasingly private shared mental space.

more >


Menil Park. Photo: Raj Mankad.

Menil Park. Photo: Raj Mankad.

Best Places for Public Displays of Affection in Houston

In his seminal essay about Los Angeles, “You Have to Pay for Public Life” (1965), Charles Moore writes that Disneyland “is engaging in replacing many of those elements of the public realm which have vanished in the featureless private floating world of southern California, whose only edge is the ocean and whose center is otherwise undiscoverable.” Phillip Lopate made a similar argument about Houston in his 1984 essay for Cite in which he describes our “almost sensational lack of convivial public space.”

Whenever Valentine’s Day comes around, I think about how public displays of affection (PDA) are a barometer for a healthy public realm. PDA shows that people feel safe and open to sharing beauty and joy. Houston has a sensational lack of PDA. You have to pay for public displays here.

more >