Making something new from something old

I’m reading this interesting book, How Buildings Learn : What Happens After They’re Built, and a chapter about the building preservation movement struck a chord with me. I’m not talking about historical preservation when great pains are taken to keep a building as close to its original state as possible. I’m talking about a more general type of preservation when a building is kept close to its original state, but has been repurposed for whoever occupies the space currently. In this sense, there’s a respect for the past, but there’s also innovation or evolution at the same time.

I sort of touched on this concept in a previous post, Retro Shopping Facade. My limited exposure to “preserved” buildings tends to be older properties that have been converted into retail shopping spaces. In Baltimore, an old power plant in the Inner Harbor contains a bookstore, sports bars, restaurants, and office space. In San Antonio, old rock quarry buildings make up a shopping plaza with tall smoke stacks now used as signage. In San Francisco, an old chocolate factory and iconic building is now a posh set of stores and restaurants. These are all places I’ve been and think are particularly cool precisely because they retain much of the original appearance and character, but now are used for something completely different than intended when they were built.

One building in Houston that I frequently visit is the Bookstop on South Shepherd. Bookstop is owned by Barnes and Noble so it’s not unique in terms of product offerings. What is unique about this Bookstop is that it is housed in what used to be the Alabama Theater and virtually all of the interior was retained (not the seats, of course). The magazine rack is cleverly positioned where the screen was. The coffee bar is up on an upper balcony providing a view of almost the whole store. It’s not the most convenient arrangement for shopping (some books are on the lower level, some are on the lower balcony, some on the upper balcony, and others are in different alcoves along the way), but I usually don’t go here to buy anything anyway. I usually go here to kill time, relax, chill, or walk off a large meal (often Mission Burritos) before continuing on for dessert or coffee.

Sorry about the poor photo quality as I took these with my old cell phone.

Pete’s Flickr photos tagged with “bookstop”

Houston has a tendency to tear down the old to make room for the new. Word is that Barnes and Noble is building a new store from the ground up a few blocks down Shepherd at River Oaks. At best, Bookstop will close its doors to drive customers to the new store. At worst, the property owners will lose primary tenant and will raze the old theater to build something new with more revenue generating ability. It would be a shame if that happened. They don’t build ’em like they used to.

Just put an Evo under the tree - for me

Here’s my updated Christmas list:


More pics and info can be found here:

The title of this post is a take-off from a line in a remade hip-hop/rap version of Santa Baby on A Very Special Christmas 3. The line in the song is “Just put a Benz-o under the tree…” I’m only asking for a Mitsubishi.

Very tasty pecans

Pecans from Berdoll Pecan FarmJust in time to make some Thanksgiving pecan pie (my favorite kind of pie), our order from Berdoll Pecan Farms arrived yesterday. For those who drive from Houston to Austin along Highway 71, the Berdoll store is the one just outside of Austin with the giant, super-fast, scrolling electronic marquee that flashes PECANS and can be seen for miles.

A couple years back, we actually stopped in The Pecan Store for the first time. We were sold the moment we sampled the product. Then, we sampled some more. Or at least I did because pecans are one of my favorites and these were about the best I’ve ever tasted.

Anyway, we’ll be using their golden pecans for pecan pie this year. They look terrific, but I haven’t tasted this batch yet. We ordered some of the candy pecans and broke into the dark chocolate covered ones last night. Wow! The dark chocolate is rich and the pecan in the center is meaty and flavorful. Amazing.

I can wait to break into the honey glazed and the cinnamon sugar pecans…

Updated Nov-22-2007 – The cinnamon sugar pecans are quite good and more of the natural pecan flavor comes through in every bite, but both of us still prefer the wonderful dark chocolate coated pecans. The pecan pie turned out freakin’ awesome! The pie was a big hit at dinner tonight and everyone was jockeying for a piece to take home. We took about a quarter pie home, but my ace-in-the-hole is that we have a second bag of golden pecans that we didn’t use. Mmmm – more pecan pie…