Endangered Historic Places

A landmark Houston shopping center, several old art deco style movie houses, an old mansion, and unprotected historic neighborhoods in Galveston have been named to this year's list of the state's Most Endangered Historic Places. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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This year's endangered list from the group Preservation Texas includes the River Oaks Shopping Center, the River Oaks Theater, the Alabama Theater, the Capitan Theater in Pasadena, the Jim West Mansion on Clear Lake, and unprotected historic neighborhoods in Galveston. Preservation Texas President Libby Buuck says they're all threatened by neglect, adverse development and demolition, but it's still possible to save them.

"We really do want to draw public attention to the condition of our state's historic resources. We also wish to enhance grass roots preservation efforts. Those grass roots preservation efforts are often instrumental in securing the resources to save the sites. These are sites that often define the communities in which they're found."

Buuck says losing these old places would be a major loss for Houston. David Bush of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance agrees.

"All of these properties are one of a kind. They're the kind of places that make a city unique, and so many parts of Houston look basically the same. To lose something like the River Oaks Shopping Center, to have it replaced with, really what would be a traditional suburban big box store would really be a shame."

This year's Houston area Most Endangered Historic Places includes: the River Oaks Shopping Center, the James and Jessie West Mansion, and the unprotected historic neighborhoods of Galveston. Parts of the landmark 1937 River Oaks Shopping Center are in danger of being demolished by owner Weingarten Realty Investors to make room for a chain book store and a high-rise residential building. Targeted for demolition are the architecturally significant curved wings facing Shepherd Drive and the 1939 River Oaks Theater. The Art Deco-style Alabama Theater center at Shepherd and Alabama, which now houses a Bookshop and other retail stores, is also being considered for demolition.

The James and Jessie West Mansion, located at 303 NASA Parkway at Space Center Blvd in Pasadena has been a Harris County landmark since its completion in 1930.

Galveston has five historic districts but much of the city remains unprotected from inappropriate construction or demolition. Large parcels of land have been purchased by developers to build condominium and hotel towers with gulf views.

Statewide, the list of Texas' Most Endangered Historic Places includes: historic small town theaters in all counties; views of the Texas State Capitol in Austin; the Broad Street Bridge on Comanche Creek in Mason County; Old Arlington High School, in Tarrant County; Old Denison High School in Denison County; theComanche St. Louis-San Francisco Railway Company Depot in Comanche County; Mercer House, also known as the Sears House, in Port Aransas, Nueces County; the Texas State Railroad in Rusk, Anderson and Cherokee Countie; and the Keller Building in Spur, in Dickens County.

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