Checking Up on the Crumbling Mansions of Riverside Terrace

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Remember the crumbling old mansions in Riverside Terrace? Well, good luck finding them. It seems that the folks in the area, which was once brimming with dilapidated old mansions, have been shining things up.

There's always been something just a bit more special about that old neighborhood known as Riverside Terrace. The area, situated right off Texas 288 and bound by Almeda, North MacGregor, Scott, and Wheeler, was originally developed by Jewish families in the 1930s after they were kept out of swanky River Oaks.

Influential residents like the Finger, McGregor, and Weingarten families settled into the area, and built it up with massive, stately homes that were equivalent to what was found in River Oaks. The area's close proximity to everything in the city and the beautiful lush greenery, along with the prominence of those huge estates, launched Riverside Terrace into the same affluent category as its anti-Semitic partner.

But the area, home to a group not welcomed by the elite of River Oaks, was hardly without prejudices of its own, and the entrance of a wealthy African-American named Jack Caesar caused turmoil among the white residents, who were really pretty awful to the guy.

Good old Jack Caesar stayed put though, despite a bomb detonating on his front porch, which also destroyed a couple of other Riverside Terrace homes when it exploded. A number of white families moved to the suburbs -- you know, white flight and all -- and Riverside began its transition into an integrated neighborhood. A number of white families stayed, though, determined to see the area's integration through.

The area eventually found its way to a full integration, with black and white families living next door to each other peacefully and the neighborhood stayed steady for quite some time. Over the years, economic slumps and dips in the housing market took their toll on all of Houston, and while Riverside Terrace survived some of the more dour downturns, it wasn't quite impervious to the ramifications.

A number of homes fell into disrepair after years of neglect, in stark contrast to their stately neighbors, with their crumbling bricks and faded facades a sign of the city's hard times. Still, interest never quite ceased in the area -- the prime location in the central part of the city and the massive, historic abodes wouldn't let it -- but despite whispers of a revival, Riverside Terrace's overhaul moved at a snail's pace.

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Our jaunt through Riverside a few years back left us with serious questions about those overhaul rumors. The same crumbling mansions were there, dotting the blocks with their sad states of disrepair, just as they'd been in the years beforehand.

This time, though? Not so much.

It seems that now, after years of ambivalence and slow interest, the area may finally have become a city hotspot again.Yes, there are a handful of homes in Riverside that are still a sad sight, but that number seems to be dwindling rapidly. The majority of those old homes have been purchased and overhauled, their dusty bones rubbed clean of neglect, and are standing tall once again. Once overwrought with blight, only a handful of broken homes remain.

And with the newfound interest? Newfound price tags to go along with them. Want a piece of an insane home that overlooks Parkwood Park? Oh, come on. It comes complete with "full quarters," which we're assuming they mean maid's quarters, and it has a media room. It will only run you about $2 million, give or take. What about the beautiful historic home for $1.2 million? It was built back in 1945, and although it's not as big as some of the others, it's got an enormous lot, and it's situated right on McGregor.

You'd be hard-pressed to find one of the mansions in Riverside Terrace for sale at a steal these days, disrepair or not. Most of them have been rehabbed, and the handful that have not aren't up for grabs. While there are still a small number of homes in Riverside Terrace for sale at affordable prices -- in the area of $250,000, give or take -- those big old historic mansions no longer seem to be much of an option.

The renewed interest in Riverside Terrace is an interesting turn of events, given the lack of credibility in the longstanding rumors, and while we admit that while we're stoked for the residents of Riverside Terrace, we kind of liked those creepy old homes. They whispered the stories of their past through their shadows and cracks, and while flawed, they were a rich part of our city's history.

Dilapidated mansions of Riverside Terrace, we'll miss you, but it seems you're on to bigger, shinier things.

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