The Forgotten Magic of the Crowne Plaza Penthouse
This out-of-service penthouse is very possibly the coolest location I’ll ever shoot in. The ninth and tenth floors of the (former) Astrodome Hotel feature eight bedrooms of ranging themes, four fireplaces, a pool, floor to vaulted ceiling fountain, two dining rooms (informal and fully-mirrored formal), a kitchen, library, wrap around balcony with a 360 view of Houston, haphazard AstroTurf, and a “nightclub” which is really just a scaled model of the Astrodome, currently used as an Astros banquet hall.
Shoutout to my client, Joy Kennedy for the incredible hookup for this location, and for getting the lighting test walkthrough. A skip away from the Reliant Stadium/NRG Park sits the Crowne Plaza, the former Astrodome Hotel. After being escorted from the hotel lobby to the basement offices to the penthouse, we were left to ourselves to roam the massive forgotten playground for Houston’s rich and famous. The first room we entered was the master bedroom. A frayed but still luxe canopy bed sits fireplace adjacent.
Behind the fireplace, a chandelier and a stunning but out of date map. Alleged balcony access, but I couldn’t get the doors open.
We spent a good hour in the penthouse, getting to know the ins and outs, how the morning light hit and which electrical lights were functional. In every room, there was at least one piece of furniture I coveted. For instance, this chair. I have two similar in my apartment - wicker, tall rounded back. It’s a very specific (and dated) taste level, so it should be of no surprise that I inherited my chairs from the storage unit shared by my parents and grandparents.
The chairs in this place are a thing of beauty. The non-pictured of the pair at the chess table’s seat was cracked in multiple places, from use and/or sun damage. We never did find any chess pieces.
We joked about orgies of possibilities-past without knowing just how right we likely were. I hadn’t done any research before this, so imagine my amusement as I realized that “in the ‘60s and ‘70s these suits were the epitome of class in Houston, available to the rich and famous for up to $2,500 a night. The 1977 Guinness Book of World Records lauded it as the most expensive suite in the world to rent. Noted guests include Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson.”
The right side of this sink was sunk into the floor at give or take a 35 degree angle. Makes sense when you consider how heavy it is and how much water damage the floors of the pool area have.
According to a 1994 Sports Illustrated article, when Elvis Presley first stayed at the Celestial Suites he thought they were too gaudy, even for him. I believe the Tarzan Room is the offending party. The suites have no overarching theme, other than loud. Judge Roy Hofheinz, the man with the money, hired Harper Goff, a two-time Academy Award winner for set design to create the entirety of this penthouse’s beautiful atrocity.
The Peacock Room is the only room in the entire penthouse with red lightbulbs.
Welcome to the P.T. Barnum Suite, which has a plush vaulted ceiling and with accompanying stained glass three ring circus big top. No clowns, this is a classy joint.
The overall taste level is questionable, but the finishings are quality, and incredibly beautiful.
This chair’s pop of red in an otherwise cool toned room is something I’m going to do in my next apartment.
Informal dining area attached to the kitchen.
Most rooms have balcony access, but none of the doors open. It’s a pretty reasonable safety feature considering no one’s rented the place since the mid-90’s (assumption based off the style of television). We peeked out the kitchen and saw this turkey vulture, who would not give us the time of day.
The library is my favorite room. Two stories of books and mustard velvet curtains hiding stained glass windows, chandelier, six red velvet reclining loungers, one random statement chair with marble inlay, and a fireplace.
Adjacent to the library is the formal dining room, with 360 degrees of mirrors and checkered marble floors Kris Jenner would envy.
Bird was still there when we left.