ABOVE: Pictured above: Bola Patrick (center), President of Blue Triangle Garden Club, surrounded by one of many decorating groups (photo courtesy: Law Stewart)
For over a half a century, the Blue Triangle Garden Club has spread holiday cheer and helped support the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Center on McGowen Street, which is a Texas historic landmark that is home to an iconic wall mural painted by John Biggers, through their annual Christmas Home tour fundraiser.
The traditional tour features some of the most beautifully decorated homes architecturally significant homes in Riverside Terrace, Timbercrest, University Oaks and Third Ward neighborhoods near the Texas Southern University and the University of Houston.
But this year, however, the 56-year-old holiday home tour, which is slated for December 10th, has been seriously threatened by a newly created, competing civic association that has popped up on the scene, and has some questionable details tied to it.
The newly formed Historic Riverside Terrace Civic Association has organized a competing home tour in Riverside Terrace on December 3rd – the weekend prior to the Blue Triangle Garden Club tour. There is a significant difference between the two tours that should be highlighted.
This first-time tour, put on by the Historic Riverside Terrace Civic Association, is seemingly not historic at all, in that the tour features five homes marketed as historic, but three of the tour homes are actually for sale. More interesting, is that two of the three properties on the tour are being represented by listing agents who also serve on the board of the newly created civic group.
The Historic Riverside Terrace Civic Association was registered as a nonprofit with the Texas Secretary of State Office in March of this year by Rachel Paxton, a real estate agent and home remodeler. Paxton serves as the civic club’s special events committee chair and communications director and represents the organization at community meetings with city officials.
However, the group is not listed as the representative of the Riverside Terrace neighborhood on the City of Houston’s civic club roster. In addition to that, the meeting minutes that are posted on the group’s website don’t include a record of property owners in the neighborhood voting the group in as their designated civic association. The bylaws on the new civic group’s website state that the geographical areas it serves are the Riverside Terrace subdivision, sections 1-5; Riverside Terrace Extension; Lincoln Park subdivision; Holman Outlets subdivision; Lubbock subdivision; and Feldman Courts subdivision. None of these neighborhoods are on the list of Houston’s historic districts maintained by the city’s Planning & Development Department.
On this competing first-time tour is The Engel House at 2412 Wichita Street – which is not a city-designated historic home. It’s for sale in the “high $800s” according to the marketing materials produced by listing agent Veso Kossev, who also serves on the association’s board.
The Jarrett House at 2602 Riverside Drive and Scullin House at 2518 Riverside Drive do not have historic landmark status and are not currently on the market.
The Van De Mark House at 2311 Rosedale does not have historic landmark status either, but an image of this property with the words “most endangered” is on the front of the postcard promoting the upcoming event as a Riverside Terrace historic home tour. It’s listed for sale at a reduced price of $385,000 and being touted for its “16k square foot lot on the corner of Rosedale and Dowling (now Emancipation.)”
The postcards were distributed in several Third Ward neighborhoods, the Museum District, the Heights and the Montrose area, which has the Blue Triangle Garden Club leaders worried.
Bola Patrick, who serves as president of the Blue Triangle Garden Club, says that she was never contacted by this newly found civic association and only found out about their scheduled tour when she noticed that a “historic tour of homes” had been posted on Eventbrite. Patrick immediately rushed to visit their website and found out that they indeed had a competing tour scheduled for a week prior to the Blue Triangle Garden Club’s traditional tour.
The Blue Triangle Garden Club decided to reach out to the leadership on the board of the newly created group and tried to explain that the tours were too close together and people were getting confused about why these two tours were occurring around the same time.
“We’ve been doing this tour during the holiday season for 55 years,” said Patrick. “People normally don’t want to go on home tours in the same area during the same time of year.
Patrick states that members of the board from the newly created civic club apologized, but refused to change the event date and stood by their decision to disregard the traditional event that had been established for 56 years, because their tour had already been planned.
“We asked the group to respect our tradition and move their tour to another time of year, but they completely ignored us,” said Patrick. “For a group of realtors and new residents to move in and create a competing tour, is like us going over to River Oaks and holding another Azalea Trail. It is just totally disrespectful.”
No other listing agents with comparable houses in the neighborhood have been invited to show a home, which in essence is the equivalent of charging for an open house, which is unethical.
In Houston, historic tours are usually held in the spring and summer, but the decision for the new group to have a competing event, a week prior in the same area, speaks to the level of disrespect many in the community have felt, as gentrification has impacted many historical African American communities and their rich traditions.
Patrick believes the new group is more focused on making money off of the historic area, versus respecting the historical nature of the community, along with the rich traditions the African American community in that area hold so dear.
“This new home tour seems to be more about selling houses than showcasing and serving our community and it is creating a lot of confusion and impacting our usual ticket sales,” said Bola. “Hurricane Harvey severely damaged the Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Community Center and the historic Biggers mural that is housed there. We need a strong turnout for our tour so we can raise money for the mural restoration and building repairs.”
Formed in 1937, the Blue Triangle Garden Club was originally an affiliate of the Blue Triangle YWCA – the first chapter of the Young Women’s Christian Association in Houston. It’s the oldest African American garden club in the State of Texas and is a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The club’s December home tour is its major annual fundraiser and a significant portion of the funds earned from the tour goes to support the upkeep of the historic Blue Triangle Multi-Cultural Community Center.
In spite of the attack on their historic legacy, the Blue Triangle Garden Club is moving forward. Neighborhood residents and community stakeholders have rallied to promote the 56th edition of their “Christmas Tour of Homes” and Patrick is asking every member of the community to continue to support the Blue Triangle Garden Club Christmas Tour of Homes by attending the event on December 10 from 1 to 5 p.m.
For more information on the Blue Triangle Garden Club event, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.bluetrianglegardenclub.org.