A piece of almost-forgotten local history could be on its final studs.
When motorists zoom up and down North Shepherd Drive, they’ll take notice of Heights Veterinary Clinic, an auto repair shop, and a grouping of used car lots – sights so common many don’t bat an eye. Seemingly bypassed by the naked eye at 40 miles per hour, however, is a small piece of Heights history – a tiny, one-room schoolhouse which pre-dates North Shepherd.
At first glance, it seems like any old run-down building around town, with windows boarded up, the blinds drawn, and hardly a soul venturing close. Upon further inspection, however, one would see the yard mowed and the rest of the building in good shape considering it has been closed for nearly 30 years – all thanks to the efforts of one man who does not wish to see another piece of history torn down.
Kenneth Williams, owner of the Heights Veterinary Clinic immediately adjacent to the now-abandoned building, owns the property on which the old schoolhouse still sits. And while he wishes to use that land for hopeful future expansion, the process for doing so (in his mind) is not simple as taking a wrecking ball to the thing. And if he is unable to find a buyer willing to move and preserve it, he said, it could be gone soon.
“We’re about to lose another building, and another piece of our history,” said Williams, a long-time Heights resident who attended Reagan (now Heights) High School. “I’ve seen more buildings torn down in my lifetime than I would like, and it would break my heart to see it gone.”
When Williams bought the clinic, to the best of his knowledge, he knew the adjacent property had been used for campaign rallies and other causes, and used by the Rosebud Garden Group until around 1989; but it wasn’t until a classmate’s father came into the clinic one day that Williams had the revelation. Upon learning the school dated back to the early 1920s as the Lowell Street School, he launched a personal investigation; which has yielded very few fruitful results.
According to records, Magnolia Loan and Building Co. deeded the land over to trustees of Heights Annex Addition, where it then proceeded to operate for three or four years until still-standing Love Elementary was constructed just down the road. Among its notable students according to Williams, is Paul Neal “Red” Adair, the legendary Houston oil well firefighter whose exploits inspired the 1968 film Hellfighters.
While it remains unclear how the building was utilized between 1924 and when the Rosebud Garden Club took over, Williams said the Garden Club handed him the keys and abandoned the building in 1989, leaving a squalor in their wake.
In the years since, Williams has taken it upon himself to spend thousands fixing up the windows, foundation and roof of the building, and paid delinquent back taxes on the building back in 2006 to become the official owner of the land on which one of Houston’s remaining schoolhouses sits.
Though Williams sees the ideal scenario as being able to find someone willing to move and preserve the building, he has come up short at every turn.
He said he has contacted organizations such as the the Houston Heights Association, Galveston Historical Society, Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park, Avenue CDC, and more; but all have turned down the offer for assorted reasons. Taking a wrecking ball to it, he said, would be the fulfilling of his worst nightmare.
“I’ve got quite a lot of money that I’ve invested to try and preserve this. I’ve seen enough of [the destruction],” he said.