Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace: A Houston Oddity
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Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace
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 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 sights of this abandoned building are from outside the gates and fenced area of an 11-acre site. It is 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.
You will find the location of the Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace here: 3695 Overture Drive, Houston, Texas 77082. We parked near the intersection of the 3600 blocks of Overture and Ashford Point. I took the image above through fencing on this side of the building. At one time there were two smaller golden orbs above the square pillared risers.
This building with the golden geodesic dome was to be the first of several other structures on this site. It falls in a category as a domestic nonprofit corporation with a filing date going back to January 24, 2000. The purpose of this nonprofit corporation was religious. It is still considered to be active although the building project ended before 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 ample space would also have had some residential, daycare and even retail spaces built upon this property.
End of a Dream
What was a Taoism 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 before leaving the country according to the laws in effect at the time.
Kwai Fun Wong made a trip to Hong Kong to arrange for the funeral of Master Cheung. When she came back 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 is also unfinished.
Amazingly, after all of this time, someone is still mowing the grass. This building 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 still has ties with the Wu Wei Tien Tao Association, which is a Chinese universalism based religious organization.
Just viewing this building with the two exterior staircases and impressive architecture, I can only imagine how the finished project might have appeared.
Descriptions include the following: a “Mayan Epcot Center,” a “white elephant,” an “Alief Area Folly,” or just an oddity and bizarre. 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 this building ever take on a new life? Or will it sit vacant? I guess only time will answer that question.
More of The Unusual
If you liked learning about this, you might also want to check out these other offbeat, unusual or fun happenings in and around Houston.