"Oh to be young and come to New York," writes Tom Wolfe in In Our Time, "and move into your first loft and look at the world with eyes that light up even the rotting fire-escape railings, even the buckling pressed-tin squares on the ceiling, even the sheet-metal shower stall with its belly dents and rusting seams...."
Boy, have times changed. When Wolfe wrote that book in 1980, lofts were scrapped together by hungry artists in the abandoned office buildings and warehouses of a big city's blighted neighborhoods. They were cheap, dirty, even a little dangerous. And there was plenty of room to create artistic noise and mess. Above all, lofts were urban.
Lofts are still urban, but only in the sense of location. They're certainly not cheap: The St. Germain, another Randall Davis property, charges from $675 to $2,900 per month for a loft, depending on the size, level and view. Doormen and coded gates now keep out the bad elements of the street. (As if there are any bad elements left to keep out; a loft-dweller's neighbors are likely to be investment bankers and attorneys.) Oh, and don't make too much artistic racket, or you might get a noise violation.
These days, lofts even host home tours. For $20, the Downtown Houston Association will show you ten dressed-up residences in the Capitol Lofts, Dakota Lofts, Hermann Lofts, Hogg Palace and St. Germain on Main.
Just be prepared: There are balconies outside every one of the exposed brick apartments in Capitol Lofts, but they're not fire-escape balconies, and the railings aren't rotting. And the St. Germain's bathrooms are 100 square feet of unadulterated luxury complete with shiny fixtures and marble floors. But you won't find a sheet-metal shower in the place.
Tours run from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, April 15 and 16. Call the Downtown Houston Association at (713)658-8938 or log on to www.downtownhouston.org for tickets and info. $20.