Sunday, September 23, 2012


Here's a look at another major neighborhood in town: Eastgate. Unlike Northgate, Eastgate hasn't quite gotten the "student saturated" appearance. Part of this is preservation of an actual neighborhood. The definition of Eastgate is the official, city-supported version, so we'll roll with that.

Here's a few things about Eastgate you should know. I covered Dominik Road a while back, so we'll go ahead and skip that. We're also going to skip the College Station City Hall and the first fire station, mostly on the basis that it's fairly well documented elsewhere (and we mentioned it here, which is where these things tend to wash up). The "Eastgate" businesses are mostly limited to a large area at Walton and Texas Avenue (though a few exist tucked in the back).

This was a proposal we got in the early 1990s, where Walton comes into Texas Avenue (originally, you couldn't turn left in or out of Walton--those parking lots were long yield lanes).

Unfortunately, this never happened, and all we got was some abstract art and a new stoplight.

But look at those businesses...a convenience store, only two familiar faces (Alfred T. Hornback's and Acme Glass), and no Layne's. Based on the placement of Eastgate Food Store, I'd put that at early 1990s or late 1980s.

Starting down the list, we have 101 Walton-103 Walton. 103 Walton was Robinson Pet Clinic in 1989 (but 103A, the space seems small enough so that there's no B...103 must be on the right). 101 was presumably Texcomm. Both are vacant these days.
The empty green roofed building, May 2014

105 Walton, which was a UtoteM since at least the early 1970s (and probably since Day One), became a Circle K in 1984 (if briefly) before becoming Eastgate Food Store in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After decades of being a convenience store, it became Military Depot, a retailer of military-related goods around '92-'93. A few pictures of the Military Depot facade...
You can barely make out the EAS here, I don't know if the shadow was from the military badge or not (probably)
Another view.

Valley Cycling (a 1990s business) was what I remember being in the "main" section of Eastgate at 107 Eastgate. This I do have a picture but it's only postage-stamp sized, and it's on my computer but I'm not going to dig it out right now. , as you may know, was where Textbook Solutions is now. Later, it became a vintage clothing/nostalgia-type store ("Left-Handed Monkey", which lasted...not very long. Blissful Wishes Bridal was here for a while, but eventually by the late 2000s, it was Textbook Solutions, which it remains today.

109 Walton wasn't always food related ("Wing Zone" being here in the early part of the 2000s, records indicate), and it's also where the "Guitar Shop" was in the diagram. Regardless, this is where Leaning Tower Pizza was here at 109 Walton for several years (Partners Food Delivery was here for several years prior apparently, back in the 1990s--but the tenant space for this one is largely drawing a blank). Primo Pizza & Rolls took over when Leaning Tower fell down in spring of 2013. Leaning Tower was an interesting place--it made a particularly greasy pie with a unique cheese mixture. It was also pretty grimy (that's why the pizza is piping hot). It had some garden furniture for an "eat-in" area and had "free delivery" that had a significant discount if you picked it up in store, which means it wasn't actually free at all.

Primo Pizza, a Charles Stover concept, initially planned to reopen the restaurant with a new name and theme and a similar recipe (the recipes were bought along with the store), but instead revamped the recipes and made a more upscale carryout pizza that had pesto on every slice (this opened in late summer 2013). For whatever reason, Primo shut down in February 2014 due to underperformance, but the way it was worded indicated that the closure could be temporary. After all, the sign remained up!

The pictures I took in May 2014 revealed the restaurant was gutted.

Primo Pizza in better days, September 2013
Gutted PP, May 2014
Gutted PP, May 2014. This is where the counter and menu were. The kitchen was behind that wall. This configuration was intact for both LTP and PP&R.

So why did Primo close? Now, I don't know the reason why, but like with Sully's I can make a few guesses.

There's always a chance that Primo Pizza will reopen since Charles Stover still has the recipes and name, but it definitely won't be Eastgate. Here's Primo Pizza's webpage, archived in PNG form.

Further down the line we have Eastgate Hair Shop for Men, I'm pretty sure this hasn't been updated in years (111 Walton) and Oasis Pipes & Tobacco, which moved here from a spot on University evicted for the Plaza Hotel redevelopment and was reduced to rubble soon before the Plaza Hotel came down. The business (and the sign) transplanted to here, 113 Walton, but didn't last long either. There appeared to be some baking equipment scattered in the building. This may have been a holdover from Partners Food Delivery.

Looking inside Oasis, May 2014
Eastgate Barbershop and Oasis, May 2014
Oasis, a body piercing shop, and an apartment finder service, May 2014

119 Walton is called "To The Point" now and the older spot of Textbook Solutions.
123 Walton (no 121 Walton, apparently) is now "Aggieland Apartment Finders", and way in the back behind the strip mall area tucked away is Lost Souls Fixies (it seems pretty sketchy in the areas behind the center).

Over on the other side, we see Alfred T. Hornback's, May 2014. This popular bar (120 Walton Drive) was here for many years, and although not built as it, had a large floor with pool tables and country music. Eastgate was not a huge draw like Northgate was and it closed permanently in summer 2011 though remained open for special events. After DC (Dixie Chicken, not DC Comics) moved out of the building that later contained Blackwater Draw Brewing Company. There's also a small professional office next to it, but I didn't read it too closely (nor is it particularly important to this narrative).

More businesses, May 2014. Behind these is Crossfit 979. Acme Glass is a viable company that's been here for years, but The Event Company has been closed for a few years (wedding planners). The business at 118 Walton hasn't updated its website since July 2013. Acme Glass at 116 Walton does a good business, this one is pretty stable, the building next to it appears to be the old Greyhound station (114 Walton), but it seems vacant and used for storage (a visit in 2011 revealed a filthy but late 1990s era washing machine). I don't know when it went out of service, but it was a while ago. 108 Walton was Wilson Plumbing, but now is the home of Layne's.

Layne's, May 2014. The former Sully's is in the background (check that out here). For what it's worth, Layne's opened before the first Raising Cane's (in 1994 vs. Cane's 1996).

Behind these businesses is Eastgate Park, a place in four segments: it's the medians between the parking lot and Walton, and about four or so vacant lots on Foster. However, city records show that this has been parkland since the late 1930s. Abstract art was installed in 2000.

Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg, I could also go into the story of Munson Drive, which you could find and read about on MyBCS but since I read a scrapbook of articles, when Munson expanded to Lincoln in the late 1990s, the residents of Munson got the city to put up gates to prevent people from cutting through their neighborhood, which upset everyone else but it took nearly a year of fighting and countless letters to the editor before the city voted to remove the gates (and because at the time, Munson was where all the well-off and politically powerful people were, giving them enormous influence in the city). Or Thomas Park, which had always been owned by the city (all 16 acres) since 1938, but it wasn't until the 1970s when it began to become an actual park. The flagship of this was Thomas Park, which wasn't developed until the late 1970s. According to the great but dated College Station 1938-1988, it mentioned one of its accessories being a "plastic bubble dome which allowed indoor swimming during the winter months."

Either this plastic bubble was impractical and/or fear of lawsuits from people asphyxiating in chlorine gas meant that it would be never be seen again, because I know that Thomas Pool is definitely never open in the winter months to my memory. But such a thing did happen, and you can see some B&W pictures here and here which I originally scanned for Project HOLD.

That's all for now...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Lost Buildings of Luther Street and Wellborn Road

At one time, the block where Berkeley House is featured a fine dining establishment in a converted house (from Center Magazine)

This is one of the posts I've had for years on the blog and despite tons of rewrites still may come off as disjointed, and needs a bit of a proper introduction.

Today, the entire block features a large apartment building, Berkeley House (opened fall 2018), a student-oriented complex. It is impossible to take a good photo of it, as it comes up to the street, and I can't take a photo from the other side, as Wellborn has a curb next to it. As a result, Google Street View will have to suffice, though it is currently not updated yet, only showing the old thrift store that was there.

When I was a kid growing up in the mid-1990s, this corner featured a small convenience store that sold Chinese food, perhaps some of the first (Americanized) Chinese food I've ever had (that or Confucius Chinese Cuisine). Later on it became a thrift store but my father had an old 1940s map of the campus and surrounding area that listed the building as "Hrdlicka Café". What was this café, and how did it become a thrift store?

Over the years, through research and other help, these answers and more were revealed.

In 1919, a house at what would be 801 Wellborn Road was built by Ed Hrdlicka ("1" on the map below). Eventually, the house passed on to Ed's daughter Marilyn, and her husband Jack Fugate. In the late 1970s, the house was converted into a restaurant—Fish Richards Half-Century House. Fish Richard's menu featured seafood, lamb, and prime rib along with a selection of wines.

Apparently the reason that Fish Richard's closed was due to a divorce by the couple that owned it (some ads in the final days of Fish Richard's discussed a new future location), but the building burned to the ground in 1988, and the 801 Wellborn address went unused for years, until the construction of Berkeley House.

#2 on the map was 803 Wellborn, and wrecked sometime in the late 1990s, likely around the time of the demise of Piknik Pantry (below). This was the home of Fugate's printing press and laundromat businesses and later home to Fish Richards Bakery, the bakery operation of Fish Richard's, which sold a variety of baked goods all day, every day (except Sunday afternoons). I read somewhere (but lost the source) that this was the original supplier for Subway when it came into town in the early 1980s. Ad can be found here.

#3 on the map was 805 Wellborn. This was the likely site of the eponymous Hrdlicka Café from 1920 to the mid-1940s, a student beer joint, dancing hall, and storefront grocery store. "Uncle Ed" leased the store shortly before his death in the early 1950s and by 1957 it was operated by Ed Krolczyk, who tried to make barbecue from "any kind of meat" and claimed to make a great barbecued raccoon.

By the 1960s it was replaced with a convenience store, the Piknik Pantry with Amoco gas (certainly by 1972), though 1980 phone book says "811 Old College Road", indicating not only a rename later (likely holding over from the days when Wellborn and Old College were one and the same, as Wellborn did not extend to Villa Maria but instead curved to Old College) but a renumbering (or just an error). Piknik Pantry & Chinese Food (it sold Chinese food later, and research even shows that an old Chinese restaurant at 3030 E. 29th, Sing Lee, had the same owner) mets its demise in the late 1990s and was quickly replaced with 2nd Chance Resale Shop, operated by Twin City Mission. Based on Chamber of Commerce newspaper clippings, this probably first opened in late 1997 with Piknik Pantry meeting its demise shortly prior. Sometime in the mid-2010s (2016 I believe) it moved to a new location and in 2017, it was torn down for Berkeley House. According to a comment I received in 2015, it featured an all-you-can-eat buffet on Sundays (back in the '80s) for just four or five dollars. The same comment references the gas pumps as well.

There were two more businesses in that block that I haven't labeled.

At 809 Old College (location unknown) there was Astraptes, an "adult disco" nightclub. There's rumors on forums (where it was misspelled as "Astropates", among others) that this was the closest thing to a gay bar College Station had, and according to Houston LGBT History (link sort-of NSFW), it was, mentioning after closure it reopened in 1983 (if briefly--and it's the only Google result that spells the name correctly).

This one is from the 1980 phone book published by GTE.

There was a fifth business, the Peanut Gallery, at 813 Old College, and that seems to be based on what was there on aerials, that it was the metal building directly next to Piknik Pantry. By the 21st century this was just storage for the resale shop. Today, of course, everything described in this post is long-gone. The thrift store and everything around was leveled in 2017 for the aforementioned Berkeley House apartments. Officially it uses 805 Wellborn but some references use 801 Wellborn, site of the Hrdlicka/Fugate homestead.

Extensive update done August 2019, new name April 2020