The Landmark


Seemingly plucked from the hills of Santorini before being plunked down on the edge of Trinity Bay, the white-washed compound glistens in early autumn light. Not everyone fishing or sailing the waters off Anahuac knows the name of the property owner, but as a fisherman cleaning his catch pointed out, “It makes for a great landmark. It’s sure enough better than the water tower.”

The compound, a weekend retreat for Houston general contractor George Pontikes Jr. and his wife Laura, includes a similarly-styled great house, a guest house, and various amenities, in addition to the chapel pictured above.

The similarity to houses on the Greek islands is understandable, given that the owner is the son of George Pontikes Sr. and the grandson of Angelos Konstantine Pontikes, who emigrated from Nauplion, Greece. Angelos K. Pontikes began as a home builder; both his son and grandson George Jr. followed in his footsteps.

While exploring the area on a Sunday afternoon, a friend and I mistook the private chapel for a public church and drove through the open gate. With parts of the compound still under construction, we realized our mistake fairly quickly, but I captured this image of the chapel before we left: as simple and beautiful as any white flower blossoming against the sky.



35 thoughts on “The Landmark

    1. That’s the sky everyone waits for. It’s an autumn sort of sky, blown clear of humidity and smog, and it sets off everything from buildings to sunflowers beautifully. The chapel certainly caught our attention, and demanded a better look.

    1. The curves of the lamps and their shadows were especially pleasing to me. If I’d been a few minutes earlier, I might have been able to increase the separation of the left shadow from the doorway, but this worked well enough. I thought of New Mexico churches, too, and even the mission at Goliad. The strong, simple lines always are memorable.

    1. Given the houses, the size of the property, and the existence of the chapel, I thought for some time that it was a religious retreat center. In fact, it’s been billed as a corporate retreat center, but it remains essentially a private residence, and a beautiful one.

    1. It certainly is, in the sense that most people don’t get over to the Anahuac/Oak Island area, and don’t have much of a clue about what’s over there. The next time I’m in the area, I’m going to have another look, and see if it’s as visible from the road as it used to be.

    1. I was glad to keep the water out of the photo, since Trinity Bay isn’t exactly the Aegean Sea. But the sky, the clouds, and the pristine buildings were serene and lovely, and so reminiscent of other beautiful spots in the world.

    1. It’s an easy association, isn’t it? It’s a lovely one, too. I can well understand the pleasure the owners must take in having such a retreat, away from the pressures of the city.

  1. Post card worthy! It is that blue sky – so like the posters of Greece.
    Buildings that are sculptural and have place are so beautiful. (Wasn’t there a post about tumbling across this somewhere? Link?)
    (There may be mosquitoes, but you can out without melting…just towel off the wet on the chairs. Promises promises of cool-ish coming!)

    1. It won’t be long until October finally brings us some of those skies again. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the cathedral in Galveston against the blue sky; it’s a different style, but just as stunning. Newberry Architecture was involved in the construction of the house, and perhaps other buildings. There may be a link floating around somewhere, but it seems the Pontikes feel no need to publicize their gorgeous little spot on the bay.

      The sun’s low enough in the sky now that it’s making a difference — as is the lower humidity. Eric Berger says maybe-maybe for a cold front the first weekend in October. We’ll hope.

    1. One of the best reasons to get out and prowl is that you never, ever know what you’ll find next. Seeing this building rise up alongside the road was an amazing experience. It took such a long time to find out some of the details on it; even the time-honored way of just asking people wasn’t very satisfactory, since most people didn’t have a clue.

      As beautiful as the buildings are, I suspect they’re practical, too. I suspect that’s poured and reinforced concrete. If you’re building on the bay, hurricane-resistant is good.

    1. Good design is good design, and from Greece to New Mexico to California to Texas’s Spanish missions, the simplicity of this design still appeals after all these centuries. Granted, it looks even better with that sky and those clouds, but it’s not bad even on a cloudy day.

    1. This truly was a right time, right place, moment. I don’t think anyone could go wrong with the combination of clear colors, good light, and clean lines. The more I look at the photo, the more I like it.

  2. What an extraordinary sight on your side of the world. As you say the building looks so Greek and with the blue sky and fluffy clouds could easily be mistaken for a chapel on a Greek island.

    1. Isn’t it funny, how we form images in our mind of places in the world we’ve never visited, and then see traces of those places in our own environment? The bays and barrier islands of Texas are nothing like the islands and seas of Greece, and yet this single building was enough to bring Greece to life on the Texas coast.

    1. I do, too. Because the chapel was so very new when I discovered it, it probably was as white as it ever will be, but it certainly did shine in that light. It was a wonderful sight.

    1. It tickles me that you picked up on the resemblance to architecture in our West and Southwest, while many here saw a relationship to the Mediterranean — perhaps because I mentioned Santorini. I can see it in both ways, myself — and whichever way I see it, it’s still lovely.

    1. I’ve never been to Greece either, but so many of my readers have been to Santorini, and posted so many wonderful photos of the place, it was the first association that came to mind. On the other hand, there’s a clear relationship to the churches of New Mexico, and the Spanish architecture of California and etc. Of course, the sky and clouds helped to make the photo.

    1. Because of its location next to the bay, the land has been elevated a bit, too. Although meant for protection during storms, the higher elevation helps with that landmark status! I’m posting something else tomorrow, but then I’m going to show this photo redone as a black and white. It’s really something.

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