At the Dec. 10 Humble City Council meeting, council members unanimously authorized City Manager Jason Stuebe to enter into a contract to purchase the property, which is located at 110 N. Ave. D, Humble.
Humble Mayor Merle Aaron said the city intends to purchase, demolish and clean the property. This will create a large, open lot with the city's adjoining, vacant property that is ripe for future development or downtown parking, Aaron said.
"The reason [we're buying it] is to improve that piece of property there so it's larger and usable," he said. "It could be for downtown parking, because we have very little."
Stuebe said the city intends to demolish it in the first quarter of 2021.
The 1,500-square-foot home was constructed in 1924 as a single-family residence, according to property information from the Harris County Appraisal District. Located on little more than a 5,000-square-foot lot, the almost 100-year-old building now is classified as commercial space, having been an antique and record store most recently.
But back in the 1950s, it was a diner patroned by high school students from Charles Bender High School—now a performing arts center. The Wildcat Den was run by the Benardino family, and worn paint on the front of the building says the eatery was established in 1947.
"It's kind of an eyesore if you don't know the history," said Nancy Coker, a lifelong Humble resident and former board president of the Humble Museum.
When Coker attended Charles Bender High School, she said she remembers many students walking across the street to have lunch at the diner in lieu of cafeteria food.
"Everybody loved it," she said. "It was a big hit, and it was very good for those [kids], because a lot of the kids would have to stay for a while after school for things, so sometimes they’d end up probably eating there twice."
While Coker said she would more often walk the five blocks home to her mother's house for lunch, the Wildcat Den served what she said was the "best hamburger around." Coker said she is not sure how long the eatery was open, but it was still operating when she graduated Charles Bender High School in 1953.
"That place was so popular, and they made wonderful hamburgers," she said. "It was nothing fancy; it was just good ol' food that everybody loves."