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Kirby Mansion sells to neighboring Cadillac dealership

August 21, 2018

The historic Kirby Mansion, one of the few residential estates still standing in the downtown area and a recent hot button among Houston’s preservation community, has been sold to a group connected to the nearby Central Houston Cadillac dealership.

The fate of the 1920s English-style manor is still unknown, though demolition is a possible outcome.

In June, Houston’s primary preservation group contacted its members to inform them the building was in peril, explaining that the house was under contract and that “reliable sources” indicated the new owner did not plan on keeping the building.

Officials with the Midtown car dealership at 2520 Main Street and its holding company, Nicpa Holdings, could not be reached Monday.

The longtime owner of the property, attorney Philip Azar who has worked out of the building at 2000 Smith, transferred ownership to Central Houston Auto Properties II LLC, according to a deed recoded in the Harris County Clerk’s office on Aug. 6. Azar could not be reached.

The property is valued at $3.9 million by Harris County Appraisal District. The building is on a 62,500-square-foot block just south of the Pierce Elevated, the section of Interstate 45 that separates downtown from Midtown. The site is bounded by Brazos, Pierce, Smith and Gray.

The 18,000-square-foot building was constructed for John Henry Kirby, a “lawyer, lumberman and entrepreneur from East Texas who emerged at the turn of the 20th century as Houston’s first tycoon,” according to Stephen Fox’s AIA Houston Architectural Guide.

Kirby and his family had lived on the site in a Victorian home since 1897 but later remodeled and added onto the house. A second addition was designed by architect James Ruskin Bailey, resulting in the 36-room Tudor Revival-style building, according to Preservation Houston.

Kirby died in 1940 and the house was sold in 1947. For the next three decades, it was housed the Houston-Harris County Red Cross. It has been used as office space since the late 1970s.

In recent years, at least two other groups have attempted to purchase and restore the property, but neither proposal came to fruition.

More recently, John Deveau, owner of Sara’s Inn, a bed and breakfast in a old Victorian home in the Heights, expressed interest in buying the property for a boutique hotel when he heard it might be selling. By that time he was too late.

“Phil had done a very good job of keeping the house nice,” Deveau said. “He was gracious enough to give us a tour.”

nancy.sarnoff@chron.com

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