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Rebirth Of The Montagu Hotel...

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Mo ho - that's classic :D

here is the demolition information from the MainPlace thread (thanks Highway6):

Called Cherry, he said 7am Sunday, rain or shine. That they will have a 1 block perimeter, but that he didnt know off hand if the parking garage at San Jacinto would be offlimits or not but that it probably would.

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It looks odd placed over the faded paint of "Hotel Cotton"

Glad I had a chance to walk in look around and polk my head in as I walked past while working nearby. RIP old Montague. No more urine odor for now! :blush:

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On the Fannin Street side, there's a place near the main entrance where the stucco has flaked off, and the word COTTON can be seen inscribed just above window level.

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Mo ho - that's classic :D

here is the demolition information from the MainPlace thread (thanks Highway6):

Fun.. Might have to trek down there on the bike and take some video.. RIP Montigue

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Wow I am shocked! I live only a few blocks from this building and did not even hear this happen. I am sad to see this building go, after all it was part of Houston's past in many different ways.

Edited by Daniepwils

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It has been suggested to me that others who have followed this topic over the past two years might be interested in hearing my thoughts on the ultimate demise of the Montagu Hotel (formerly the Hotel Cotton) since I was involved in the abortive attempt to renovate, improve and save the building from 2005-2007.

I don't know if there is much I can add, really, that has not already been expressed better by others, but I had mixed feelings as I watched the old building being imploded this past month. In December of 2011 the hotel would have reached the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking for its construction and it soon after would have marked the 100th anniversary of its grand opening in March of 2013. Isn't it depressing how very few of Houston's historical structures make it to their 100th birthday?

The problem for this building is that it was eclipsed by larger and more luxurious hotels like the present-day Rice Hotel almost from the beginning of its history. The golden era for this building was from 1913 to about the mid-1940's, during which time it was a nice and respected facility and was popular with businessman and tourists. By the 1950's, though, the old girl had become a very dated facility which is probably why the building changed hands in the early '50's and was renamed the Montagu by the second owner. The building subsequently struggled through the 1950's and '60's as downtown declined and the exodus of businesses to the suburbs began to accelerate. During that time, the building catered to merchant seamen and long-haul truckers and other blue-collar clientele who needed affordable lodgings downtown. By the early 1970's, however, the Montagu Hotel was in terrible shape and was just about done for and the building probably would have been demolished by 1975 had my family not acquired it in 1974.

Although my family did perform a fairly large renovation of the building in 1974 and enjoyed some initial success with it in the late '70's, the continuing decline of downtown compounded by the real estate collapse of the 1980's in Houston really made it impossible for the Montagu to succeed as a nice hotel again. Over the longer term nothing really worked other than running it as a cut-rate, flop-house for street people, which is pretty much all that came through the doors by the mid-1980's. This was truly unfortunate, but the building was just too old, too outdated, and too much in need of a multi-million dollar renovation to attract any other types of paying customers.

Over time, this situation virtually guaranteed the demise of the building. When a hotel becomes a home for drunkards, derelicts, drug-addicts, petty street criminals, etc., it usually means that the building will come to a bad end. This type of clientele, (if you can call it that), tend to do enormous destruction to the premises over time, making it very expensive to maintain the building and still remain profitable. Furthermore, such people give a building and the business an evil reputation which makes it impossible to attract better customers and to charge higher room rates. This seedy reputation, once acquired, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to bring a a place like the Montagu back into the mainstream of hotel commerce.

Nevertheless, as many of you know, in the summer of 2005 I began an 18-month oddysey as general manager of the Montagu Hotel and was charged with the mission of renovating the building with a limited budget while simultaneously trying to change the image of the hotel in order to attract better customers. My hope was that if we could get rid of the destructive street people and attract budget-minded travelers wishing to stay in the heart of downtown, then more revenue could be raised to maintain the viability of the business and provide a source of funding for the further improvements needed to save this historic structure.

Considerable efforts were made, but in the end the project failed due to grossly inadequate funding and a lack of vision and interest in historical preservation on the part of the building's owners. In their defense, my uncles bore all of the expenses of owning and running the property and it was damned hard to make enough money there anymore to cover those expenses. I think they were simply exhausted by 33 years of struggling to keep the business profitable and they were also both past 70 and ready to retire. This is why the hotel was on the market for sale for so many years and was promptly sold when a serious buyer appeared.

The renovation effort only had my uncle's support so long as the prospects of a sale seemed remote. So long as there was no buyer, it was necessary to try to find ways to improve the place and keep it profitable. I personally, did not think in 2005 that the building would be sold anytime soon and had hopes that the slow-motion renovation might succeed over time. However, the minute serious buyers started coming around again, I knew that renovation would end and that the building would quickly be sold. I also felt confident that if the building were sold, it was a near-certainty it would be demolished because the real-estate it sat on was far more valuable and useful to a developer than the building itself, which was in very bad shape and would have required probably 20 million dollars to properly renovate into a nice facility again.

So, I guess this end really was almost inevitable. The downtown hotel market is perpetually poor because Houston is no one's vacation destination. This is why we get so little convention business. There are also too many hotel rooms downtown for the business that does arrive each year - which keeps room rates permanently in the doldroms. Since almost every other hotel downtown was much newer and nicer than the Montagu, it had no real chance at all unless it got the kind of renovation that the Lancaster Hotel got in the early 1980's, which meant closing the place and injecting millions into it on a hope and prayer that such a full-scale renovation could recoup its costs. That simply was never in the cards.

In closing, I should mention that I will soon be collaborating with a gentleman who is writing a book on historic architectural structures of Houston that are no longer in existence. He wanted info on the Hotel Cotton/Montagu and so I'll be providing him with access to my archives of photos, letters, artifacts, etc. When the book is published, at least the history of the building will not be lost - as is so often the case if efforts are not made to document it before those associated with it all move away and/or die.

I wish I could have saved the building, and not just its history, but I had was just the guy with the grand ideas - not the deep pockets needed to make such a thing really happen.

I want to thank everyone here who took an interest in the building and the modest effort I made to improve and save it. If it could not be saved properly, then it is probably best for downtown that it is now gone because it had become such an eyesore in its deteriorated condition and a magnet for some really vile people who were a public nuisance to those who occupied nearby buildings.

It was sort of like a mercy-killing, if you think about it, and at least the old girl went out with a bang instead of a whimper. The implosion was sad to watch, but not as depressing as watching a crane with a wrecking ball whacking at it for days and days, nor as depressing as watching it continue to struggle on from one year to the next as a pathetic fleabag hotel for derelicts. The building deserved better than that. May it rest in peace.

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Thank you for the remarks - please keep us posted on the book!

And thank you for being so open to giving tours of the hotel while you were on board - I am glad I was able to see much of the hotel I wouldn't have normally been able to from the street or as a guest.

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awesome post wyattearp. thanks for keeping us in the loop and for your wonderful endnote on this building.

indeed, keep us posted on the book. i hope you'll continue to contribute to and enjoy haif. best wishes.

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***

I wish I could have saved the building, and not just its history, but I had was just the guy with the grand ideas - not the deep pockets needed to make such a thing really happen.

I want to thank everyone here who took an interest in the building and the modest effort I made to improve and save it. If it could not be saved properly, then it is probably best for downtown that it is now gone because it had become such an eyesore in its deteriorated condition and a magnet for some really vile people who were a public nuisance to those who occupied nearby buildings.

It was sort of like a mercy-killing, if you think about it, and at least the old girl went out with a bang instead of a whimper. The implosion was sad to watch, but not as depressing as watching a crane with a wrecking ball whacking at it for days and days, nor as depressing as watching it continue to struggle on from one year to the next as a pathetic fleabag hotel for derelicts. The building deserved better than that. May it rest in peace.

Moving. I admire and appreciate your vision and work. It is sad to see such a relatively old building go. A scene from a movie, however, came to mind. 10 cool points for the first to know who it is (without goolging it).

"Look, believe it or not,

i'm providing a service.

I'm thinning the corporate herd.

You've seen "Daktari"?

The weaker animals always go.

So the kids cry when you tie an old

tiger to a tree and shoot him.

But that's life!

America's in a state of renewal.

We've gotta have the strength to

tie a few factories to a tree

and bash 'em with a shovel."

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Mr Kalas

IF YOU WOULD LIKE,I COULD GIVE YOU INFO. ON THE Montagu Hotel,as i worked there in the mid. 60's. emaill me at reneehull5@hotmail.com. My name is Gail.

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Gail - thank you for posting and welcome to HAIF. If you wouldn't mind, there would be plenty of folks here that would be interested in hearing about your time at the Montagu in the 1960s. As for Mr. Kalas, I'm not sure if he checks this message board any longer.

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George Kalas, the new manager of the Montagu Hotel, wrote to me last week to tell me that they're re-doing the hotel. He answered a few of my questions, and I thought the people here would like to hear about the work he's doing.

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Not sure how often people check this thread, but I actually stumbled across something interesting in the tunnel between the Walker @ Main garage and BG Group Place. Right at the corner, as the path leads up into the tower, there's a historical display regarding the Cotton / Montagu as well as a decent-sized display piece of the top floor facade and cornice. Here are some photos from my recent trip back home...

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