Audubon Place: Montrose’s Beautiful Oak-Lined Historic District
Montrose, the most desirable destination for many young professionals today, as well as many homebuyers who want to live near downtown in one of Houston’s most eclectic and culturally rich districts, has many pocket districts within it. In future blogs we will explore all of them in greater detail. One of the only areas within Montrose that is immune to Houston’s lack of zoning is the large block of historic districts just east of Montrose Blvd., south of Westheimer and north of West Alabama. Houston actually has 12 designated historic districts.
Audubon Place reminds some people of San Francisco with its cheery colors and turn of the century architecture. It has beautiful esplanades along Lovett, Yoakum and Audubon Place Boulevards. Along Hawthorne Street near Stanford, each house is painted a different color, much like the city by the bay. This community has a history that goes back to 1911, with the creation of the entire Montrose Addition, which was the city’s first large-scale calculated subdivision at the time it was platted. Its boulevards and esplanades were the most recognizable thing about it. Even Montrose had a fine esplanade which was eventually removed to increase traffic flow. The Montrose addition was platted by John Wiley Link, who formed the Houston Land Corp. to do the development. The name Montrose was a reference to an historic town in Scotland, found in the writings of Sir Walter Scott1. Link commissioned the firm Stone & Webster, one of the oldest and most established builders in the present day, to do the construction. This included all of the mansions along Montrose Blvd. (Link’s own mansion is today an administrative building for the University of St. Thomas.)
Montrose was not intended as an exclusive haven for the rich alone, however, and many lots were as small as 5,000 square feet along streets running off the main corridors. Architectural styles for middle-class bungalows and two-story houses in Audubon Place ranged from Bungalow, Mission Revival, Prairie, Colonial Revival, Cape Cod, Queen Anne and Craftsman, which was the most widespread style.
The names chosen for the streets in Audubon Place were Audubon Place, Terry (now Roseland), Hawthorne, Oxford (now Marshall), Kipling, Connor (now Stanford) and West Alabama. Edward Teas Sr. landscaped the boulevard esplanades; he would later found Teas Nursery. Historical documents2 indicate that many loads of palm trees, evergreen, camphor and shade trees were brought to the new development.
At the beginning of its history, there was a rail line going through the area: the Galveston, Houston and San Antonio Railroad. This was eventually replaced by more lots. There was also originally an electric car system in place, taking residents downtown. The car went down Roseland, turned east at Hawthorne and took a north turn at Taft3. This electric car was in service for 25 years until it finally ended in March of 1937.
The Montrose Addition was an entirely residential area when it was platted in 1911, but commercial and establishment encroachment over the years has given most of Montrose a less entirely residential feel than it once had. Audubon Place is one of the last remaining residential sectors within the established boundaries of Montrose that is protected by historic designation status. It was awarded this status in 2009, along with some adjacent districts in roughly the same years, giving this insulated Montrose borough a truly vibrant and unique character. There are many other areas of Montrose that are also highly sought-after besides Audubon, or the Westmoreland Historic district immediately to the east, but Audubon will always be the quintessential middle-class residential jewel of Montrose; untouched, classic and just as it always should be.
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