Fire sat at the foot of a Houston landmark Tuesday as the flames could be seen for miles all across the city. Located at West Dallas and Montrose, Magnolia Cemetery is over a century year old historical landmark that has been the final resting place for many notable figures such as Halliburton, Wortham, and Telge. Before yesterday’s blaze the luxury high-rise faced opposition from Montrose residents who felt the complex was disrespectful for choosing the landmark location. Before the massive blaze put the Houston Landmark at risk, the cemetery had a front row seat to the massive construction site.
The fire shot flames over three stories into the air stopping traffic in the busy neighborhood of Montrose just blocks from Downtown Houston. Montrose has seen a spurt of redevelopment over the last few years trying to upgrade the neighborhood that has been a foundation in Houston for over a century. Home of St. Thomas University and the original Greek Orthodox Church of Houston, Montrose has been a historically artsy area in need of refurbishment. Due to the long-standing structures of the area, finding new plots for development is hard to come by.
The complex, purchased by Dallas based JLB partners a year and a half ago from AIG, is a newly constructed property. The six-story luxury high-rise, Axis, began construction of its 396 unit complex in April 2012. The property worked closely with the neighboring Magnolia Cemetery in order to prevent any damage to the plots that were only feet away from the construction. Representatives for the historical cemetery confirmed that JLB worked closely with management to assure that none of the plots were damaged in any way and were very respectful for the situation in their construction.
After yesterday’s fire, the close proximity proved too close as several of the plots had been scorched. The full scope of the damage is yet to be determined as the area has been closed off by the Houston Fire Department until their investigation is complete. JLB could not be reached for comment but it is believed that the property will still go up even though the complex was completely devastated by the blaze.
Even as area residents were very verbal in their opposition to the complex to close to a landmark, cemetery management had nothing but nice words about their new neighbors. In a conversation this morning, they stated that they were pleased with the idea that residents might wake every morning to see the beautiful site, ensuring the memories of the deceased would not be forgotten. After the blaze that nearly took the life of one worker, new concerns are being considered by cemetery management.
JLB has already been in contact with the Magnolia, and short of confirming construction will continue, JLB has confirmed they will continue working in partnership with the historic landmark. Even though it is an older property with limited space, it is still a very active cemetery with burials in family plots that were long ago purchased. The construction has not impeded daily operations nor burials over the construction period, yet Magnolia’s only real concern is another two years of construction that makes parking and noise a difficult environment.
Once they are able to survey the damage by the massive blaze it is believed that several plots will need minor repairs at the landmark cemetery. The massive blaze at the Houston Landmark cemetery will stay front row for an unknown completion.
By Kimberly Beller