Houston Stories and Tips

Stop #4: The Beer Can House

The Beer Can House Photo, Houston, Texas

John Milkovisch must have had the most loving, caring, patient wife in the world. I certainly don't know what I do if one day my husband came in and told me he didn't want to mow the lawn anymore so he was just going to pave over it. Oh, and by the way, he was going to put little trinkets in the pavement, like 222 (the house's street number) written out in marbles on the driveway. Perhaps I could handle that, since it would be somewhat of a novelty - why get one of those reflective curb street numbers when you can have reflective marbles engrained in the driveway instead?

Maybe I could deal with a man who didn't like to throw things away - I mean, I've lived for a good amount of time now with the Queen Packrat herself, my mother. However, she never tried to decorate the house with the various homework assignments and children's novels that she refused to throw away. John Milkovisch did just that with his 6-pack-a-day from 1968 til the day he died some 20 years later. Our clues sheet said over 39,000 beer cans adorn this house in some way or another, and after seeing it, that's not hard to believe at all. The gate is made solely out of the tops of beer cans, the top of the fence is coated in "Texas Pride" labels, and the rest of the fence consists of whole beer cans, bottom out. The entire outside of the house is engulfed in various beer can colors, mostly faded to yellow, blue, and white now. These were meticulously cut away from the top and bottom of the can and then rolled flat before being added to the house's unique siding. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the house when John's widow was still living there (in the early 2000's) when, dangling off the front porch and adding to the house's effect, there were full curtains made of pull tabs. Apparently these made great windchimes.

The house, located at 222 Malone St (just west of TC Jester on Washington Ave in the Heights) really is a sight to behold. I've heard of it quite a few times, and seen pictures in various "Weird Texas" books, but those are nothing like actually standing in front of the fence, taking a picture with your friends and hoping you don't scrape yourself because there's a good chance of getting tetanus. We definitely spent the longest here of any stop on our whirlwind tour of Houston, mostly because it took us quite a while to pick up our jaws off the marble-encrusted pavement. Houston really is fortunate for the Orange Show Foundation, who took over care of the Beer Can House after Mrs. Milkovisch's death, even if they did remove the windchime curtains, because there is really no place outside Ripley's where you will see a spectacle like this. The House had a sign on the fence pointing out what it was and who it was owned by, but it had no sign of ever being open to the public, despite things I have read about it being turned into a museum. Perhaps this is taking quite a long time because Mrs. Milkovisch did have one rule for her husband: no beer can decorating inside the house. Therefore, they are either decorating the entire interior to match the exterior, or making the best, most beer-filled exhibit known to man. I can't decide which.

Unfortunately, we had to move on after five or ten minutes, although I'm confident we could have stood and gawked all day. Our quick visit to the Heights was over, and we were off to the Downtown area, where we found quite a few locations but none that really caught our fancy. After we made our way around the extensive traffic jams caused by all of the wild folks attending the Annual Quilting Festival, we made it to Rice Village with just enough time to wildly sprint past our remaining locations, as described in my next entry.

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