Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace, a Bizarre Houston Oddity
It can be credited or blamed (depending upon one’s view) on the lack of zoning laws in Houston that this Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace is situated in a neighborhood on the west side of H-Town.
Even from a distance this five story white structure with the 40 foot golden orb stands out as being something out of the ordinary and worth a closer look.
The only views of this abandoned building are from outside the gates and fenced area of an 11 acre site. It is situated across from a green space with a hiking and biking trail that dips down under roadways in the area allowing those who are exercising to maintain a set speed without having to stop for traffic.
We parked near the intersection of the 3600 block of Overture and Ashford Point. The image above was taken through fencing on this side of the building. At one time there were two smaller golden orbs placed above the square pillared risers one of which is clearly seen in this image in front of the larger orb. I have no idea why or when they were removed.
This building with the golden geodesic dome was to be the first of several other structures erected on this site. It is categorized as a domestic nonprofit corporation with a filing date going back to January 24, 2000. The purpose of this nonprofit corporation was religious in nature. It is still listed as active although clearly the building project was halted prior to ever being completed.
Duane Bradshaw was the Houston architect selected to create the buildings on this site. His firm specializes in “Religious Facilities, Health Care Facilities, Land Use and Landscape Architecture” according to his website. Had construction not been abruptly halted this large space would also have had some residential, daycare and even retail spaces built upon this property.
What would have been a Taoism spiritual compound (primarily Buddhist in nature) led by Master Cheung was thrown into disarray when he died. It was to have cost around six million dollars.
The sects new leader, Kwai Fun Wong who was a citizen of China, had applied for permanent residency in the U.S. but had not yet attained that status. She should have gotten permission from our immigration agency prior to leaving the country according to the laws in effect at the time.
She made a trip to Hong Kong to arrange for the funeral of Master Cheung. When returning to the United States she was arrested, briefly detained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and eventually deported.
All construction ceased at that time. The interior of this building with 40,000 square feet of floor space was never finished.
Amazingly after all of this time the grass is still mowed. This would seem to be a natural target for graffiti but is kept graffiti free. With its nonprofit status, no Houston taxes are being collected.
This property is still associated with the Wu Wei Tien Tao Association which is a Chinese universalism based religious organization.
Just viewing this building with with the two exterior staircases and interesting architecture I can only imagine how the finished project might have appeared.
Some folks have described it as a “Mayan Epcot Center.” Others think of it as an oddity, bizarre and an “Alief area folly.” It has also been called a “white elephant.”
For some reason it reminds me of the Dr. No James Bond Film. I can also imagine some eccentric billionaire fashioning this in honor of the game of golf. Notice the white ball shapes atop some of the fence posts? Of course that giant golden orb would have been the signature golf ball like icing on a cake.
Will anything ever be developed there or will it continue to be abandoned and left to the elements? I guess only time will answer that question.
If you liked learning about this, you might also like to check out these other offbeat, unusual or fun happenings in and around Houston.
You will find the location of the Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace here: 3695 Overture Drive, Houston, Texas 77082.