Historic Celestial Suites' fate depends on future of Astrodome

It's home to what once was the most expensive suite in the world. Now the future of the closed Celestial Suites is uncertain
November 12, 2013 8:29:03 PM PST
Last week, Harris County voters decided against a plan to save the fabled Houston Astrodome. Now, the next big fight may be over the top floor of a nearby hotel. The Celestial Suites have been all but forgotten, until now.

When Judge Roy Hofheinz built the Astrodome in the 60's, he wanted to create a castle to overlook his kingdom. The Celestial Suites, as he called them, were on the top floor of his hotel. As the property has changed hands over the years, that top floor has remained untouched and may soon be the last of the judge's great Houston creations.

High on top of the Crowne Plaza, once the Astroworld Hotel, is a great treasure trove of Houston's history. In it's heydey, the penthouse suites were completely over the top, filled with antique furniture, Tiffany glass and 24-karat gold.

Locked away for years now, we were given a tour from the judge's own daughter, Dene Hofheinz.

"So what does it feel like to walk back in here?" we asked her.

"Home," she said.

Situated off a New Orleans-style lobby and European corridor are 13 rooms with different themes: the Tarzan room, Fu Manchu suite and the circus room, complete with 3 rings.

And the judge's own suite, a master suite with French antiques and a Roman tub. There was a scale model of the Astrodome, a lavish marble library, and the birdcage dining room that hosted some of the world's biggest celebrities, from Elvis to Michael Jackson.

It took 12 months and a million dollars to complete, and in the 70's was listed as the most expensive suite in the world at $2,500 a night.

"He was fascinated with things as a kid, so when he grew up and had the means to do something, he managed to try and recreate it in his fantasy," Dene said.

Closed for more than a decade, the suite's future is uncertain. With the 2017 Superbowl now on the horizon, its fate will have to be decided. But Hofheinz says tearing apart this palace would break her father's heart.

"It was designed to make you remember it. Call it what you will but don't forget it," Roy Hofheinz once said.

So what will happen to the Celestial Suites? We don't know, and neither does the current ownership. A lot will depend on what becomes of the Astrodome. But right now, there's not a viable business plan to reopen those suites.

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