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Old Helena Motel

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Ten years or so ago the Gulf Freeway from downtown to the 610 loop was basically a dead zone. In the last few years, though, it has started coming to life. Townhouses are going up steadily near downtown. UH has significantly improved their campus adjacent to I-45. Gulfgate Center is steadily expanding. The lovely new AAMA school will soon be finished. Strip centers have been build or remodeled.

And today I saw another sign of improvement: The Rodeaux(nee Helena Motel) site at Wayside, which has been an eyesore, at least in my opinion, is being bulldozed to the ground. This will create a freeway frontage of almost a full block. Does anyone have an idea of what might be going on there? I hope it isn't just another strip center.

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As a kid, usually on the way to Galveston or San Leon, I would gaze longingly at the Helena as we passed because it had such a great looking swimming pool. As it lost its luster, and even with the name change, I would still get a warm feeling every time I passed the place.

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I too was thrilled to see it half torn down yesterday!

Was going to snap pics just for old times sake. Its glory days were well over with years ago. Will never forget the pretty swimming pool and nice upkeep. Later became The Island Club disco then a seafood place. Best to see it disappear. That whole huge property has so much potential and visibility. No clue whats in the works but lets cross our fingers for something positive, robust and productive! :D

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Here is it in better days, a view of the "Zodiac Club"?, 2401 Wayside. Or would that be the restaurant, there was also a coffee shop, banquet halls. I'm sad, it reminded me of the Carousel Hotel.

post-5666-1206543203_thumb.jpg

Edited by NenaE

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Anyone know how many incarnations there were of the Helena?

It was first Helena Tourist Court, then in the early sixties changed to motel, and the current HCAD record lists a build date of 1969/1970 (retail/restaurant designation, though - not motel).

Helena Motel, Inc. (owned by Helen T. Bell) was chartered on July 22, 1960

(approved by Duncan Hines!)

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Anyone know how many incarnations there were of the Helena?

That pool was fun to jump in (and get chased off from) in the mid 70's.

Island Club Disco circa 1990-92 (short lived) but packed em in.

Then Rodeaux Seafood whatever for a shorter period around 1999-2001?

Been vacant for way too long. Eyesore was correct. Was used as some kind of dumping ground for city machinery?

Unfortunately anything here new, will have to deal with the constant flow of Greyhound bus type crowd freshly arriving at bus depot caddy corner on Telephone Road/Wayside. Once was a car dealer but now a major eyesore for that vicinity. Guess the developer is aware though. Oy vey.

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Don't know how much this helps, but I found a June 1958 newspaper article mentioning that Diana Barrymore was staying at the "Helena Motel" while in Houston to star in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" at the Avalon Theater, and that the Helena Motel was "near" the theater. Based on Sev's info, it may be a different place - I don't know where the Avalon Theater was [though I saw a random reference somewhere to it being on "75th Street"]. Or the newspaper could have just been sloppy with the name.

(Barrymore was actually recuperating from the measles at the time, but apparently performed despite being ill: "'Measles or not, darling, I'm going on,' the daughter of the famed John Barrymore told her doctor just before Friday night's performance." She apparently killed herself in January 1960 - a year and a half later - sad.)

Edited by tmariar

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Thanks to TABC online public inquiry system:

1988-1993: Island Club

1993-1994: Cabanas

1995-2000: Garibaldy Night Club

2000-2004: ?

2005-2007: Palladium Night Club

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Thanks to TABC online public inquiry system:

1988-1993: Island Club

1993-1994: Cabanas

1995-2000: Garibaldy Night Club

2000-2004: ?

2005-2007: Palladium Night Club

Thats pretty exact. Once the place became non-English speaking it catered to a different (rougher)clientele. That said. It fizzled out fast. Now we hope for something more family oriented! :D

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The Avalon was at 743 South 75th St.

According to Cinema Houston, it was later known as the Capri, Fiesta, then the Living Hope Church

it's still standing.....

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Here's another random (possible) newspaper mention - I'll include the full text, as it's a mini ghost story (this is from the March 18, 1956 edition of Forrest Lord's recurring column "Gulf Breezes" in the Galveston paper - subject, dreams; ellipses and phrasing as in original):

"But back to the ghost of the girl who invaded the privacy of my room soon after I came to Texas, I stopped one night at Helena Court in Houston . . . shortly after going to sleep I awoke . . . saw the form of a woman clearly revealed in the moonlight which came through the partially opened shutters . . . she wore no clothes, jet-black hair fell to her waist . . . she moved in my direction . . . and in the pattern of dreams this was the moment for me to wake up and realize I was dreaming . . . but here's the odd sequel . . . I got out of bed expecting the vision to vanish . . . it didn't until I took a step in her direction . . . when she slowly dissolved into the filmy window drapes. We turned on the bathroom light . . . tried the locked door . . . tossed on some clothes and went outside seeking a solution of the mystery . . . there was none. The few friends to whom we have related this experience have raised an eyebrow and come back with some kind of crack, like 'Lord, you'd better lay off that midnight snack of milk and pickles.' Yet, she was there . . . we saw her . . . but never before in substance and never since."

Re the location of the Avalon Theater - it sounds like the 1958 article was talking about the same Helena, then.

Here's another postcard (the seller estimates it's from the "1930's or possibly 1940's", but I don't know the basis for that):

5635.jpg

Edited by tmariar

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There is a picture of the Avalon Theater in "Near East End" topic, Vertigo58,page3,post#114.

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Oddly enough, I seldom heard of anyone we knew going to that specific theater. We always went to The Broadway further east on Lawndale. More than likely The Broadway played more modern "Godzilla" films than this one in the late 60's.

and thanks for posting the aerial map! Where patrons parked to go here was always a mystery from the street. :ph34r:

and back to Helena topic, the several buildings out in back seemed like such a waste all of these years, thats is they seemed vacant but well constructed. Oh well just another part of old Telephone Road history going away.

Here is a real question for those mystery detectives out there:

Why were there so many motels in this vicinity to begin with? Next to K-Mart was The Josephine Motel, then Helena, Bluetop, Holiday Inn, etc. I imagine due to proximity to 45 and downtown? Who would have imagined they would all head into a downward spiral ie; Telephone Rd red light district?! Bummer.

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Why were there so many motels in this vicinity to begin with? Next to K-Mart was The Josephine Motel, then Helena, Bluetop, Holiday Inn, etc. I imagine due to proximity to 45 and downtown? Who would have imagined they would all head into a downward spiral ie; Telephone Rd red light district?! Bummer.

Postcard reads: "Junction U.S. 90-A at Gulf Freeway, I-45, U.S. 75"

Location,Location,Location :)

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5635.jpg

Did all of you notice at bottom left of this cart it states NEW GULF FREEWAY?! That frwy opened in 1957 right? So this card and Court were in operation at that moment.

If anyone can solve this related mystery question. There presently stands a 2 story building on or next door to this property. Has a tall flag pole in front? facing west. Was it part of Helena or was it part of that old long gone Wayside Theater??? at very corner is a Mexican Car Sales now. This building is sandwiched between the old Helena and the car sales place. I believe it is still in operation as something? Seldom ever see any movement in or out of it. Strange :ph34r::)

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Did all of you notice at bottom left of this cart it states NEW GULF FREEWAY?! That frwy opened in 1957 right? So this card and Court were in operation at that moment.

according to Houston Freeways, that section of freeway opened in Feb of 1951. The section north of Telephone Rd. opened in 1948.

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according to Houston Freeways, that section of freeway opened in Feb of 1951. The section north of Telephone Rd. opened in 1948.

Now I know how I got mixed up. I was told by an elder that yes, the freeway was made at those times however; it did not have the name "Gulf" frwy yet? This person said there was a big local TV or radio station contest to give it a name and someone chose Gulf.

Does anyone have any factual evidence to support that? I'm sure the person meant well but how will us young-uns ever know? Opps guess I should just see the link above! Hee hee. :D

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p. 18 of this month's Houston History magazine (subscribe, all of you! http://vi.uh.edu/public_history/public_history.html ) has a map said to be circa 1942 of Houston's proposed core freeway network. The Fulg, er, Gulf Freeway is listed as such. No source is given for the document (there is a small "Figure 7", so I like the sound of your anecdote, though a sourced 1950 Houston Post Parade Magazine article comfortably refers to it by that name.

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Ten years or so ago the Gulf Freeway from downtown to the 610 loop was basically a dead zone. In the last few years, though, it has started coming to life. Townhouses are going up steadily near downtown. UH has significantly improved their campus adjacent to I-45. Gulfgate Center is steadily expanding. The lovely new AAMA school will soon be finished. Strip centers have been build or remodeled.

And today I saw another sign of improvement: The Rodeaux(nee Helena Motel) site at Wayside, which has been an eyesore, at least in my opinion, is being bulldozed to the ground. This will create a freeway frontage of almost a full block. Does anyone have an idea of what might be going on there? I hope it isn't just another strip center.

Below a clip from the April Idylwood newsletter...hope this clears up what's going on at both sides of the intersection.

New Development at Wayside & I-45, the vice president of the Idylwood civic club, Tammy Cirigliano, forwarded this information

passed on to her by the development company.

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Taco Cabana, Washington Mutual, Burger King and CVS." The west side area is where Rodeaux is currently located.

These places will be very crowded. This whole vicinity has been in need of new fast food for decades. Not speaking for me but for the large population of teens and families that love this stuff. Jobs for the kids too. This type of developement needs to push all the way into Downtown. There is plenty of room for growth. PS, the new Burger King on Harrisburg is fantastic! Even has flatscreen & internet access on one end.

We need to start building 2 level fast foods like they do in California. I recall visiting a Taco Bell that was very large could seat 200-250 or more. Granted it was near Santa Clara University, but Houston has the room to do this. If we had two story fast foods on 45, there would be fantastic views of the DT skyline. One Burger King at Stanford U. had 2 levels and and outside deck!

This is out chance to sparkle may as well go 100% in innovation. :D I'll start drawing up plans now! :P

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It would be great to see an Ice Cream place on one these corners ala Baskin Robbins.

A donut place would be perfect for those driving into downtown in the mornings to have fresh and ready for coworkers when they get to their destinations. :P

Reminder: There is an East End Wish List topic floating around.

I am glad someone mentionend how desperately this area needs....

A big multi-leveled, 24 Hour Fitness, Gold's Gym or Bally's type of work-out place.

Would be perfect around this vicinity or further inbound around Dumble exit at 45 or rather Eastwood Transit Center. Also would spark interest in passerby's on 45 to come live in Broadmoor and surrounding nabes.

Let's start a camaign or something everyone! :D

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A donut place would be perfect for those driving into downtown in the mornings to have fresh and ready for coworkers when they get to their destinations. :P

did you forget about Mary Lee donuts almost on that very corner?

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did you forget about Mary Lee donuts almost on that very corner?

Hasn't it been shut down for months? Its on opposite corner by the bayou. I meant to build a much more modern and better selection donut place. That one had become a hangout for...so manager had to start booting or shut down at least last we saw it was closed...for good.

A donut place on opposite side of frwy is also what I meant as an easy exit off, exit on scenario. :)

Edited by Vertigo58

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Now I know how I got mixed up. I was told by an elder that yes, the freeway was made at those times however; it did not have the name "Gulf" frwy yet? This person said there was a big local TV or radio station contest to give it a name and someone chose Gulf.

Does anyone have any factual evidence to support that? I'm sure the person meant well but how will us young-uns ever know? Opps guess I should just see the link above! Hee hee. :D

"On at least one occasion, an ordinary citizen got to name a street when Sarah Yancey won the 1948 contest in which the Gulf Freeway was named."

source: 2-Minute Histories of Houston, Garvin Berry & Betty Chapman, Ch. on Street Names, p.21 (Houston Business Journal) publ.1996

I personally don't think of the Gulf Freeway as a street! :P

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"On at least one occasion, an ordinary citizen got to name a street when Sarah Yancey won the 1948 contest in which the Gulf Freeway was named."

source: 2-Minute Histories of Houston, Garvin Berry & Betty Chapman, Ch. on Street Names, p.21 (Houston Business Journal) publ.1996

I personally don't think of the Gulf Freeway as a street! :P

Mom might be getting up in her years but she still can recall events such as this where she always told us someone had won a contest for the naming back when. and they think we make up these stories. Oh brother. :P

Way to go Nena! FTD should be at your door any minute with a bouquet of red roses!

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Below a clip from the April Idylwood newsletter...hope this clears up what's going on at both sides of the intersection.

New Development at Wayside & I-45, the vice president of the Idylwood civic club, Tammy Cirigliano, forwarded this information

passed on to her by the development company. "We have signed Leases with T-Mobile, PLS Financial, Lenny's Subs and Maria Bonita Taqueria (north

side of Wayside and east of I-45).

I'm not sure if you have noticed that I'm leasing the land on the West side of I-45 @ Wayside. I have letter of Intents/ leases with the following

tenants. Taco Cabana, Washington Mutual, Burger King and CVS." The west side area is where Rodeaux is currently located.

The now empty lot actually looks really nice, almost makes you think that this is what it might have looked like ages ago. Maybe just trees and grass. :)

Whomever is supposed to develop sure are taking their time about it. The other side is almost complete and does appear nice and modern. Palm trees please.

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The now empty lot actually looks really nice, almost makes you think that this is what it might have looked like ages ago. Maybe just trees and grass. :)

Whomever is supposed to develop sure are taking their time about it. The other side is almost complete and does appear nice and modern. Palm trees please.

I'm glad something is going up...just a little history from that place...My father purchased his 87' Ford F-150 from the car lot that once stood there back in 89'...He drove us all around town. He loved that truck.

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I'm glad something is going up...just a little history from that place...My father purchased his 87' Ford F-150 from the car lot that once stood there back in 89'...He drove us all around town. He loved that truck.

You must mean the car lot that was caddy corner across the frwy from Helena Hotel. I cannot recall the name of the car business around 1975-76? but they had those very popular sports vans on display with the doors wide open so customers could sit inside and check them out. This when the vans were the number one choice to have to go to the beach and pack in all the crowd, especially for the Drive In movies. This is a little off topic but films even help popularize the craze. :D

PS, it was the sound systems that blew everyone away.

thevan.jpg

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This new shopping center is beginning to look like a shopping center. Sure got off to a slow start. Will we finally see a nice brand new Cleaners? A brand new donut place like Dunkin Donuts would be perfect too! :D

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"I'm not sure if you have noticed that I'm leasing the land on the West side of I-45 @ Wayside. I have letter of Intents/ leases with the following

tenants. Taco Cabana, Washington Mutual, Burger King and CVS." The west side area is where Rodeaux is currently located."

Does this mean a Chase will take its place?

Edited by CHiPs

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"I'm not sure if you have noticed that I'm leasing the land on the West side of I-45 @ Wayside. I have letter of Intents/ leases with the following

tenants. Taco Cabana, Washington Mutual, Burger King and CVS." The west side area is where Rodeaux is currently located."

Does this mean a Chase will take its place?

They really need to have a Chase Bank location here. There was only an ATM in that Exxon and it was always broken down.

I am quite happy to hear of these new retailers, however it will become more gridlock and loitering from the usual street people and adding to the hanging out will be the (ongoing major eyesore bus depot) just down the street at Telephone/S Wayside.

The sad truth is this very, very busy intersection (45/Wayside) is a very fast moving area. Cars simply cannot stop at the drop of a pin when passing thru so when the autos in front of them stop to turn into these new establishments it will be crash, boom, bam. You see it almost daily further down as they turn into Dot's, Home Depot, and the barbecue place. The best thing they can do is post a very large neon sign at these new places stating that anyone hanging around will be $ fined, etc.

FYI, that old McDonald's should have been leveled yrs ago and perhaps moved back further and built as a 2 level mega-McDonald's and leave out a playground. It became more of a school play yard yrs ago. There is a great example of a non-play ground McDonald's over here in Westchase District. It is state of the art. Can we see anything like that being built in Near East End? I know dream on. :):mellow:

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The Avalon was at 743 South 75th St.

According to Cinema Houston, it was later known as the Capri, Fiesta, then the Living Hope Church

http://www.hcad.org/records/details.asp?ta...t=0410300000280

For at least a short time (in the early 70s?) it was a porn theater.

To this day I still remember driving by the theater and reading the marquee outside announcing the feature flix:

"A Hard man is good to find"... i thought it was one of the best Porn titles.

///no I did not visit the place nor see the film

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They had a very nice restaurant there. That's where I had my first Chef's Salad, when we thought anything called a salad had to be good for you. They remodeled the lobby and dining room to that beautiful two story building that was apparently torn down. Nice memories. We would go there every Sunday after church.

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Anyone know how many incarnations there were of the Helena?

It was first Helena Tourist Court, then in the early sixties changed to motel, and the current HCAD record lists a build date of 1969/1970 (retail/restaurant designation, though - not motel).

Helena Motel, Inc. (owned by Helen T. Bell) was chartered on July 22, 1960

(approved by Duncan Hines!)

I know no one has asked, but I'm gonna tell you anyway ;) ...before the Holiday Inn stood on the site at Gulf Frwy & Wayside, there was the "Idylwood Tourist Courts". These courts were obviously very popular in their day, they seemed to have been everywhere. (This info. was found on the on-line Sanborn Maps, available through the library now, no special passwords needed, just a Houston library card no. & a lot of patience).

Edited by NenaE

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I guess if anyone is interested in documenting the construction of a Taco Cabana at this local now is the time. The sign is about to go up and palms have been added.

Wish we knew where the Burger King is to be built?

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Wish we knew where the Burger King is to be built?

Answering my own question, The BK looks to be going up quite swiftly. That new street they added seems so unusual though.

Hopefully developers will now realize how much of a $$$ this visibliity will do for most business's. Great prespective from 45 coming & going out of downtown.

This only took what, about 30 plus years to come to fruition? Keep up the momentum and continue the progress all the way in to DT please!

Out with the old in with the new! (Champagne toast) :D

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In 1976 I lied about my age and the Helena Motel on Wayside & Gulfreway hired me as a Dishwasher!  I often went upstairs to get the dirty dishes and stainless steel trays and clean the steam table and haul the stuff downstairs to the restaurant. The "Zodiac Club" upstairs was very elegant and Las Vegas like a club! served jumbo sized Mixed drinks and shrimp and other delicious food all on the steam table! upstairs and they had a very beautiful SWEEPING staircase and a few chandeliers hung very nicely descending the staircase the dining room on the ground floor overlooking the glamorous swimming pool! and all covered with linen tablecloths! and Redcarpet wall to wall Like the Windsor plaza on Richmond Ave. I never have seen such opulence in all my life real silverware on the tables and even a Breakfast counter for Truckers too! the Dining room was off the front where the floor to ceilings windows!  The beverage station in the middle that's I put tea, and Ice and pitchers. The entrance doors were glass & chrome and electrically closed and opened when I stepped in the rubber mate 

WIN_20180225_22_27_38_Pro.jpg

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