That used to be WHAT?: These iconic Houston buildings aren’t exactly what they used to be

3700 Southwest Freeway through the years (AP Photo)

Sometimes, the building outlives the business. Though these notable Houston structures were renovated and repurposed, longtime Houstonians remember what they were in their heyday.

Scroll below for a trip down memory lane.


🌮 Adult novelty shop turned taco joint

📍 2626 W Loop South

For years, the Zone d’Erotica store near the corner of Westheimer Road and the 610 Loop was cited as an example, nay consequence, of Houston’s lax development code. The adult novelty store, which sold lingerie and other erotic paraphernalia, operated near The Galleria in Uptown, a glitzy district popular for its luxe hotels, designer boutiques, glimmering office towers and lavish high-rise apartments. After nine years, the “symbol of Houston freedom” shut down in 2019. Months later, a Velvet Taco restaurant opened in its place.

A cursory internet search of the site, 2626 W Loop South, reveals it was once a burger joint named Luke’s Hamburgers. A reader named Pat shared with us that the location was originally a Roy Rogers Restaurant.

MORE: Is this the ugliest building in Houston?


🍿 Grocery store set in historic cinema

📍 2922 S Shepherd Drive

Designed in the “Modernistic” style, Alabama Theatre was constructed in 1938-1939 by Interstate Theatre Company and opened on Nov. 2, 1939. Its first screening was “Man About Town,” a romantic comedy starring Jack Benny. Interstate, a large national company, at one time operated 10 movie houses in Houston, including the Garden Oaks, Majestic, Metropolitan, River Oaks and Village Theatres. The 800-seat Alabama Theater ceased operating in 1983. Its final presentation was the low-budget horror flick “Mortuary.”

Between 1984-1985, the building was restored and converted into a Bookstop bookshop. The award-winning conversion “maintained and restored much of the significant elements of the historic building’s ornate interiors as well as the exterior, while simultaneously meeting the changing needs of future tenants,” the Houston Archeological and Historical Commission wrote in a landmark designation report. Bookstop closed in 2009.

Grocer Trader Joe’s now operates out of the location.

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🏀 Storied sports stadium made over as megachurch

📍 3700 Southwest Freeway

The massive facility at the intersection of the Southwest Freeway and Edloe Street near Greenway Plaza is home to America’s largest megachurch, Lakewood.

From 1975 to 2003 the building at 3700 Southwest Freeway served as a multi-purpose sports arena and event venue. It was known as The Summit until 1998, when technology firm Compaq bought naming rights and rechristened it the Compaq Center. In 2003, after the Houston Rockets vacated the Compaq Center in favor of the newly completed Toyota Center in downtown Houston, the City of Houston leased the arena to Lakewood. In 2010, the congregation purchased the arena for $7.5 million.

MORE: Lakewood Church: The Houston megachurch by the numbers


⛪ Place of worship transformed into indie movie palace

📍 800 Aurora Street

The clapboard building at 800 Aurora Street in Sunset Heights got its start as church in 1924. In 1998, Andrea Grover bought the church and began operating it as Aurora Picture Show, a small, single-screen cinema that showed obscure videos and films.

When Grover left Texas in 2010, Cressandra Thibodeaux purchased the venue from her and renamed it 14 Pews. The new nonprofit held its inaugural event, a Latino jazz festival, on Sept. 18, 2010. Since then, 14 Pews has screened hundreds of independent films, hosted multiple film festivals, book readings and art shows, and supported several artists in residence.

MORE: Get plugged into Houston’s art scene: These are 8 places to bring out the creative in you


🕺 Former Christian Science Church now a nightclub

📍 1720 Main Street

Distinguished by a towering gold spire and turquoise tile, the 1961 brutalist building at 1720 Main St. was once the First Church of Christ the Scientist. Now, it’s a raucous nightclub popular for its elaborate theme parties and concerts. Though the former church’s exterior remains nearly unchanged, the interior spaces were the subject of an extensive remodel. You can view images of the main sanctuary and alter here. And this is what it looks like now.


Have you seen any curious building transformations? Share them with us and we may them in an update to this article.


About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team in 2019. When she’s not hard at work in the KPRC 2 newsroom, you can find Bri drinking away her hard earned wages at JuiceLand, running around Hermann Park, listening to crime podcasts or ransacking the magazine stand at Barnes & Noble.