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Category: Preservation


Conceived of by David Bucek, this 1990 illustration depicts a sanctuary for survivors of a worldwide ecological disaster

The Astrodome—What is to be done?

Hotel, movie studio, sanctuary from disaster, and giant indoor park are among the many ideas proposed for the dilapidated Astrodome. Join our online forum about the once glorious stadium’s future. Madeleine McDermott Hamm, former Home Design Editor for the Chronicle (author of “The Astrodome: The Glory Days, the decline, the future,” Cite 76, Nov 2008) and University of Houston Professor of Architecture Bruce Webb (“Making a Dome Deal,” Cite 64, Summer 2005) are opening the discussion.

We encourage all readers to contribute their thoughts, memories, and ideas. Click on the more link below and scroll to the bottom to leave a comment.

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Metropolitan Theater [Photos courtesy Houston Metropolitan Research Center, via]

Cinema Houston

The cover of David Welling’s book Cinema Houston is a stunning sepia photograph of the interior of the downtown’s lost Metropolitan Theater, known in its time for a booming Wurlitzer, disappearing orchestra pit, and opulent faux-gold Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Its extravagance bears little resemblance to the Houston theaters of the 90s and 00s I grew up in, where the investment was not in decoration but in the number of screens and parking spots. This very American transition from the movie palace to the multiplex, amplified in our city, is given a definitive treatment in Cinema Houston.

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view from bayou.pdf

International Coffee Building design by Lake/Flato Architects and BNIM [Renderings and historic photos courtesy Buffalo Bayou Partnership, current photos by Jesse Hager]

A Place Along A Path: International Coffee Building Renovation

At the time of the completion of the International Coffee Building in 1910, Commerce and Main Street were bustling with the activities that the street names imply. The International Coffee Building served as a roasting and distribution point for one of the key industries of the era. Since then, rail supplanted shipping and Houston, with the aid of the automobile, moved rapidly out from its historic center at Allen’s Landing. The downtown has shifted its energies away from the water. Buildings now are designed for firms that track materials digitally or sell digital commodities. What was once a vibrant center of city life has been literally overshadowed and left for appropriation by vagrants or artists.

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Houston Light Guard Armory Entrance [Photo by Jesse Hager]

A Building Worth Saving: Houston Light Guard Armory

Behind a corner gas station and in the shadow of luxury apartments sits one of the finest buildings in Houston, falling into disrepair. Designed by Alfred C. Finn and completed in 1925, the Houston Light Guard Armory building has been abandoned for quite some time. Vagrants and vandals have had their say, as well as Gulf Coast weather and its most recent envoy, Hurricane Ike. The history of the building is regrettably full of misfortune. After only 13 years of service to the Houston Light Guard, the armory was deeded to the state. Attempts to rescue the building have come in fits and starts, so far without success.

The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum has plans to restore the Armory and give it a purpose that relates to its original use.

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Illustration from the cover of Houston Free Press

The Soul of Houston

This month’s issue of the Houston Free Press has an article (click on “features”) on Wilshire village, the long semi-abandoned 1940 apartment complex at Alabama and Dunlavy. It quotes a former resident:

“Houston has changed so much since 1965 when I went there to attend Rice. All the old places have changed. Rice Village is unbearable overbuilt and congested… I actually liked Houston back in those old days. It has a soul back then, which I think has since been sold to the devil.”

The issues cover illustrates the question “is Houston selling its soul” with pictures of condos, lofts, and the Ashby highrise. The devil, obviously, is the developers.

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Blessed Sacrament Church (1910-2004), 4015 Sherman, Birdsall P. Briscoe, architect [Photo by David Bush]

Blessed Sacrament? A Response to the New Preservation Ordinance

The Houston city council recently passed changes to the Historic Preservation Ordinance. The original ordinance, passed in 1995, provides far fewer protections and mechanisms than the law in other cities. David Bush, Director of Programs and Information for the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance (GHPA), responds to the changes below.

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Rendering of Julia Ideson Building Restoration and Expansion [Courtesy of Gensler]

The Julia Ideson Building: An Interview with Barry Moore

In the Spring 2008 issue of Cite (74), Anna Mod wrote an article entitled “The Librarian Returns: Rehabilitating Houston’s Beloved Julia Ideson Building.” Click here to download a pdf copy. After the recent groundbreaking, Raj Mankad interviewed Barry Moore, a frequent contributor to Cite and a lead architect on the project.

Raj Mankad (RM): How did you become an expert in preservation?

Barry Moore (BM): By the time I completed my architectural education and joined the family firm, my father already had a reputation as the first preservation architect in Houston — he was one of the founders of The Heritage Society in 1954.

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Man throwing debris into pile in Galveston. [Photo by Eric Hester]

Disappeared: Galveston, Ike, and Affordable Housing

What happens when you take a failing affordable housing policy and add a direct hit by Hurricane Ike? I talked to Chula Sanchez, a LEED-certified architect and member of the Galveston Planning Commission, about just that.

“The planning commission seems to be more of a permitting commission,” Ms. Sanchez explained.

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