Boulevard Oaks. The name says it all. The fancy-schmancy of a French word for “street” mixed with “oaks,” the tree that takes some while to grow and tend to outlive those who planted them suggesting that folks looked ahead and believed in something greater than their naked and putrescent corpse.
In Houston, there are few areas of polite, respectable streets tree lined and appointed with houses that are grand without being vulgar and this area of the city, a historic district no less, is one of them. These houses – for the most part – have an open face to the street. Rather the gates and walls of the Newmoney, Oldmoney guards their castles with manicured landscaping that both is inviting to the eye and tells the casual passersby that an army of machete-wielding Chemlawn employees guards the property with barrels of Roundup(tm) and miles of weed whacker cable.
And there are also the security signs. The I support the Neighborhood Watch flags. And I’m sure a phalanx of unseen trip wires, minefields, and attack squirrels all to compensate for the yards and front lawns casually encroaching the boulevard.
While the highway is never far, and it would be a shame if some historic neighborhood didn’t have a highway running through it, the din and drone of the traffic is kept at bay through a number of devices. The lanes of traffic hum at a low elevation, walls and a buffet of vegetation so that away from those lanes directing abutting the transportation corridor, the bird song, and local traffic is the soundtrack of humanity and polite, happy motoring sucking up all that sweet, sweet crude and spewing a haze that turns the Houston sunset the proper shade of skin cancer.
The houses planted between the oaks are a mix of styles and sizes. In areas of the country still catching up with the crowded, polluted, crime-ridden northeast, there are few historic structures and the bulk of anything considered old is of 1920s-1930s vintage. This age in many ways perhaps is the high water mark of America Architecture while perhaps a regression in many ways culturally in that the Jazz age and height of KKK membership were concurrent. As today, the then wealthy and monied interests fought a rising middle class except that in the 1930s, many argue, the middle class won. Whatever the status of monopoly and inequality, segregation or human rights, the Boulevard Oaks remained, and generations of oil men and women called these unhumble houses home.
While I encountered no other pedestrians other than joggers and people walking their dogs (to those dear readers in other countries, we as Americans generally don’t walk unless we own a dog or to raise money to cure disease), I did not feel alone. After morningtide had ended, those few about the streets were those landscapers and workers, rich neighborhoods are endless in their renovations, additions, and modifications. At night, the occupants may have come home or still been working their 20 hour days in various boardrooms in order to afford their material culture. Again the joggers and dogs and their caregivers appeared. Also the joggers of the nearby university and perhaps a few interlopers from Upper Kerby, an area of less quaint housing stock and a lower level of nonfungible assets that provides community for young strivers and alternative lifestyles.
In all, there may be little to see that other mansion rows can afford better and with more ample parking. Raceclassgender aside, the hugging arms of the trees lining the quiet boulevards and streets and quiet houses afforded yet another side of the baffling and insane more often than not hellscape that is Houston, Texas and within which some oases yet remain.