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Tidelands Motor Inn At 6500 South Main St.


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For years there was a cool vacant 50's-looking hotel off of Main (I think) very close to the Med Center. It was classic midcentury in the manner of some of the iconic Vegas hotels (like the Sands), probably about 12-15 stories high, and had a wraparound glass penthouse or restaurant on the top floor. I think it also had parking under the building on the ground floor, kind of a drive-through lobby drop-off arrangement.

Best I can tell from a recent drive through the area, it's been torn down. I had not been by there in over a year prior to this drivethrough.

Does anyone remember the building, or have any history on it? Pictures would be even better but I know that's a long shot.

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You mean right at Holcombe and Main? I remember the building well. It sat in disrepair for so long I was suprised to see it still standing every day I drove past it. I'm sure the owner was just holding out for a premium.

That building was torn down recently. I do not remember what is going up there but I remember reading something about it in Sarnoff's column.

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Okay, I found the article that referenced the building in the Chronicle archives. Turns out I was slightly off - the old Tidelands and Tides II hotels were slightly north of this location on Main. The hotel that was torn down more recently was the old Towers Hotel, as Sarnoff referenced in her column on September 5 of last year.

Thanks to SSullivan and Subdude for the research bits and to all for the comments.

The Towers sounds right. It was one of those buildings I always noticed but never thought to research - until it went missing. Fortunately I'm more 'building aware' than I used to be.

That's a great picture of the Tidelands - gotta love the barrel vault roof ...

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Thanks Space Age for the list! I made up a similar list on my computer at home of the places of which I have pictures. I am going to get a scanner and try to post the pictures.

Valian's across from the Shamrock was famous for introducing pizza to Houston.

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HCAD shows many listings for 6500 Main. They still show a Rice University Dormitory built in 1957 with an indoor pool. A Methodist Hospital parking garage is listed for 6500 also. I thought both the Tidelands and Tides II were gone but HCAD shows they are both still there? HCAD is usually only a month or so behind. A site visit is required.

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The Tidelands and Tides II are both long gone. The Rice University dorm built in 1957 at that address was the same building as The Tidelands. In the late 1980s the hotel was sold to Rice and used as housing for their grad students before the newer graduate apartments on the north side of their campus was built in the 1990s.

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I looked tonight while driving by this location. That parking garage is in the 6400 block of Main, but it's not at 6500 Main. It's on the opposite side of the street. 6500 Main, where the Tidelands once stood, is an empty lot with a fence around it, and is probably still owned by Rice U.

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9530 Chins Poly Asian

Believe it or not, at work I sit right next to the son of Peter Chin, the man that owned this restaurant. He's told me about it in the past, and I've been picking his brain since I saw this post.

He said that 1969 might have been the last year it was open, when the landowner ended their lease. His father bought it in the early 60's and really enjoyed it; he managed a lot of press coverage for the place, and as a result it was frequented by atheletes, Houston's movers & shakers, and the big celebrities of the day.

Apparently the building is long gone, but supposedly you can still see the row of HUGE palm trees leading down a driveway off of Main to where the restaurant once stood. He said it was set back off the road about 1/4 mile so once there you were isolated from the city, and the tropical theme really made you feel like you were in Hawaii (which was exactly the point of the restaurant).

He also told me that the place had a natural gas line piped into an inground pool, and every afternoon when they opened up they would throw a match in the pool to ignite the bubbles coming up through the water!

Must have been a pretty cool place. :)

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Believe it or not, at work I sit right next to the son of Peter Chin, the man that owned this restaurant.  He's told me about it in the past, and I've been picking his brain since I saw this post.

He said that 1969 might have been the last year it was open, when the landowner ended their lease.  His father bought it in the early 60's and really enjoyed it; he managed a lot of press coverage for the place, and as a result it was frequented by atheletes, Houston's movers & shakers, and the big celebrities of the day. 

Apparently the building is long gone, but supposedly you can still see the row of HUGE palm trees leading down a driveway off of Main to where the restaurant once stood.  He said it was set back off the road about 1/4 mile so once there you were isolated from the city, and the tropical theme really made you feel like you were in Hawaii (which was exactly the point of the restaurant). 

He also told me that the place had a natural gas line piped into an inground pool, and every afternoon when they opened up they would throw a match in the pool to ignite the bubbles coming up through the water! 

Must have been a pretty cool place. :)

Does he have any pictures?

Could you ask him a question? There was an early Chinese restaurant at 6800 S Main called Ding How that was owned by an Albert Gee. I thought I read that Gee also opened the Poly-Asian at 9530 S Main. Did Mr Chin buy it from Gee or open it originally? Thanks.

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Does he have any pictures?

Could you ask him a question?  There was an early Chinese restaurant at 6800 S Main called Ding How that was owned by an Albert Gee.  I thought I read that Gee also opened the Poly-Asian at 9530 S Main.  Did Mr Chin buy it from Gee or open it originally?  Thanks.

I did ask about pictures, he said his wife may have saved some but isn't sure. I'll pursue this a little more.

I will also ask about Albert Gee. The son said that Mr. Chin had another restaurant that he sold before he bought Poly-Asian, so it's very possible someone else (Gee) actually started it.

May take a couple of days but will post what I find.

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Could you ask him a question?  There was an early Chinese restaurant at 6800 S Main called Ding How that was owned by an Albert Gee.  I thought I read that Gee also opened the Poly-Asian at 9530 S Main.  Did Mr Chin buy it from Gee or open it originally?  Thanks.

Turns out you're right, Subdude.

According to his son, Mr Chin did purchase the Poly-Asian from Albert Gee, and owned it until it closed.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Everyone: I'm looking for an old postcards of the Tidelands Motor Inn with a good solid picture of the sign and/or the night club that was part of the hotel. Does anyone have anything like this? If so, I would love to see it! Thanks

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  • 1 month later...
Believe it or not, at work I sit right next to the son of Peter Chin, the man that owned this restaurant.  He's told me about it in the past, and I've been picking his brain since I saw this post.

He said that 1969 might have been the last year it was open, when the landowner ended their lease.  His father bought it in the early 60's and really enjoyed it; he managed a lot of press coverage for the place, and as a result it was frequented by atheletes, Houston's movers & shakers, and the big celebrities of the day. 

Apparently the building is long gone, but supposedly you can still see the row of HUGE palm trees leading down a driveway off of Main to where the restaurant once stood.  He said it was set back off the road about 1/4 mile so once there you were isolated from the city, and the tropical theme really made you feel like you were in Hawaii (which was exactly the point of the restaurant). 

He also told me that the place had a natural gas line piped into an inground pool, and every afternoon when they opened up they would throw a match in the pool to ignite the bubbles coming up through the water! 

Must have been a pretty cool place. :)

I stumbled on pictures of the interior!

Poly Asian Restaurant

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Believe it or not, at work I sit right next to the son of Peter Chin, the man that owned this restaurant.  He's told me about it in the past, and I've been picking his brain since I saw this post.

the place had a natural gas line piped into an inground pool, and every afternoon when they opened up they would throw a match in the pool to ignite the bubbles coming up through the water! 

Must have been a pretty cool place. :)

The Poly-Asian postcard has got to be a rare find. Great to see, thank you. So as for Tiki Restaurants, we had Trader Vic's in the Shamrock Hotel, the Poly-Asian on South Main, and Don the Beachcomber in Woodlake where Amazon is now located. Don the Beachcomber was the most recent. I think it was built about 1972 and demolished about 1980. It was a round, onion shaped building with a pond at the entry. You crossed a bridge lighted by gas fired torches upon entering. The center of the roof had an opening with more gas fired flames. Inside, the concave walls were lined with bamboo and other lush tropical landscaping complete with trickling waterfalls and singing birds. I remember being most fascinated by the fireflies that appeared to fly around and light up intermittently. It was like a bit of Disney in Houston. The Book of Tiki states they had 16 locations.

I wonder how the gas in the pool works. Surely you turn off the pool motor when the gas is on? Would the gas spread out so the whole pool surface burns? Would you have a copper pipe extending toward the center of the pool and emitting gas just above the surface of the water or just emit gas below the surface of the water? I think I will pour a can of lighter fluid in my pool and light it to see what happens. I guess the fuel will float. Maybe I should try it in a bucket first. Since my house was named the Tahitian, I think a burning pool is a must! Opposites collide!

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I wonder how the gas in the pool works.  Surely you turn off the pool motor when the gas is on?  Would the gas spread out so the whole pool surface burns?  Would you have a copper pipe extending toward the center of the pool and emitting gas just above the surface of the water or just emit gas below the surface of the water? 

From what he told me, the gas jet was under the water. When you turned it on it would push the gas into the water, which being lighter, would rise to the surface, just like when a person exhales underwater - the bubbles pop at the top. And by 'pool' I think he might have meant 'pond', not a big swimming pool.

The postcard is great - I can't wait to show it to Mr. Chin when he comes into work today. :)

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I think I will pour a can of lighter fluid in my pool and light it to see what happens. 

Please, please take pictures! :D

(seriously, I'd worry about the fuel spreading to the edges and staining or damaging the liner, or collecting in the skimmer).

But then, I'm no fun...

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  • 2 weeks later...
sounds HOT to me :)

Thank you, Paris...

There was another Poly-Asian Restaurant in Houston. It was called Poly-Asian West and was located at 5138 Westheimer. This is near Sage Road where the exciting Bali-Hai apartment complex is located. It's the most lavish TIKI building remaining in Houston.

A 1968 ad for Poly-Asian West Restaurant and Club states, "Dine with us for the finest in Poly-Asian and Cantonese Cuisine. Also a fine selection of choice K-C Steaks." The ad is printed above an ad for Chin's Poly-Asian located near the Harris County Domed Stadium at 9530 South Main. It has the same type style for both ads.

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  • 4 weeks later...
For years there was a cool vacant 50's-looking hotel off of Main (I think) very close to the Med Center. It was classic midcentury in the manner of some of the iconic Vegas hotels (like the Sands), probably about 12-15 stories high, and had a wraparound glass penthouse or restaurant on the top floor.  I think it also had parking under the building on the ground floor, kind of a drive-through lobby drop-off arrangement.

Best I can tell from a recent drive through the area, it's been torn down. I had not been by there in over a year prior to this drivethrough.

Does anyone remember the building, or have any history on it?  Pictures would be even better but I know that's a long shot.

sorry i am a little behind on the forums...the towers hotel turned into the "Waterford," a geriatric care center. it had a wonderful view from the top floor (i got a peek as they began demolition) which would be high dollar real estate - that is, if they EVER build the proposed building. there must be some funding issues there...

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  • 4 weeks later...

I remember the Towers had something unique that I had never experienced before: an elevator that had two doors. You entered through one door, rose to your floor, then exited through another door that was on the opposite side of the car. As a kid I thought that was really neat.

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Some interesting history at the Tidelands discovered while watching a PBS special on Bob Newhart's career last night: His career was launched from relative obscurity by an album "The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart" - recorded live at the Tidelands Hotel in Houston in 1960. This smash hit album started a new genre in the recording industry, put the Warner Brothers label on the map, and led to Bob Newhart getting his first TV show.

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You know, I was watching the same Bob Newhart special tonight, and I was floored when they said he performed at the Tidelands. I attended Rice as an undergrad in the mid-80's. I think Rice bought the building in early 1984. I moved into the Tidelands in August 1984. It was intended as graduate student housing, but since it wasn't completely full at first, they allowed some undergrads to live there. I also worked in the kitchen as a short-order cook.

You know, friends used to have "Hi Bob" parties, where we would all watch the old Bob Newhart shows, and drink everytime someone on the TV would walk into a room and say "Hi Bob". We never had any idea that Bob Newhart had started his recording career there 25 years earlier.

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I remember the Towers had something unique that I had never experienced before: an elevator that had two doors.  You entered through one door, rose to your floor, then exited through another door that was on the opposite side of the car.  As a kid I thought that was really neat.

That's the same setup that the Twin Towers at the WTC had. I'd always thought that was the first building with this innovation.

It makes a lot of sense - the first people in are the first out, and you don't have to go through that whole awkward avoidance of eye contact with your fellow passengers.

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I remember the Towers had something unique that I had never experienced before: an elevator that had two doors.  You entered through one door, rose to your floor, then exited through another door that was on the opposite side of the car.  As a kid I thought that was really neat.

There's an elevator that works the same way at IAH in the new international arrivals building.

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  • 1 month later...

When I was in grade school in Houston in the mid sixties a classmate of mine's father was the booking agent of the Tidelands. He would put up some of the entertainers that were performing there at their home when they were in town. A couple of the entertainers I remember meeting were Sammy Bo and Totie Fields. Must have been a real swinging place back then. The former Rice University football star Dicky Moegle was involved with it somehow...maybe part owner.

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It was a private club - byob. This was before liquor by the drink was legal in Texas. Some of the original Mercury astronauts were members.

I've been trying to think of other entertainers who appeared there but am coming up blank tonight. Jackie Vernon? Shelley Berman?

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Really great photo you got there...Totie was something else.

I googled "Sammy Bo" and came up with nothing so I must have the name wrong.

My take on the Tidelands in the 60s is that it offered Houstonians a swank nightclub to see Vegas level stand up comedians perform. I don't think they had musicians but I could be wrong about that. It wasn't necessarily a comedy club as they became to be known in the 80s. Maybe some of the other South Main hotels had rooms that hosted similar entertainers. Like the Shamrock maybe?

One of the top Houston sports figures of the 1950s -- Rice University's star running back Dicky Moegle -- worked there and probably in addition to being a partner in the place was a meet and greet guy. Moegle was the running back who was tackled in the '54 Cotton Bowl when an Alabama player came off the bench during the play.

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My take on the Tidelands in the 60s is that it offered Houstonians a swank nightclub to see Vegas level stand up comedians perform. I don't think they had musicians but I could be wrong about that. It wasn't necessarily a comedy club as they became to be known in the 80s. Maybe some of the other South Main hotels had rooms that hosted similar entertainers. Like the Shamrock maybe?

The Shamrock hosted Saturday Night Live - this was a decade or so earlier. It was a national, live radio program originating from the Shamrock over KXYZ and ABC radio.

http://www.houstonhistory.com/shop/s5.htm

Tons of big name entertainers came to town to appear on the show. After Glenn McCarthy had to sell the Shamrock, there were attempts to keep that show biz reputation alive in Houston. Anybody remember when the Ames Brothers took over the top floor of the Rice for a big club? It only lasted a few months.

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Kind of getting off topic with the Shamrock instead of the Tidelands but what kind of acts performed at the Emerald Room and the Cork Club? It sounds like South Main was a real nightlife center in the 50s and 60s.

That audio cassette of perfomers from the Shamrock (90$ yikes!) was probably recorded at the Emerald Room would be my guess.

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  • 10 months later...
The only 15-story hotel I'm aware of that was in the Med Center was the Anderson Mayfair on Holcombe, but I haven't seen a good picture of it.

man, this took a long time, but here she is:

mayfairpc001.jpg

mayfairpc002.jpg

on a weird note, the reverend who sent the card was from st. anthony center on almeda, which has now been converted to the alta lofts

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Sevfiv, sometimes I think you and I are sitting on the same collections of old pictures. ^_^

Wow! What a trip down memory lane. I remember the Tidelands from the 1950's, orange being the dominant exterior color. I saw the comedian, Jonathan Winters, perform there and I salsad the night away in the 1980's at the Tides II. I've got to go through my post card collection and see what I can come up with.

The shopping center just south of this now vacant lot had an Eckerd's, a bookstore, an all u can eat Chinese buffet and in the 1950's, a seafood restaurant where the children could pick an item out of the "treasure chest" in the lobby. Anybody remember the name of this place? Was it Ship Ahoy? This center sat vacant for years. I don't drive by enough to know what's there now.

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  • 1 month later...

You guys are the greatest. I've been wracking my brain to remember the name of the seafood restaurant on S. Main, near University, where my Daddy used to take me on his visits. And there you go, Ship Ahoy! However the photo is not of the old interior, this is obviously after conversion to Chinese. The real Ship Ahoy was very 1930's style inside and had actual porthole windows, which I found fascinating. And the Treasure Chest was a thrill. Very art deco.

Also, I was on another, newer thread searching for the name of the Polynesian restaurant at Sage and Westheimer and it was suggested I try here, surely enough:

There was another Poly-Asian Restaurant in Houston. It was called Poly-Asian West and was located at 5138 Westheimer. This is near Sage Road where the exciting Bali-Hai apartment complex is located. It's the most lavish TIKI building remaining in Houston.

Living on University Blvd, all of South Main was our playground. I recall all of these buildings mentioned above, especially the wonderful restaurants. As a very young girl, I rode the ponies at Kiddie Wonderland, we ate frequently at Prince's Drive In, went across the road to Stuart's for their gumbo, did Playland Park and toward my teen years, alternated which of the eating places we'd hit that weekend. Elsewhere I have extolled the virtues of the not to be duplicated Shamrock days.

Being ancient, I remember when Herrmann Hospital was all there was to the Texas Medical Center!

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Also, I was on another, newer thread searching for the name of the Polynesian restaurant at Sage and Westheimer and it was suggested I try here, surely enough:

There was another Poly-Asian Restaurant in Houston. It was called Poly-Asian West and was located at 5138 Westheimer. This is near Sage Road where the exciting Bali-Hai apartment complex is located. It's the most lavish TIKI building remaining in Houston.

Hey WestU -- I'm following you around trying to catch up and tell you that the place on Westheimer at Sage with the polynesian food and decor was the Dobbs House Luau. It was at 5200 Westheimer, and it closed sometime around 1970. The Poly-Asian has also been gone for a long time. See your original posting on this back on that other thread about defunct restaurants.

Edited by FilioScotia
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You guys are the greatest. I've been wracking my brain to remember the name of the seafood restaurant on S. Main, near University, where my Daddy used to take me on his visits. And there you go, Ship Ahoy! However the photo is not of the old interior, this is obviously after conversion to Chinese. The real Ship Ahoy was very 1930's style inside and had actual porthole windows, which I found fascinating. And the Treasure Chest was a thrill. Very art deco.

Were you thinking of the downtown Ship Ahoy with the portholes?

ShipAhoy1.jpg

Here is the South Main location after it became a Chinese place.

CathayHouse.jpg

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Nope, Subdude, we always went to the S. Main Ship Ahoy. I lived in West University and Daddy would pick me up for his custody visitations. We generally stayed in the vicinity for our lunch or dinner out. Great pictures, though, I can see that the Chinese incarnation was the same general config of the dining room and size. Very different decor.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 8 months later...

Just got back from San Francisco where I viewed an exhibit dedicated to the famous old hungry i nightclub there. Ran across an interesting tidbit: Comedian Bob Newhart's first public appearence took place at Houston's Tidelands Club in 1959 or 1960. Even more interesting is that the show was recorded and became the famed album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart.

From an interview with Newhart:

It was my very first stand-up gig, and I was the opening act at the Tidelands Motor Inn in Houston. I performed the only three routines I had, "Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue," "The Driving Instructor," and "The Cruise of the U.S.S. Codfish. " The audience was particularly responsive one night, and they gave me a lengthy applause. As I left the stage, I walked by the ma

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Question: Was this the old Tidelands over on Main by Rice U.?

I am almost certain it has been mentioned several times on this forum. Surprisingly it stood in its same spot (Main) for decades despite all the development surrounding it. We always loved the 60's look the building had. It seemed so modern even by todays standards. I think it finally met the wrecking ball a few years ago. I never would have dreamed this is where that famous album was taped! Thanks for the info! Bob Newhart is still hilarious after all these years.

Oops I think this topic is about to get merged with another! :o

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  • The title was changed to Bill Newkirk- Talent Agent At The Tidelands Club
  • The title was changed to Tidelands Motor Inn At 6500 South Main St.

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