Boiling the Frog

An old adage holds that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will sense the danger and jump out. But if you put him in a pot of cold water and slowly heat it, he will boil to death before he senses the threat. The same principle often applies to […]

The Neighborhood as the Standard of Value

Preservationists aren’t content to preserve single buildings. As one activist told Houston City Council in 2005, “What makes them [historic buildings] unique and what makes them significant is their collection as a whole for the fabric of the entire neighborhood.” Preservationists would have us believe that a single modern building will destroy the historic character […]

Preserving the Past and Destroying the Future

The very nature of the Houston preservation ordinance stifles innovation, progress, and a better future. In essence, the preservation ordinance states that the architectural styles and land uses established a hundred years ago are good enough, and nobody should be legally allowed to improve upon them.

Imagine where Houston might be today if that attitude […]

Houston’s True Heritage

Preservationists claim that they want to preserve Houston’s heritage by protecting old buildings. But Houston’s heritage isn’t about bricks and mortar. It isn’t about buildings. It’s about ideas.

In terms of essentials, Houston’s heritage is defined by a relative respect for individual rights, including property rights. (I say relative because the city certainly engages in […]

Character and Preservation

We are all familiar with individuals who are physically attractive but possess the character of Bernie Madoff. Rational people realize that we cannot judge an individual’s character by his appearance. Houston’s preservation movement disagrees. It holds that character is determined solely by appearance.

For more than two decades, preservationists have been leading an attack on […]

The Power of Principles

In 1995, I testified to Houston City Council in opposition to the historic preservation ordinance that was being considered at the time. One member of Council asked me if I opposed a particular provision in the ordinance. I stated that I did, because of the principle that underlied that provision. Once that principle was accepted, […]

The Proper Way to Preserve Historic Buildings

In my last post, I wrote about the Beer Can House, a quirky home in Rice Military that has become a Houston landmark. In that post, I noted that if John Milkovisch attempted such a project today, preservationists and neighborhood activists would likely pressure City Hall to stop him. But that’s not the real lesson […]

The Beer Can House

In 1968, John Milkovisch began adorning the exterior of his house in Rice Military with flattened beer cans. Approximately 50,000 cans later, he had transformed his home into a Houston landmark. Today, the Beer Can House stands as a testament to Houston’s heritage and a rebuke those who seek to destroy that heritage.

Until the […]

A Contradiction in The Heights

In my last post, I addressed the recent repeal of Prohibition in The Heights. That action exposed a contradiction in The Heights.

Voters in The Heights favored repealing Prohibition by an overwhelming margin of 63.9 percent to 36.1 percent. While it is impossible to know the motivation of those voters, their actions made it legal […]