Monday, September 03, 2007

Houston Is Breaking My Heart

Even before I moved to Houston I knew it was going to break my heart in due time.

“Such appearance doesn’t fit for Red (communistic) Moscow!”

And Moscow after planned progress.

These propaganda posters (from English Russia) don't seem all that different from the current tendencies to demolish the old and historic for the new and (usually) mundane. In the US it's capitalism that often seems to be preservation's worst enemy. Houston is no different than many cities in its rush to tear down buildings that don't offer their owners modern convenience and/or profitability. Even before we moved I was reading the Houston Architecture Info Forum and they were lamenting the destruction of worthwhile buildings in the city.

Local blogger Guardian of the Non Sequitur already commented in the Alabama Theater Bookstop post that the building was endangered. And looking at the Houston Mod news page just confirms that. I had already planned on doing a photo shoot in the converted theater and now I need to do so even more than ever.

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Historic Shopping Center and Theaters in Danger

Tenants of the River Oaks Shopping Center have been told that the owners, Weingarten Realty Investors, plan to demolish the northeast section of the historic center and the River Oaks Theater building to make way for a multi-story Barnes & Noble bookstore and a high-rise residential building designed by Hermes Architects according to the Houston Chronicle. Hermes Architects is best known for designing the Portofino Shopping Center (below) of 2004 in The Woodlands, Texas, a Venetian-themed concoction made of Styrofoam and artificial stucco. The River Oaks Shopping Center at 2017-2047 West Gray Avenue, designed by Houston architects Milton McGinty and Stayton Nunn with Oliver C. Winston, opened in 1937. It was published nationally in Architectural Record and American City magazines shortly after its completion. It is of national architectural significance.

The former Alabama Theater Building at 2900 S. Shepherd Drive of 1939, which Weingarten Realty Investors also controls, may be endangered as well. Community activists fear that if Barnes & Noble opens a bookstore in the River Oaks Shopping Center it will close its location in the Alabama Theater Building run under the Bookstop name. Ironically, in 1989 Weingarten Realty Investors with Kaldis Development Interests commissioned Mike Treadway Architects to sensitively restore the theater for use as a retail space.

For more details on this story please see the following articles

More information on the River Oaks shopping center can be found in the Cite Magazine article on the River Oaks center

The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance has added these buildings to its endangered buildings list.

The New York Times - Fighting the Wrecking Ball to Save Houston Landmarks

Houston Chronicle - Historic theater could soon fade into history, 7/22/2006

Houston Chronicle - Battle to save River Oaks center, 7/28/2006

To sign the petition please go to

Battle to save River Oaks center
Cite Magazine article on the River Oaks center
Fighting the Wrecking Ball to Save Houston Landmarks
Historic theater could soon fade into history
The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance"

1 comment:

astrid said...

Hi, I would to like to know more about the Portofino Shopping Center. I work for the portofino official turistic site.

My name is Silvia.