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Exclusive 'AstroWorld Hotel' Photos, Most Expensive Hotel Suite


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Some long time Houstonian's may remember that Houston was home to the most expensive hotel suite in the world. The AstroWorld Hotel itself was constructed in the late 1960's and in 1969, he had an additional floor added to entertain guests and dignitaries. The hotel suite was then named the 'Celestial Suite' and became the part-time personal residence for Judge Roy Hoffeinz, the man behind AstroWorld and the AstrodDome. The 1977 Guinness Book of World Records listed the hotel suite in it's pages as the most expensive hotel suite in the world at $2500 but sadly only included a very small black/white photo that made it difficult to see anything and did not do the suite justice anyway. Even though it had a listed rental rate, the hotel was actually very rarely rented out to anyone and sadly video and photo requests throughout the years were denied. The hotel has changed ownership and names several times over the years and sadly the 'Celestial Suite' is not up to current construction code and has been unavailable to the public quite some time. I have tried to determine just how long it has been since the 'Celestial Suite' has been seen by the public or used for any event but details are unavailable because of multiple ownership change. It's very possible that the suite has not been used for any reason since the early 1990's, which would have the suite sitting empty and unused for nearly 17 years. (Can anybody provide any more information on this?) I have recently been able to aquire exclusive photos of the 'Celestial Suite' in it's original state, which continues to be unused to this date!

The 1977 Guiness Book of World Records entry (photo courtesy of 57Tbird in another HAIF thread)

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'AstroWorld Hotel' in it's original construction (photo courtesy of sevfiv in the same thread)

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The 'Tarzan Room', main living area, situated on the southwestern face of the floor. This suite has a tall ceiling with a second floor suspended in the limbs of an artificial tree, whose tree truck you can see in the right edge of this photo. The television in this photo appears to be a new model, but was sitting in a wicker chair and didn't appear to be even plugged in. I think it's safe to say the spiral stair-case in this photo also likely doesn't meet current safety code and ADA guidelines.

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The 'Tarzan Room', bedroom suite. Surprisingly small single bed.

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Kitchen prep and dinner table, unknown suite connection/style. Note: Just look at that 30 year-old looking yellow dish-washer!

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This suite was the actual bedroom of Judge Roy Hofheinz. This suite has a sunken whirpool in the floor (pictured in the Guinness Book article) that is rumored to be one of the current issues holding up the suite from meeting current construction code). This suite is in the middle of the southern face of the floor.

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Private balcony of the Judge's master bedroom, and the only part of the suite visible from freeway below

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This large suite takes up the entire NW corner of the top floor and I'm unaware of it's suite name, connection, or affiliation. UPDATED: This is apparently part of the P.T. Barnum suite, or the "Big Top Room.

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Hallway connecting various suites. Note the modern looking "fire alarm" switch and modern emergency lighting.

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The current owners run the hotel as the 'Houston Grand Plaza', which continue to not use the suite because of construction code issues. The hotel is rumored to be soon bought and run as a 'Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza', who does have plans to use the suite, perhaps a portion of which would be a Jazz club. The only portion of the floor I could not view was the NE wing, facing the AstroDome, which is rumored to be where the Jazz club would be. I hope that the construction of any jazz club would not entail the destruction of any of the existing 'Celestial Suite'. The source of some of my information came from several hotel employees say that even they are not allowed on the floor for any reason.

My hope in publishing these photos is to spur a lively discussion on this exciting piece of Houston history. I think it's quite likely that Houston will never host 'the most expensive hotel room in the world' designation ever again and information about the 'Celestial Suite' seems to be inconsistent and vague. I would like to see anybody with more photos or more hard information to come forward with what they have.

Edited by Kevin Jackson
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I went to a wedding there once. The club at one end of that floor is a miniature replica of the astrodome. The red canopy bed in the photo we were told by the tour guide was from Gone With The Wind.

joe

It would be great if the original "sign in book" could be located to see which famous celebs/dignitaries lodged there. Elvis has left the building, I'm sure?

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My company rented that suite for a luncheon several years back. There roof had leaked for several years and there had been a lot of water damage so all of it wasn't open (but I did peek). As can be seen from the photos it was wonderfully tacky. Elvis would have felt right at home. There was a mini scoreboad that had been tied into the scoreboard at the Dome so it would show the same as what was being displayed on the dome board. The technology was very 60s and looked quite antiquated.

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Thanks for the photos and information - I've long been interested in that hotel suite.

I remember reading the Guinness entry in the 70's. The next time I went to Astroworld, I talked a friend into taking the elevator up to the top floor of the hotel with me. We were able to go up, but all we saw was a hallway - so we did some cartwheels and somersaults (we were kids) in the hall to have a story to tell.

I think that the room with the painting of the elephant is part of the P.T. Barnum Suite.

I'm also interested in when these photos were taken. The Grand Plaza website (which also has some photos and information) and other sites suggest that the suite has been restored, with some updates (like plasma screen TV's and wireless internet), and is available for rent.

Sorry for this jumble of links, but I don't have much time to read and sort through all this right now. From the internet:

Cigar Bar/Jazz Club

"The hotel's exclusive jazz club and cigar bar is located in the famed Celestial Suite..."

Cigar Bar/Jazz Club

"Also on the first floor is a lounge/cigar bar for those guests wishing to unwind after dinner or any time throughout the day. A soon to be new addition to the hotel will be on our 9th floor in the famed Celestial Suite. Plans are in the works to convert the celebrated "Mini Dome" into an exclusive jazz club. This two-story club would have floor to ceiling windows offering one of the most breathtaking views of Reliant Park, home to Reliant Stadium and the Reliant Astrodome, and Houston's Medical Center Area."

12/1/05 Chronicle Article - REVITALIZING REAL ESTATE / New life for an old hotel / Group will rename and renovate structure near the Astrodome

1/23/04 Chronicle Article - Superbowl broadcast

1/16/04 Chronicle Article - KTRK special

9/6/00 Chronicle Article - Orange Show tour

8/27/00 Chronicle Article - Orange Show tour

11/4/96 Chronicle Article - Luxury has its PRICE/Restored Hofheinz suite unique lodging - and only $5,500 a night

3/26/95 Chronicle Article - ASTRODOME/30TH ANNIVERSARY/HERE DOMES THE JUDGE/For "Grand Huckster' Roy Hofheinz, building the Astrodome was the greatest sell of all

7/18/93 Chronicle Article - Suite Excess/Judge Roy Hofheinz wanted a penthouse that couldn't be topped, and that's what what he got from a Disney World designer

8/18/92 Chronicle Article - Convention '92/Hotels showering their guests with goodies

3/7/92 Chronicle Snippet - Wildflower Ball kickoff

3/14/74 Rolling Stone Article - Describes the Celestial Suite

12/9/73 New York Times Article - References the Celestial Suite twice

General Info

"The top floor of the Houston Grand Plaza Hotel is know as The Celestial Suite, named by the suite's creator, Judge Roy Hoffeinz. This suite, once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most expensive hotel room, was designed by Academy Award winning set designer Harper Goff, who, while working for Walt Disney, designed the sets for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Hoffeinz was know as a visionary. In 1965, he built the first indoor baseball stadium - the Houston Astrodome. Four years later, the father of indoor baseball had the top floor added to his recently constructed Astrovillage Hotel so he could reside and entertain as the king of his complex and admire it from his castle in the heavens. Today, the suite sits returned to its original splendor...with, of course, a few minor enhancements of the technological age (i.e. plasma screen TV's, Wireless Internet, etc.). Guests who stay in the celestial Suite will be following in the shoes of some of the world's most recognized celebrities, from Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash , and Jerry Lewis to Mohammed Ali and even President L[y]ndon Johnson. Guests can enjoy a number of once in a lifetime opportunities during a stay in this historic suite, opportunities such as sleeping in the very bed in which Scarlet[t] O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) slept in the movie Gone With the Wind. The bed is one of the main focal points in the Baronial Bedroom, a room whose adjoining bathroom boasts a bathtub so big that it requires a permit - a permit for a swimming pool! Throughout the Celestial Suite, there are 13 rooms in total, and each room has a unique design and decor. Guests can walk down the Lane of Lanterns and escape to the world of their choosing. For the Adventure enthusiasts, there is the Adventurer Suite with it's two-story Tarzan Room and adjoining Fu Man Chu bedroom. For an adventure of a different kind, there is the P.T. Barnum Suite with [its] Big Top parlor and Band Wagon bedroom - furnished with a king-sized bed made from an old bandwagon calliope."

Additional Info

This site suggests there was a television piece broadcast on ABC, on 1/17/04 and 1/31/04, on the "Haunted Celestial Suite".

Room Info

[i'd like to save the room info somehow, as who knows how long the Grand Plaza website will be maintained - but it's in flash, and I don't know how to block copy the language. I may type it in manually when I have more time, but here are some place-savers in the meantime, with links to the flash page.]

The Baronial Master Bedroom

The Marble Library

The Birdcage Dining Room

The Red Staircase Room

The Tarzan Room

The Fu Man Chu Bedroom

The Big Top Room

The Band Wagon Bedroom

The Lillian Russell Suite

The Sadie Thompson Suite

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Great post. I had forgotten about that suite. I got to tour it in the 70's. Very tacky and definitely not worth the money they were asking. There were much better rooms in other Houston hotels for half the price but it was unique.

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Several scenes of Brewster McCloud, directed Robert Altman, were filmed in the Celestial Suite in 1970. The spa room was well displayed. The film was shown for three days last week at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and was well attended.

The Celestial Suite should be opened for tours when not reserved. It seems to be a lot more interesting than many of the castles of Europe that are open daily.

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Several scenes of Brewster McCloud, directed Robert Altman, were filmed in the Celestial Suite in 1970. The spa room was well displayed. The film was shown for three days last week at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and was well attended.

The Celestial Suite should be opened for tours when not reserved. It seems to be a lot more interesting than many of the castles of Europe that are open daily.

Do you have a copy of 'Brewster McCloud' in ANY format? I would love to see it!

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suite2.jpg

My sister had one of these hanging wicker seats in her bedroom when we were kids. Many a time one of us was hurt falling out of it, getting cut on loose bits of wicker, swinging it into each other's faces. Bloody good times.

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astroworldhotel.jpg

What was cool was how the Astroworld Hotel and Astroworld Park and some staff uniforms carried the Colored globes theme throughout the layout of the whole complex. Like what you see on top right of this postcard. We still have numerous souvenirs from Astroworld with all the original park characters on them. Marvel Mcfey? What was the deal with that guy? Somewhat Liberace-like but kids didnt care. :lol:

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Hello everyone!

Could there be a setting on my computer as to why I cannot view the pictures if the Astroworld Hotel? I cannot seem to find any pictures on the web of these suites.Can someone please help?I am a native Houstonian and remember this era very well,but I would really be interested in seeing these pictures!

steve

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Hello everyone!

Could there be a setting on my computer as to why I cannot view the pictures if the Astroworld Hotel? I cannot seem to find any pictures on the web of these suites.Can someone please help?I am a native Houstonian and remember this era very well,but I would really be interested in seeing these pictures!

steve

Email me at theoriginalkj (at) gmail.com and I'll send you pics..

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  • Highrise Tower changed the title to Exclusive 'AstroWorld Hotel' Photos, Most Expensive Hotel Suite

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