Houston is a city of many repurposings and rebrandings. Old chain Mexican restaurants become Goode Company Taquerias, a Palais Royal on the southwest side was renamed Royal Palace, and the Summit has been exalted as a megachurch. Some of these transformations are thorough and well-done. Others are not, and Hotel 31 — once a Holiday Inn, across 610 from the Galleria — definitely fell in that category.
First, there's that name, which is as brutally charmless and efficient as it can be. Really, you'd expect to find a "Hotel 31" in an utterly dismal Stalinist Siberian mining town.
And why? Why does it have that name?
We live in a world of things like letters, and those letters can be arranged into words, some of them suggestive of comfort, pleasure and rest. Why not use some of them?
Okay, so you've chosen to eschew letters and words and name your place Hotel 31 anyway. Why not go ahead and put a little more effort into proclaiming that new name than a cheap banner pasted over your uninviting portal?
You will be shocked to learn that Hotel 31 failed to thrive and went under in 2012. Tales of its past still echo on sites like TripAdvisor. Even before it became Hotel 31, travelers were appalled, some saying things like it was the worst Holiday Inn they'd ever stayed in.
I'm not sure when the changeover happened — I stayed there a couple of nights in the summer of 2010 and it was still a Holiday Inn and not a horrible place to my way of thinking.
By November 2011, reviewers started mentioning that it was called Hotel 31 and tagging it with terrible reviews.
Here's Pam D of San Antonio on TripAdvisor: My car was broken into within 5 minutes of checking in. I parked right in front of the hotel went to check-in and walked out no more than 3 minutes later and caught the guy driving away. Called 911 and cops NEVER showed.
A Brit in town for OTC had this to say: The hotel wreaks of a bad odour, rooms in need of modernisation, and the gym is a health hazard! Do not use it under any cost unless you wish to injure yourself...I can see why Holiday Inn cut their losses and sold it off as they just do not want to be tarnished by such a terrible hovel! You have been warned!
(Word to the wise: if a Briton calls a hotel a terrible hovel, you should be advised that it probably well and truly is. English seaside hotels offer ample instruction on the concept.)
A visitor from New Jersey: This was literally the worst hotel that I have stayed at in my entire life. I travel a lot for work, so that is saying something significant.
Another Brit here for the OTC called Hotel 31's idea of breakfast a "mixed bag of nonsense," while another traveler said that a "dead rat" smell billowed from her heater.
A Norwegian visitor was taken enough with Hotel 31 to give it a three-star review, but he seems to have been a rather easily-pleased sort of fellow.
"...the breakfast is incredible. I love when they make you the fried egg while you can stand there and wait for it."
Who doesn't love watching eggs fry?
By 2012, several guests were accusing Hotel 31 of fraudulently inflating their bills. On May 6 of that year, Hotel 31 got its last review.
"We were there during the week and I swear we only saw one other guest staying there," wrote Shannan P. of San Antonio. "To be honest, it felt a little creepy and I thought we might be in some horrible horror film. When we went to check out, there was no one at the desk and we waited for what seemed like forever, and finally we just decided to get the hell out of there!"
Maybe the employees simply abandoned it...At any rate, the chain link fence went up around the parking lot soon thereafter, and this prime parcel of real estate now awaits its next incarnation.