Texas Traveler: Angleton's Mysterious House of the Century
It all started with an obsession. And a blog post.
The House of the Century was built in 1972 by the Ant Farm Art Collective, a group that included architects Richard Jost, a then-recent graduate of the University of Houston, and Doug Michels, founder of the collective and professor at UofH. (Ant Farm is best known for the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, which they built in 1974.) The House was meant to celebrate man's journey into space, and was completed just three years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon. When Texas Traveler found out the house was still standing in Angleton, about a half-hour drive south of Houston, we were determined to find it.
Details about The House are hard to get. A documentary about the project, called The Mojo Relic, is available in five parts on YouTube, and some of the comments lead to a few clues. Pictures clearly show the house is situated on a lake. Googling "House of the Century" leads to no address, though many sources list its location as Mojo Lake, Angleton, TX. The only problem? There is no "Mojo Lake" in Angleton.
Old Brazoria County Courthouse
Photos by Brittanie Shey
On the way back from Sea Center Texas we detoured to Angleton, wondering if we could find The House. But we were armed only with an iPhone and a few bookmarks describing the house, with no real address. The Angleton Visitor's Center was no help, with a desk clerk saying she'd never heard of Mojo Lake.
So we did what any true urban adventurer would do -- we went antique shopping. It turns out there's more to see in Angleton than we first thought. The district represented by Ron Paul has got to have a little character, right?
Downtown is small compared to other 'burbs. There are a few antique stores, but the most striking relic of the past is the old Brazoria County Courthouse (neé 1897), now the home of the Brazoria County Historical Museum. The museum is currently hosting an exhibit on the trees of Brazoria County and an exhibit on Austin's Colony. The building, listed as a historic courthouses of the Texas Settlement Region (although it was Brazoria County's second courthouse) is currently undergoing major restorations, but its Italian Renaissance exterior is beautiful nonetheless.
Houses on Cedar Street
The courthouse is on Ceder Street, a winding drive canpoied by trees and home to dozens of century-old houses. We stopped in Harlequin antiques where we found a two-tiered serving plate we ended up taking home. We take pictures of the gingerbread-like houses and think Hmm. A thirty-minute drive to downtown? This might not be a bad place to live.
Just south of Angleton along HWY 35 stands a 60-foot statue of Stephen F. Austin. The statue was created by David Addicks and stands in the middle of a park that also includes a lake in the shape of the state.
But that was not the lake we were looking for. We even walked to a local firehouse, figuring that if anyone knew the town well, it would be the firemen. No dice. They were eager to help, but none knew of a Mojo Lake, and just when they began to brainstorm they were called away to a wreck on 288.
Back at home, we delved into our research. A YouTube commenter says they found the house on Google Earth. So we look there too, finding an odd white structure next to a body of water, too blurry to see clearly, but in an obvious residential area. The next weekend, armed with a copy of The Roads of Texas, we headed back down to Angleton.
As we exited 288, we see a rain of humans coming down in a field next to us. Turns out we're just south of Skydive Spaceland (Warning! Annoying audio!), where planes are departing every 15 minutes with jumpers novice and experienced. We hang out for an hour, taking photos, pondering our own fear of heights, and watching various groups rehearse formations.
An hour later, we finally find The House. Unfortunately, it's heavily shrouded by overgrown vegetation, barbed-wire fences and an intimidating security gate. But we can see it through the leaves, and it looks awesome. We drive around on the country roads that surround it, we ring the bell at the front gate, we do everything we can, legally, to get in, but in the end we decide that getting arrested for trespassing is not worth a few pictures of a private residence. Plus, our map shows the house sits just north of a working mine.
Which makes us kind of sad. Many Angleton residents don't even know it exists. It appears that time, and its human caretakers, have not been kind to The House, which means that photographs may be the only way to make sure its legacy is preserved.