The buildings that Houston has lost over the years due to age and progress

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Updated 1:06 pm, Tuesday, March 28, 2017

In 2016 the Houston Chronicle’s Chron 115 series showed readers the ups and downs of the Bayou City in the 115  years since the paper was founded.

We’ve written about the epic rises and sometimes sad descents of some of the biggest names and faces in town.

One thing that hasn’t been covered as extensively is the buildings that have come and gone this past century and change.


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With stadiums, concert halls, swanky hotels, hospitals and shopping centers, Houston has kept its demolition crews and construction companies very busy.

A new, shiny building today could very well be a crumbling eyesore within just a few decades. Of course, most times there is no choice but to tear something down, but then there are some instances where a building could have very well been saved, only to have a wrecking ball and some dynamite change all the plans completely. 

Chron.com asked Mike Vance, program director of the Heritage Society here in Houston, what buildings he’s torn down that hurt the most.

“Of course the Shamrock Hotel. And I’d bet most people say AstroWorld, even though that’s not a building per se. Those are the obvious ones, I suppose,” Vance said. “I think the Prudential Building was a really big one architecturally.”

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M.D. Anderson’s Houston Main Building was demolished in early 2012. It opened in 1952 as the regional headquarters for the Prudential Insurance Company. Prudential sold the building in 1975.

“To me the one that was even more significant in recent years is the last remaining Nicholas Clayton Building at Incarnate Word Academy downtown,” Vance said.

Nicholas Clayton was a famed 19th century Texas architect who designed the building in 1884. The structure was razed in 2015.

“Tearing that one down was particularly criminal. He didn’t do much in Houston, and now there is nothing,” he said.

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Clayton also designed Bishop’s Palace in Galveston. That mansion is still standing and a major attraction on the island.

“Almost all of these are so unnecessary, fueled by a particular combination of ignorance and greed. Rehabbing the historic building could have retained character and showcased the property in a particular way that some soulless crap they throw up — pun intended — cannot,” Vance says.

As Houstonians know, nothing is forever when it comes to real estate, but it seems over the past few years developers have made some strides in keeping some buildings intact. Re-purposing them and giving them a second life makes them all the more special. 


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