#147 - The Magnolia in Houston
One Night in a Skyscraper
Don and I recently snuck in a night at The Magnolia for sort of a late Valentine's celebration. The hotel is only 22 miles from our home, so it was an indulgent treat to drive in from the suburbs, to enjoy a day and evening in Houston.
The entrance to the classic skyscraper from 1926, was on Fannin Street. Kind of eerie, since my last 90-Nights post was about sleeping in a fort... where Colonel James Fannin, leader of the Texas Revolution, was killed.
Orignal Grand Entrance
In the hotel, I found a photograph of the main entrance, when it was on Texas Avenue. A lot of the ornamentation on the lower part of the building went missing, when the skyscraper was modernized.
But it's lucky the building is here at all. Not that long ago, the hotel sat vacant. This part of Houston was not an area you went to, for your staycation.
Tallest in Houston
The hotel building is now almost 100 years old. The classic skyscraper was built to house the Houston Post Dispatch and KPRC radio station. The impressive limestone creation was the tallest in Houston, when it was built in 1926.
That was 3 years before Toronto's Daily Star was built. That macho Canadian building with the same number of stories, was what Joe Schuster, the creator of Superman, used as a model for Clark's Kent's news office building... Daily Planet. Newspapers were big back then!
Today, 22 stories isn't that impressive. But they don't make sturdy buildings like this anymore.
I'm glad those mighty pilasters, framing the windows, were not messed with when they gave a facelift to the building's base, years ago. I loved standing and looking straight up from the corner and thinking about Superman sailing out a window.
Once inside, it was hard to believe we were in an old building. The boutique hotel is only about 10 years old and has a totally modern feel.
Curves & Colors
While Don checked us in, I studied the cushioned walls and fireplace focus. I loved the glass light fixtures, but the cushy-brick made me think of preschool building toys.
Too many years teaching, I'm afraid.
In the center of the lobby, there was an almost space-age feel to the metal columns and curved stairway, floating above us.
Round skylights let in some daylight, so I could study the modern interior. What a contrast to the classic structure on the outside. Both equally bold.
We didn't get a chance to use this space at the top of the stairs.
By late afternoon, The Lounge Restaurant & Bar was covered in purple, green and gold decor, for a private Mardi Gras/Birthday party. I guess we could have crashed.
Heading to the Elevators
We headed for our room and I took this shot from the elevator, looking through the hall to the lobby. More curves and colors.
Our suite was one of 314 rooms at Magnolia.
I failed to capture a good shot of the room. It was much more spacious and attractive than the photos show. I might add, the room was peaceful at night. No sounds from the big party below.
Coming in from the suburbs, we hardly needed the spacious 2-part bath and the fridge/cooking area.
But no complaints.
The modern suite gave no hints of the building's past. But the window-hook gave a tiny clue that this building was in use, back before air-conditioning.
I could picture open windows and newsmen, pacing back and forth with ties loosened, while typewriters clicked nearby...
Even though it was February, Don and I packed swimwear and spent time on the roof reading around the pool.
The pool was small, but the view was big.
Better at Night
We returned to the roof in the evening to see the view and it was even better.
The lit up buildings and distant ferris wheel were festive on a balmy winter evening.
Off to Dinner
Since the hotel restaurant was being used for the private party, we walked down to another historic hotel for dinner. We were the only ones dining at Hotel Lancaster when our waiter snapped this photo.
The packed cafe had emptied just before 8 pm, when the entire lot headed across the street to Alley Theatre. Later, we took our time heading back to Magnolia, stopping at the historic Rice Hotel for jazz and dancing. So much, within walking distance!
Cookies and Milk?
When we returned to Magnolia, the complimentary Cookie and Milk Bar had just been put away.
But a lovely staff person, trotted back to the fetch us some chocolate chip cookies and we made coffee in the room.
In the morning we took a walk around downtown, studying other old buildings. When we returned, I looked up and noticed the ornate top of our hotel's structure. I had to zoom in with my camera to see that those were indeed lion head gargoyles, above the rows of pilasters. Why did they put all the good stuff up so high?
It was Sunday, so the street in front of hotel was pretty quiet as we waited for the valet to bring our car. We did see quite a parade of folks leaving our hotel, getting into nice cars, carrying their dresses and suits. Evidently, lots of wedding guests stayed the night before.
But when the bells at Christ Church Cathedral began to ring right across the street, we saw another parade. The choir was entering the church from the cloisters. Nice!
I later learned the church had some concerns when the building was being converted 15 years ago. There were issues about the hotel bar serving liquor, within 300 feet of the church school. They must have resolved that one. I love old and recent history tidbits!
I know it's the interior that I'm supposed to remember, but I'll definitely recall the traditional look of the skyscraper exterior.
I'm glad that we didn't have to sleep in an old office, with clicking typewriters. Our room really was lovely and the modern spaces were attractive. But I wouldn't have minded a quick glimpse of Clark Kent walking by, or Superman leaping out the window!
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My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!