Feb 28, 2023 - News

Few "Green Book" sites remain in Houston

Photo of pages from an old book, featuring small text and yellowing pages.

Pages of "Green Book" guides that include Houston businesses that were deemed safe for Black travelers. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library

Not many hotels and restaurants in Texas welcomed Black people before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (And even after that it was sometimes dicey.)

Driving the news: Before Black History Month ends, we're looking at what became of the local venues listed in the "The Negro Motorist Green Book."

  • The guides were published from 1936 to 1966 with information about businesses Black travelers could safely visit during the Jim Crow era.

Why it matters: These sites — and the vacant lots that used to house them — are a reminder of how recently segregation was legal and what history has been preserved.

Zoom in: Houston had about a dozen listings in the "Green Book" guides that were deemed safe for Black people.

Flashback: The "Green Book" guides received renewed attention thanks to the eponymous movie that won an Oscar in 2019.

State of play: Most of the buildings appear to be vacant or deteriorated, though a few places remain:

Photo of a motel with a sign saying "Best Reed Motel"
The Mingo Motel is now the Best Reed Motel. Photo: Jay Jordan/Axios

The Mingo Motel, now the Best Reed Motel at 4749 Reed Road, was featured in several editions of the guides.

  • In 1959, the motel paid for an ad that called itself the "South's largest and most luxurious motel," highlighting amenities such as air conditioning, central music, TV, radio, room service and a restaurant.
Photo of a building under construction.
The Eldorado Ballroom is under construction. Photo: Jay Jordan/Axios

The Eldorado Ballroom, which was spelled "El Dorado" under the nightclub section in 1955, is undergoing renovations.

  • The venue, founded in 1939 and located at 2310 Elgin St., was a popular music and community venue that featured upscale blues and jazz performances by touring stars and local talent, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
  • Once restored, the ground floor will feature a café, local market, and community gathering and meeting spaces. The ballroom upstairs will once again be a live music venue, according to Project Row Houses.
Photo of a red and yellow building with the words "Ralston Discount Beverages"
The Rolston drug store is now Ralston Discount Beverages. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

Rolston, sometimes spelled "Ralston's," was a drug store at 3318 Lyons Ave. and is now a liquor store.

  • The building was reportedly a one-stop-shop drugstore that anchored Fifth Ward, Toya Levi, the co-founder of the Green Book Project, told ABC 13.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Houston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more