Thursday, January 17, 2008

Houston Streets 11 -- Hilshire Village and the eastern end of Spring Valley

Today I explored the two final Memorial Villages, completely exploring the minuscule Hilshire Village and riding the east end of Spring Valley. Both these Villages are north of I-10, which for Memorialites is sort of the wrong side of the tracks. Indeed, if you look at the household income of 77055 in the year 2000, the zip code that encompasses Hilshire Village and Spring Valley, it is $36.7 thousand. The average household income in 77024, which consists mainly of the southern Villages, is $82.6 thousand. The two northern Villages, however, are probably far closer to the southern Villages in terms of wealth. (Update: This is confirmed here; indeed, Hilshire is listed as having a higher income than Hedwig Village. I don't completely trust these figures--they claim to be per capita, but look a lot more like household income to me. Hat-tip to G-Man.) It's simply that as you go north and east from Spring Valley and Hilshire Village, you enter more working class neighborhoods, with lots of Hispanic and Korean immigrants. They may not be rich, but they are strivers, and the area North of I-10 on the Westside is, I think, getting wealthier and more middle class.

I tried something new today. Instead of loading my bike into my car and driving out to my destination, I took the bus. All Metro buses are now equipped to carry bicycles.

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This is what the bike rack looks like, and I have to tell you it is a bit unnerving. All you have are the two slots for your tires and this bracket that kind of reaches over and grasps the top of your front tire. I could see my bike out the front window, and it wobbled slightly whenever the bus started or stopped. But this kind of bike technology is pretty commonplace, so it must work OK. It did for me, this time. But I kept having a vision of my bike tumbling forward and then being run over by the bus.

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This is the bus I rode (homeward bound in this photo). I rarely ride Metro buses, but as usual, I was impressed by its cleanliness and reliability. As I rode from Gessner out to Chimney Rock on the Memorial line, the bus gradually filled up with Hispanic women. Many seemed to know each other, not surprisingly, and each stop would bring smiles and cries of "Hola!" as the women boarded. I assume these women were housekeepers working in the Villages; I have no idea if any of them were illegal aliens or not. I assume at least some of them were. They may have been committing criminal acts by living and working here illegally, but who in their right mind could call them criminal? Criminals are not people who work hard for a living in low-paying jobs. As I watched them smiling and chatting together, I wondered what their employers in the Villages thought about the illegal immigrant issue?
This is where I rode today. As you can see, Hilshire Village is tiny--just a few streets. It makes you wonder why it even exists. I mean, why is it separate from Spring Valley? They are admittedly separated geographically by a big creek (Hunter's Creek, I think). (Correction: that creek is Spring Branch. Hat tip to G-Man.) A history of Hilshire Village doesn't shed any light on why it is separate from Spring Valley and the other Villages. But like the other Villages, and unlike Houston, it has strict zoning regulations, and consequently consists almost solely of residences and some churches along Wirt.

The "main drag" is Ridgeley Dr., which more-or-less parallels the creek.
This house on Ridgeley Dr. is kind of typical of what you'll find in Hilshire Village. I would say that it has the highest proportion of modern houses of any of the Villages, and perhaps more than in any neighborhood in Houston.

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This ivy-covered modern bunker is across the street, at the corner of Ridgeley and Glourie Dr. (Update: I am informed that this house belongs to Houston architect Edward Davis, and was designed by him in 1968. Hat tip to Willowisp at the Houston Architecture Info Forum.) I was quite taken by the severe trimming of the ivy, which mirrors the severity of the design of the house. Or maybe Edward Davis is just a big Brice Marden fan.

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(Lethykos (for Tonto), Brice Marden, 1976)
Another striking Ridgeley Dr. house. I'm not sure what I'd call this style--postmodern maybe? Whatever, I like it.

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This bizarre brown house on Ridgeley Circle is notable for the tattered, faded flag hanging from its eaves. Is this a case of neglect? Or does this particular flag have some special meaning for the owners? Or are they making some kind of political statement? Hell if I know, but they got my attention.

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Across the street from it is this sprawling modern house. Its multiple peaks give it a mountain-range like profile.

At least two little creeks pour into Spring Branch on the border of Hilshire Village, and homeowners take advantage of them.
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This little barbeque area is set in the gully of a tiny creek, and is connected to the house by a small bridge.
Even though the houses in this neighborhood are already plenty big, there are still occasional McMansions. This one on Archley is better than most. I like the parallel vertical windows, the multiple peaks on the roof, and the combination of light creamy colors.

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This house at the end of Burkhart is just beautiful. (Update: The designer of this house just commented. It is the same designer of the green Victorian mentioned below--SCDesign.)

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This house on Hilshire Green Drive is the most bizarre house in Hilshire Village. They went to a lot of trouble to make it look like adobe. Even the garage doors are painted in such a way that they look like they have the texture of adobe. The edges are round, and the upper level is smaller than the ground floor, so the top of the ground floor becomes an outdoor room. I guess you'd call this style pueblo revival. Not a house I'd want, but pretty cool, nonetheless.

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This is on Westview just across the boundary line of Hilshire Village. This decaying strip center is really too declasse for the Villages, but as I said, there are plenty of working class neighborhoods nearby. I'm charmed by the home-made naive design of the A.A. sign.
Even the city hall has a modern design.
Literally every house on Pine Creek Lane is in a modern style. The houses are all pushed right up to the street as well, which is pretty unusual in Houston. The lots they sit on are long and narrow and back into Hunter's Creek, so I suspect they have some pretty interesting back yards.

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Here's another mod on Pine Creek Ln.

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These figures are stylized tae kwon do fighters. They sit in front of the only commercial structure I saw in Hilshire Village, a little building that houses Jr.'s Club and All Star Sports Center. As I was photographing these little fellas, I met the owner of All Star Sports, Anthony Scott.
He showed me around his Tae Kwon Do studio, where a huge class of pre-teens was warming up. He and his wife run the place, and if this class was any indication, it's a popular with local children. They even have a small school bus to pick up the kids after school. Their location is ideal--across the street from Valley Oaks Elementary.

Apparently, the tae kwon do figures were created by a local craftsman who had a kid in one of Scott's classes. Scott also showed me a scrap-metal clipper ship this artist had created. As far as I can determine, All Star Sports Center doesn't have a website. But you can call them at (713) 973-7883 if you're interested in doing some tae kwon do.
This footbridge over Spring Branch appears designed to shorten the walk to school for kids living in Spring Valley.

The neighborhood just east of Bingle in Spring Valley is not as interesting architecturally as Hilshire Village is. But it has some interesting street names. Specifically, five really short cul de sacs with the equally short names Tam, Tal, Pom, Gens, and Cam. Historic Houston Streets offers no insights into the origins or meanings of these street names, and Google wasn't helpful either. Any ideas?

When you get down to Burkhart in Spring Valley (which doesn't connect with the Burkhart in Hilshire Village), you find some new development.
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Now it looks like there used to be houses here (at least two), and the developer is redoing the lots. If you go to the Harris County Appraisal District maps, it still shows the old lot configurations.
Now for something completely amazing. This is a new house on Burkhart which clearly occupies a lot where an old house once sat. The amazing part? This new house is not a McMansion! It's plenty large, but compared to the lot size and the other houses in the neighborhood, it is surprisingly modest. It is unostentatious, but handsome. A homey house for contented, secure people.

When I put together the map at the top of this post, I had to splice together several pages from the Key Map. As a result, it looks like there is a street called "Niningham." It's actually Winningham, and for some reason, people on this street like acutely-angled, pointy modern roofs, like this one:

One final house, just outside Hilshire Village at the corner of Bellewood and Wirt (on the right-hand edge of the map above).
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This beautiful house was built in 1945 (according to the Harris County Appraisal District), and it looks like the owners have put a lot of effort into keeping it looking great. (Correction: This house looks so new because it is new. It was built in 2001. I got the address wrong when I looked it up--the house across the street from it was built in 1945. Hat tip to missjanel at the Houston Architecture Info Forum. Commenter Bill informs me that this house was designed by SCDesign LLC, and if you go to their site, you can see a lot more pictures of the house, both interiors and exteriors.) It's an amazing house for this part of town--it looks like it was helicoptered in from the Heights. You know, if the makers of McMansions would try to build an occasional neo-Victorian house like this from time to time, I wouldn't be so down on them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool blog. The designer/builder of the Victorian does work mainly in the Heights:

12:21 PM  
Blogger  Robert Boyd said...

Thanks for the info. I've checked out their site and incorporated their info into the blog. If people are going to build McMansions--which they inevitably will as property values in certain neighborhoods increase--I'd certainly prefer them to build in a classic style like Victorian or Craftsman instead of the typical uglosities we usually see.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy these bike ride blogs that you do so much. Maybe soon you'll head a little further west into Memorial (away from the villages) and check out our fun postmodern architecture just outside of the Beltway. But come and see it while it lasts! The McMansions are invading more and more everyday...

Keep up the good work!

2:16 PM  
Blogger  Robert Boyd said...

Thanks K. I certainly intend to go further west. Now that I actually have some people reading (and responding!) to these posts, I am motivated all the more to do more of them. You may have guessed that I live in Memorial, so it's easy for me to ride around here (compared to other interesting parts of the city that I want to explore--like the east side, for example).

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Boyd. I'm the designer and builder of the Victorian house on Bellewood at the bottom of the page. Thank's for the recognition, I'm very proud of my houses and love to hear that other people enjoy them also. I guess I owe you a double thank you because I'm also the designer and builder of the Italianate house on Burkhart in the middle of the page.

3:16 PM  
Blogger  Robert Boyd said...

Well, thanks for stopping by. I like your houses quite a lot.

6:42 PM  
Blogger elasticwaistbandlady said...

I take a lot of pictures of Houston businesses with odd names or spelling-challenged signs......and then I post them on my blog and mock them. :)

Favorites include Chewy Balls, Dumass Taco, BJ Services, and local real estate agents Gidget, Dick Carrier, and Candy Mann.

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Learned about this post on HAIF, and it really brought back memories. I was the Chronicle paperboy for Hilshire Village my sophomore year of high school, about 23 years ago. Driving through that neighborhood was always a pleasant way to spend the afternoon (it was a heck of a lot nicer than Ridgecrest, where we lived). I didn't recognize any of the houses you posted, though; I hope some of those beautiful 1950's and 1960's homes are still hanging on out there. I kinda liked it better the way it seems to me as if there's too much architectural diversity among the houses now to give it the quiet community feel I remember. Nice work on documenting the new houses, though; I look forward to seeing more of your neighborhood explorations.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Barb said...

The house on Burkhart that you say is new, but is not a McMansion is in fact not a new house. It was built in 1953 and has been remodeled. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

2:16 PM  

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