The gazebo from Houston’s legendary Shamrock hotel is for sale — starting at $6K

The gazebo from Houston's legendary Shamrock hotel is for sale — starting at $6K

Houston’s legendary Shamrock Hilton was demolished 35 years, but a piece of its history is slated for the auction block.

On Memorial Day, the gazebo that once sat inside the hotel’s Paris restaurant will be sold by auctioneer Vikki Vines’ Gallery Auctions, consigned by its owner Florian Gierczyk, a former Shell engineer who built a second career as a dealer of fine art and antiques.

Gierczyk studied chemical engineering in Germany and Poland and saw the 1956 epic Western, “Giant,” never imagining that he might someday come to America and live in Texas. Not long after his arrival in 1977, though, he drove down Houston’s Main Street and saw the Shamrock at night, bathed in green light.

“It looked surreal — like a mirage. I was totally mesmerized by what I saw,” said Gierczyk, now 75. “When it was to be demolished, I was disappointed and sad, but I was motivated to get busy to save whatever could be saved.”

Much of the hotel’s contents was sold at public auction after the hotel and its land at the corner of South Main and West Holcombe were given to the Texas Medical Center in 1985. Two years later the hotel was demolished, and the land is now home to the Texas A&M University Biosciences and Technology building.

Memorial Day auction

When: 8 a.m. (preview) and 10 a.m. auction

Where: Gallery Auctions, 13310 Luthe Road, or via

At the long-ago auctions, Gierczyk bought the gazebo, hoping to someday use it on property where he planned to build a large home for him and his wife, Marcia. An architect drew up plans, but the home was never built and the disassembled gazebo sat in a warehouse all these years. After his 1991 retirement from Shell, he operated Florian Fine Arts and Antiques on Westheimer for 20 years, making frequent trips to Europe to replenish his inventory.

“Since I am getting older, with each passing day, I need to start sweeping up after myself,” Gierczyk said. “I need to get rid of my inventory and stop paying rent. The time has come when I need to find a destination for all of these items I still have in storage.”

Vines said she’ll include the gazebo in the first 50 lots, meaning it should be sold sometime between 10 and 11 a.m. on May 30. Bidding on the item will start at $6,000. The lattice gazebo has been partially reassembled for auction-goers to see; you’ll have to imagine the final structure with its cathedral top. She’ll also auction French antiques, garden statuary and religious items from a Midwest church.

The gazebo, designed by Singer & Associates of Beverly Hills, Calif., is 25 feet long, 15 feet wide and 8 feet tall, plus the cathedral top made of lattice work. Whoever buys the structure will get its original blueprints, too.

“The gazebo is sturdy and well maintained, in incredible condition,” Vines said. “I’m a romantic at heart, so I can only imagine the oil barons and beautiful women in their gowns and gloves who went there. It was truly an iconic Houston structure.”

The history

Glenn McCarthy’s fortune was made lost and made again in the oilfields, but the Beaumont-born, larger-than-life figure had his hand in many bowls. In the 1940s, he spent $21 million of his own money to build the hotel on what was then the outskirts of Houston near the Texas Medical Center.

Skeptics told him it was too far from downtown to be viable, but McCarthy imagined it as a convention-sized hotel with a resort atmosphere. It had 18 stories and 1,100 rooms and what at the time was called the “world’s biggest outdoor swimming pool,” large enough to host water-skiing and sailing exhibitions.

The hotel — then just the Shamrock Hotel — opened appropriately enough on St. Patrick’s Day 1949 with as much flourish as McCarthy and the city of Houston could muster. The oilman bought a jet from Howard Hughes and flew in more than 150 Hollywood celebrities — including Dorothy Lamour, Pat O’Brien, Ginger Rogers, Errol Flynn and Lana Turner — for the festivities.

Its interior design was an eclectic mix of Empire, Regency, French, Grecian, Chinese and modern, and its palette — for furnishings and staff uniforms — included 63 shades of green.

Though the hotel ultimately failed to fulfill McCarthy’s hopes for drawing business travelers, it was the site of numerous high school proms, weddings and parties for other life events. For the local Jewish community, it kept a separate kosher kitchen. And, of course, it was the place to be for every St. Patrick’s Day, with the party starting after the traditional downtown parade and ending in the wee hours of the next morning.

Top entertainment acts drew oil tycoons, businessmen, socialites and their wannabes, but by 1952, McCarthy defaulted on a loan and in 1955 the hotel was sold to the Hilton chain. McCarthy — his rags-to-riches story inspired the Jett Rink character in “Giant” — died in 1988, a day after his 81st birthday.

For 30 years it operated as the Shamrock Hilton, before the chain donated the site to the growing medical center. The hotel was demolished in 1987 and the street that led to its front door was renamed from Shamrock Drive to Pressler Street.

Stewards of history

Gierzyk may have bought the gazebo intending to use it himself, but he also bought beautiful mahogany panels that once lined the hallways of the floor that held the Shamrock’s Presidential Suites and a granite bas-relief sculpture titled “The Three Graces” that had been installed above the hotel’s main entrance. (He later sold the sculpture to oilman Lester Smith.)

He remembers disassembling and removing his purchases with his own crew while other workers removed asbestos from the building prior to demolition.

Gierczyk said he recalls paying about $2,000 for the gazebo — plus more to remove and store it — and figures it could cost $30,000 to $50,000 to reproduce it at today’s prices. He said he hopes it sells for $6,000 to $10,000.

“The buyer will be someone who has land to install it, and somebody who is interested in the past of our city. Being in the antiques and art business, I believe that we really never own anything. The price we pay is the fee we pay to take it home, and that charges us with the responsibility to preserve it so that, 50 or 100 years from now, someone else can enjoy it. That is our duty to the artists and creators of things we enjoy in our lives.”

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