Elder Street Artists Lofts in Houston

Photo of Elder Street Artists Lofts in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz
Photo of Elder Street Artists Lofts in Houston, Texas
Photograph of ghostly "orbs" courtesy of Nick Pearls.
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Photo of Elder Street Artists Lofts in Houston, Texas
Photograph of ghostly "orbs" courtesy of Nick Pearls.
Photo of Elder Street Artists Lofts in Houston, Texas
Photograph of ghostly "orbs" courtesy of Nick Pearls.
Photo of Elder Street Artists Lofts in Houston, Texas
Photograph of ghostly "orbs" courtesy of Nick Pearls.
Photo of Elder Street Artists Lofts in Houston, Texas
Photograph of ghostly "orbs" courtesy of Nick Pearls.

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Elder Street Artists Lofts
Formerly:Jefferson Davis Hospital

1101 Elder Street, Houston, Texas, Downtown 77007
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What was once the poster child for urban blight has become a symbol of the re-birth of downtown Houston. Jefferson Davis Hospital sat empty for decades, attracting vagrants, vandals, and worse. It stately columns and broad form looked out onto a busy Pierce Elevated freeway as the world rushed past at 70 miles an hour. But eventually, the world would recognize this architectural gem and bring it back to life as the Elder Street Artists Lofts.

Jefferson Davis Hospital started out as an ordinary hospital on the outskirts of the city. It led an unremarkable existence except for the fact that thousands of people were buried on the site. These graves were dug from the 1840's to the 1890's and are the final resting places for Confederate soldiers, former slaves, and city officials. In front there are several low rock walls in squares that might mark grave plots, or were possibly once flower beds. For a time there were actually two Jefferson Davis Hospitals in Houston. The original which opened in 1924, and a second just a couple of miles away on Allen Parkway. The 1938 Jefferson Davis Hospital was demolished in 1999. When the second one opened, the original was used for storage from the 1960's until the 1980's. The last gasp of activity came during the shooting of the film Robocop 2, when the hospital was featured as the location where the ficticious drug "nuke" was made.

After that, the hospital fell into serious disrepair, violated in just about every way vandals could imagine. Some believe the building, and those buried on the grounds, would not rest. While not exactly reliable sources, some of the junkies and vagrants who occasionally called this place home say the saw unexplained shadowy figures in the front yard and in the hallways. Whether they're seeing the spirits of the thousands buried here or just each other through a drug-induced haze is unclear.

In 2004, a Minneapolis-based group called ArtSpace USA was given permission to turn the abandoned building into cheap living and working space for local artists. It's a concept the organization has worked rather successfully in a number of other cities. By 2005 the transformation was successful and the building began a new life.

Quick Facts
Timeline
  • March, 2002: The Houston Chronicle reports the city's Archeological and Historical Commission approved the notion of declaring the building a city landmark. That would be a first step toward preserving and possibly rehabilitating the property.
  • 20 June, 2002: The Harris County Commissioners approve selling Jefferson Davis Hospital to Avenue Community Development Corporation and ArtSpace Projects. The non-profit groups plan to turn the hospital into 31 lofts for use by low- and medium-income artists. The groups pledge to spend $6,200,000.00 for the land, renovation, restoration, environmental cleanup, and a monument to those buried on the site.
  • 20, June, 2003: The legendary Jefferson Davis Hospital just outside of downtown Houston will, finally, definitely, get a new life. The Environmental Protection Agency is giving $200,000.00 to an organization called Jefferson Davis Artists Lofts to turn the relic into -- you guessed it -- artists lofts. A press release from Senator John Cornyn's office describes the building as, "a magnet for gangs and the homeless, as well as an attractive nuisance for youths." Cornyn says, "This effort will help remove the blight and dangers created when the hospital was abandoned, and will help spur investment and renewal in the surrounding neighborhood, creating new jobs."
  • 31 July, 2003: A group of college students looking for ghosts is robbed at Jefferson Davis Hospital. KTRK Television reports that the robbers fired gunshots at them, but no one was hurt.
  • 23 September, 2004: Work begins on turning the abandoned hospital into a place for low-income artists to work and live.
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Your Thoughts

There are 10 comments.

  Note for my previous submission. I said I had visited the old Jeff Davis Hospital several times in the 1940s, which is true. The reason for my visits were to deliver medicine from a Pharmacy.

Max C. - Thursday, April 17th, 2014 @ 12:11pm  

  Some time between its closure as a general hospital and its use as a warehouse, it was used as a hospital to treat mental patients as part of the Harris County Medical Welfare Program. The County eventually moved that program to a different location. I visited the old Jeff Davis Hospital several times in the 1940s and did not run into any non-human spirits.

Max C. - Thursday, April 17th, 2014 @ 12:03pm  

  I am an artist that lives in these lofts. The building is beautiful, and I have never loved living in a place more then this. The feeling I get every time I am in my apartment is warm and peaceful.Every single person I have met has lived there for three years or more. People do not want to leave this wonderful building. If you nuts think that there are ghosts in this building, then they are the best roomates I have ever had.

Esther Gutstein - Monday, September 21st, 2009 @ 3:05pm  

  Please tear this house down. The ground itself is not suited for the living, not to speak of the building. Please make it a memorial park instead, and find another house not so full of sad stories and vibes for the artists.

Mathilda Osbourne - Saturday, February 7th, 2009 @ 10:43pm  

  I know that everyone wants to believe that those are really "ghostly orbs" in the pics but it's not. What you are seeing are dust particals that were captured by the flash of the camera. This is a known fact if you know anything about photography and taking pics in the dark. With that aside, I'm happy that Houston chose to preserve this awesome building. I tried to go into it once while it was still a hospital but some guy in a car pulled up and threatened to shoot my friends and me so we were out of there. This was back when the neighborhood was full of abandoned crack houses. I wanted to go inside the building so bad just to have a look but sadly never got the chance. I have yet to drive by and see the completed lofts but it looks great from pics I've seen.

Jenna - Friday, September 26th, 2008 @ 1:43pm  

  i stayed here for 3 nights during the landfall and aftermath of hurricane IKE. i have never felt so safe. its a beautiful building with a lot of history.

sara - Monday, September 15th, 2008 @ 9:39pm  

  This old building is haunted.Many people died here and their spirits are wandering the property.They are restless and need to finally crossover and move to the next plane.Some spirits are not nice:they lived sad lives and died tragic deaths.Slaves and soldiers among them.May they RIP! Congratulations to all parties involved that saved this old building.I wouldn't live there as it is too close to downtown and there not enough trees on the property to provide a touch of arborial calm and serenity.

Ed - Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 @ 4:11am  

  We were in the area and decided to stop by to see the new renovations. When we ppulled up we noticed a cat in one of the windows that had climbed up the wall and was trying to get out of a crack at the very top of the window inside... strange!

Josh - Saturday, October 20th, 2007 @ 3:28am  

  I have been there a few times when it was abandoned with my friends to get spooked. I DID. That place is so scary and friends have encountered real entities like old confederate soldiers in the window and door endtries.

rachel busch - Wednesday, September 6th, 2006 @ 12:25am  

  they must rest there souls are tired they are bothered they stare out the window wishing to be free the pictures i couldnt believe my eyes, my pictures they show remarkable angels with there wings visible to the human eye and images of a nurse who i can see is wearing her nuns cap and also of a baby in the window to the right of the front entrance i was not a believer but now i have seen it with my eyes i am saddden cause these faces seem as though they are sad and scared the baby in my picture really shook me up cause i have not heard no stories of any babies can you help explain this too me? this is not a joke i am a single mother educated and i have no time to be joking we took this pictures very recently i have been reading and studying this hospital about but i feel in my heart that they want to be free and some want to be found from under the ground i feel this dont ask me how cause i can't explain it these pictures touched my heart and i will study them every day

yvette - Sunday, March 12th, 2006 @ 9:34pm  

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