Houston Historic Districts: Houston Heights West Historic District

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I was visiting family in Ohio, where it was most certainly not 70 degrees. Now that I’m home again, it’s back to reality. But you know what that means for you? More blogs!

We’re moving our tour of Houston historic districts to the Heights now. Unlike the Boulevard Oaks area districts I’ve written about the past few weeks  (here, here, here, and here), the Heights isn’t known for large mansions.

Developed in 1891 as a suburb, the Heights got its name for its elevation 23 feet higher than that of the city. One of America’s oldest planned communities, the Heights didn’t become part of Houston until 1918. Many of the neighborhood’s signature bungalow homes remain to this day, and it’s common to see homeowners in the Heights either renovate their houses in the original style or build new in the style. You’ll also notice Victorian-style homes, as well as many historic churches, commercial buildings, firehouses, and other structures. The Heights, quirky and village-like, is the poster child for Houston gentrification.

Next week I’ll continue touring the Heights, moving into the area’s five other designated historic districts.



Houston Historic Districts: West Eleventh Place Historic District

Post FAIL.

West Eleventh Place is a gated, private street, thus the lack of photos.  I would have pulled over to snap some quick pics, but it looked as if there were a guard at the gate. I’m sure intrepid journalists would always get that shot, and that’s why I’m not a journalist! So today’s post is entirely second-hand information, courtesy of the Houston Association of Realtors.

West 11th St. is four blocks past the Shadow Lawn district, adjacent to Bissonnet and across the street from the Contemporary Arts Museum. Like most gated streets, the houses are huge and the streets are tree lined–magnolias, oaks, and palms. The homes were built in the 1920s by Houston’s best architects, and the brick and stone gate (the one I neglected to photograph) is also original to the neighborhood.

But thanks to the magic of the Internet, here’s a photo of West 11th St. that euthman has courteously taken.

West Eleventh Place Historic District

Houston Historic Districts: Shadow Lawn

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Shadow Lawn is one of the smallest historic districts in the Houston area. It is, in fact, one street, a circle comprising only fourteen houses, adjacent to Bissonnet. Built in the early 1920s by some of Houston’s best architects, Shadow Lawn is home to an array of architectural styles.

Situated just north of Rice University and only steps from the Museum District, Shadow Lawn is right in the heart of Houston’s cultural scene. It’s also just blocks from Montrose, one of 2009’s “10 Greatest Places in America” .

This is one of those neighborhoods that’s worth a quick drive around if you’re passing through the Museum District. It won’t take more than a minute, but you’ll see some wonderful houses on your way.

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

So we’re making Coq au vin, and Martha Stewart asks me to help with the pasta. I’ve never made pasta in my life, and she asks me, ‘Have you ever worked in a restaurant’? I wanted to say, ‘Yeah bitch I have.’ But I didn’t. She’s an ex-con.”

Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert

So goes an evening with Anthony Bourdain. Now that he’s older, he prefers not to be called the bad boy of the culinary scene anymore, but he’s as opinionated as ever. We saw him last night at Jones Auditorium in the midst of his R-rated “Guts and Glory” speaking tour.  We were extra lucky, though, as his weekend appearances are billed as “Good vs. Evil” with fellow celebrity chef Eric Ripert.

Ripert is an engaging speaker, but make no doubt about it, Bourdain is the main draw, as the crowd of Society of Performing Arts season ticket holders, chefs, hipsters, and hipster chefs can attest. Whether answering questions or interrogating Ripert, Bourdain is opinionated, incisive, and brash. Topics included sustainability and endangered species, the proper way to manage a kitchen, his attack on Paula Deen’s hypocrisy, the effect of different recreational drugs on cooking, and vegetarians and their “Hezbollah-like splinter faction, vegans”. He also expressed his outrage after the Travel Channel aired a Cadillac commercial during last week’s No Reservations finale, using his quotes from the show, without asking his approval.

The laughs were not all Bourdain’s, however. Grilling him on the infamous Namibia episode of No Reservations, when Bourdain ate the tribe’s prized grilled warthog rectum–a delicacy that tastes like “fur, dirt, and shit”–Ripert noted that in all of his research, he had never heard of any people or tribe that ate “the asshole of a pig.” “Do you think,” he asked in his thick French accent, “they just wanted to make fun of the gringo?”

After an hour of quizzing each other, the pair took questions from the audience. Admitting that they wouldn’t get a chance to try any Houston restaurants (“We’ll be lucky to have time for a can of Pringles in the hotel.”), Bourdain noted that he’d had great Vietnamese in past visits, and the mark of a burgeoning culinary scene is the fusion created by young chefs experiencing and borrowing from many types of cuisine on a nightly basis.

He did cop, however, to a newfound love for Texas BBQ after visiting Franklin and JMueller in Austin. “There’s nothing better than good Texas barbecue,” Bourdain declared. “That’s what he said last week in Virginia,” responded Ripert.

Houston Historic Districts: Broadacres

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Today we continue our journey into Houston’s historic neighborhoods right down the block from where we began. (See part 1: Boulevard Oaks.)

Broadacres is an extension of the Boulevards Oaks District, centering again on North and South Boulevards. The neighborhood is small, with only 26 houses.

The biggest difference is that the homes are set farther back from the road than in Boulevard Oaks, often behind gates. Each boulevard is divided by a median shaded by oak bowers. It’s a pleasant avenue to stroll the brick walkways while admiring the lovely homes. Hollywood agrees. It’s been used in movies such as Terms of Endearment and Rushmore.

Next up: Shadow Lawn.

Houston Historic Districts: Boulevard Oaks

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I’m inaugurating a new feature here on the Three R’s. Houston has 19 designated historic districts, and since I’m both a Realtor and a history PhD, I thought it would be fun to document the city’s historic neighborhoods. This is a little bit strange since Houston is a relatively young city that didn’t blossom into a major metropolis until the 20th Century, particularly after the 1900 hurricane devastated nearby Galveston. Nevertheless, these districts are all on the National Register of Historic Places.

So I set out with my camera and started taking photos of the buildings that make up these districts.

First up, the Boulevard Oaks Historic District. Located between the Southwest Freeway and Rice University, this district consists mostly of North and South Boulevards. Lined by stately oak trees, these streets are home to a mix of beautiful 1920s and 30s era houses and out-of-place modern styles. The older homes were built by Houston’s finest architects in the revival styles popular at the time, including Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival, as well as French Manorial, Neoclassical, and English Picturesque.*

The homes are well kept, and when I visited one afternoon, the streets were full of contractors ensuring that the beautiful homes continue looking beautiful for many decades to come.

Does this look like somewhere you’d like to live?

*H/T: Houston Association of Realtors: Boulevard Oaks Historic Districts