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 it 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.
Marene Gustin is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.
HOTELS IN THE HOME
Houston’s Montrose and Heights neighborhoods are prime areas where unique and cozy bed-and-breakfast inns can readily be found.
La Maison Midtown
2800 Brazos Street
With a total of seven units available for travelers, La Maison offers the warmth of home coupled with the convenience of a boutique hotel, combining Southern hospitality with European sophistication. $159–$299. [email protected] • 713/529-3600.
4003 Hazard Street
Sumptuous homemade baked goods delight guests at this dramatic, four-story townhouse that is a contemporary alternative to traditional bed-and-breakfast lodging. $100–$200. modernbb.com • 832/279-6367.
Palms on West Main
807 W. Main Street
Located in the same neighborhood as Howard Hughes’ boyhood home, this 1914 Dutch Colonial home provides three guest suites in the heart of Houston’s Museum District. $89–$109. palmsonwestmain.com • 713/522-7987.
4104 Greeley Street
Healthy food is emphasized at this grouping of three historical homes boasting top-of-the-line bed-and-breakfast quarters and whirlpool baths (in some units). $99–$215. therobin.com • 713/528-5821.
Sara’s Bed & Breakfast Inn
941 Heights Boulevard
Close proximity to a jogging trail and downtown accentuate the Heights-area inn that offers 11 guest rooms. $115–$175. saras.com • 713/868-1130.
Sycamore in the Heights
245 W. 18th Street
A small inn, built in 1905 with 21st-century updates, offers three guest rooms and provides a convenient inner-loop setting for a weekend getaway. $120. sycamoreheights.com • 713/861-4117.