New Image: Alleys & Ruins no. 144, Light Circus (2013, Houston, TX, 11pm)
While in Houston in April this year I came across this beautiful relic in the city’s downtown. It is the Sunset Coffee Building, and is located right where Houston was born in 1836, at Allen’s Landing on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou. It has been occupied for less than 15 years since going up in 1910, and it is a miracle it was never paid a visit by the wrecking ball!
Built by the Sunset Coffee Company, it housed the company’s brand, Sunset Coffee. It was a premium brew, distributed throughout the state. But only 10 years later, the building was vacated and remained empty for over 45 years. In 1967 it became the site of one of Houston’s strangest venues ever.
During the Summer of Love, the old Sunset Coffee Building was transformed into a psychedelic music venue and nightclub: The Love Street Light Circus and Feel Good Machine. It had a brief but notorious history, setting itself apart by featuring a “zonk out” area that was filled with giant mattresses and hundreds of colored pillows, allowing patrons to lay back and watch the bands on stage, the go-go girls on side stages and the groovy liquid light shows and image projections.
Love Street closed after only a few years, and the building has remained vacant for – again – over 45 years!
Coincidentally, two months before I shot Alley 144, the city unveiled plans to transform the Coffee Building into a landmark historical and recreation destination. Houston has found a new love for this woefully neglected space!
I knew nothing of the building when I shot it, but after learning of its psychedelic night club past and elaborate stage light shows, I was thrilled to see some of that echoed in my own version of the Sunset Coffee Building.