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A Hostel Grows in Montrose

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Lovett Inn becomes a haven for hostellers

by Marene Gustin

Say adios to the Lovett Inn and hello to the Morty Rich Hostel.

The charming inn at 501 Lovett Boulevard closed down in May, after 22 years.

“When I bought it in 1989, it was a boarded-up building,” says Tom Fricke (OutSmart’s general manager), who owned the inn for 15 years. When Fricke opened the inn, it was a gathering place for the local LGBT community and a safe, comfortable lodging for gay travelers.

“I loved it. I had a lot of fun—but all things must come to an end.”

Seven years ago he sold the property—originally the home of former Houston mayor Joseph C. Hutcheson, Jr.—to Dan Luken, who ran the inn for seven years before selling the property to Hostelling International USA (HI-USA), a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1934 to promote international understanding of the world and its people through hostelling.

“My first choice would have been for it to stay the Lovett Inn,” Fricke says, “but I’d rather it be a hostel where people can stay than see it torn down or turned into another law office.”

On June 15, HI-USA took over the historic 17,000-square-foot lot with the 1917 main house, carriage house, and pool. The organization has more than 4,000 hostels in over 80 countries, and operates a network of nearly 60 hostel accommodations throughout the United States ranging from urban high-rise buildings with hundreds of beds to smaller, more remote hostels in rural settings. HI-USA has an Austin hostel, but its Morty Rich Hostel will be the first in Houston.

Rich, a native Houstonian, was an adventurer and avid hostel supporter who died in a private plane crash in 1993, leaving a bequest to HI-USA to help fund a hostel in his hometown. Rich’s parents also established the Morty Rich Service Award for Rice University students. Rich had been a 1973 graduate of Rice.

Hostels, as any young international traveler knows, are inexpensive, safe havens for those looking to experience other cultures. Currently, HI-USA is renovating the Lovett Inn into typical hostel dormitory rooms, plus some private suites, so that the property will accommodate up to 50 people per night. They hope to open in August.

“I think it will put Houston on the map for a lot of international travelers who otherwise might skip Houston,” says Doug Markham, president of the local HI-USA council. Markham has been a member of HI since 1986 when he went on a European tour after graduating.

“I personally went on a tour of Europe and became a lifetime member of HI,” he says. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able travel and experience different cultures around the world.”

As for the old Lovett Inn: “It’s a wonderful location, convenient for any domestic or international travelers, convenient to downtown, the museums, and public transport,” he says.

“And it will continue to be a meeting place for the LGBT community,” he adds. “HI-USA is a nondiscriminatory organization. It always has been.”

Although Houston has another hostel in the Museum District, Markham thinks the Morty Rich Hostel will be different.

“Every hostel has its own unique characteristics. I think will be a quality facility that will bring international travelers and respect for the community.”

So as Montrose and the community say goodbye to the Lovett Inn, we say hello to the Morty Rich Hostel—a safe and affordable haven for international travelers looking to experience our wonderful city.

The Morty Rich Hostel
Opening late August at 501 Lovett Boulevard.

http://www.hiusa.org/hostels/usa_hostels/texas/houston/60150

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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