Houston, we have a problem.

I am a Houston girl, born and raised. There are many things I love about my city although I have been “exiled” in the suburbs for almost two years now. One of my absolute favorite things to do is drive around the city’s most beautiful neighborhoods. Last summer, I wrote a post, Urban Beauty, which was devoted to my favorite place in Houston, the Museum District (Southampton, Broadacres, West University). It is home to beautiful historic homes and the most gorgeous Live Oak trees you’ll ever see. You’ll find a mix of stately mansions, charming cottages and bungalows, and some tasteful new homes. Unfortunately, there has been a recent infux of new McMansions being constructed on lots where beautiful old homes once stood.

It breaks my heart to see how little regard our city has for its past. Last year, it was announced that several Houston landmarks were going to be demolished so that they could be replaced with shopping strips and high-rise condominiums. While old homes have been replaced by new ones all over town for many years (The Heights, Bellaire, Memorial, etc.), I find it especially heartwrenching to think that the place that I consider to be the most beautiful in the city is changing so much.

When will Houston learn that the past should be cherished? Perhaps this is why I love cities like New York and San Francisco as much as I do. Things change there, too, but they manage to keep the historical integrity of their cities in tact. If Houston continues at this rate, what will we have left? It’s shameful, really.

Here are some examples of some lovely old homes which have been torn down and replaced with new suburban-style homes.
Exhibit A Before: 1932 Cottage on beautiful North Boulevard
It angers me that it was a lovely, completely livable home with tons of charm and character, yet someone felt the need to tear it down and replace it with yet another Tuscan style house.
The Kitchen looks updated, though it seems the former owners maintained some of the original charm.

Great, original mouldings in the living room

Exhibit A After: A 4,500 square foot McMansion on a 6,000 square foot lot
As you can imagine, the interior is “Tuscan Inspired”.

Exhibit B: 1938 English-Style Cottage on South Boulevard
It had so much character.

As you can see, it is on a very desirable, scenic street.

A side view of the house

Exhibit C on Albans Road
Scheduled to be demolished soon

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  1. Sad, sad, sad. I drive through that part of town at least once a week (on the way to Texas Children’s). I stopped detouring through the neighborhoods, because it irritates me so much. I used to love to drive under the canopy of oaks, past all of the wonderful homes. I liked the differences in brick, the shapes of the windows, the colorful front doors, so unlike surburban Houston where we must all match right down to the color of the minivan in the driveway (although I have not stooped down to the minivan level yet!). Other cities do such a great job of preventing McMansion syndrome. Why hasn’t Houston caught on?

  2. Amen to that Sister! It really saddens me that so many of these houses with character and charm are being demolished and replaced with cookie cutter Mc Mansions. If I wanted to see that I would just drive around The Woodlands. STOP ASHBY HIGH RISE!

  3. few things make me angrier! i treasure the fact that my 1920’s neighborhood remains largely intact.

    wtf is “tuscan style” anyways? last time i was in tuscany, there were very few 2 car garages…

  4. As a Rice University grad, I am very familiar with this area and saw the new Tuscan home when I was in Houston for a reunion (I thought it looked out of scale, and out of character for the street). The Museum district is very unique in Houston, and many prefer it to other areas because of its charm and character. Tearing out the old and putting in cookie cutter (or ugly) new will certainly change the character and appeal of the area.

  5. OH! This is too sad really! I live in a 1911 house and wouldn’t dream of tearing it down! I always prefer historic neighborhoods for just the qualities you mention, Character and charm. OK…I am going to go get a tissue now. ;(

  6. Paloma,
    Unfortunately, this is a problem in many other areas of the country as well. I am in L.A. and see it all too often…and like your area typically being replaced with “tuscan, meditteranean style” designs. It’s a pity. I understand many of the reasons (house is too small, outdated features, etc.) but there are remedies for that. Instead of tearing down and building new how about keeping the existing dwelling and doing an addition that is line with the existing architecture so it looks as if it were part of the existing house; as if it were always there.

  7. It’s pretty sad. I can remember driving around Houston about 8 years ago and seeing the houses around a friend’s childhood home.

    People had come in, demolished the existing older homes and placed these hideous houses that covered almost the entire lot in place of the cuter homes. It was awful.

  8. PALOMA: Do you read swamplot.com? he shows what is on the demolition list each day. I love his blog — I think you would love it too. We did tear down the house on our lot, but it didn’t look like any of these. It was awful and I don’t have any regrets at all. I do have regrets about our next door neighbor though. she had the cutest little house on the corner and sold it some time ago for 90k. Now it would go for 300k. At the time, Ben and I talked about buying it and extending our lot, but we just couldn’t afford the extra mortgage then. It was the biggest business mistake we’ve ever made. Hersch Levitt the mega builder from Bellaire was going through a divorce and he bought the house, tore it down, and put up this behemoth that totally overshawdows our house. It’s like an oversized deep taupe box. ultra contemporary. He sold it after a few years!!!! what a mistake we made. It kills me everytime I think about it. Thanks for depressing me.

  9. Joni, I will have to check out swamplot! I had never heard of it, but it sounds interesting.

    I know what you mean about tearing certain houses down. Some are beyond repair or aren’t in livable condition. I don’t see anything wrong with tearing something like that down and replacing it with a tasteful home. It’s the suburban style homes replacing charming historic homes that kill me! If you want something like that, move to the suburbs and buy it for half the price.

    I can’t believe the story about your neighbor! I wish my generation had opportunities like that. You know, my friend’s mom’s friend lived in West U for many years before moving to San Francisco in 2006. Apparently, she and her husband had purchased 3 lots in West U for something like $30,000 a piece. I’m sure you can imagine what they sold for!

  10. ^^^
    I forgot to mention that they pruchased the lots for $30,000 each in the 1970’s. 🙂

    What on earth could someone buy for $30,000 now? Certainly nothing inside the loop. I would LOVE to live where you live, Joni.

  11. Oh, this makes me so mad, too. I have seen in both of the memorial neighborhoods I have lived in over the past 7yrs. The Memorial-Heights area was the worst because they were putting up the tackiest townhomes. In the two and half years we lived there, the area completely transformed.

  12. My sentiments exactly. When my mom comes to visit we love to drive through the historical neighborhoods in Houston. I die over all the huge oak trees. It is so sad to see a huge, tacky, over-the-top, architecturally over-embellished, mediterranean overshadow the adorable, authentic cottage next door. Makes me want to buy up as many adorable cottages as I can (which at this moment would be none)…