The Todville Mansion – Seabrook, Texas USA



Todville Mansion, a butt-ugly brick house along Todville Road, which ran along Galveston Bay from Seabrook halfway to La Porte, Texas.

Inside the middle section and walkway

Inside the middle section and walkway

It was a supremely depressing, tacky, hideous place. When I read postings online now lamenting its demise, it’s totally absurd: the place was a depressing compound that should never have been “dreamt” of in the first place. It showed no imagination or foresight — just a crass display of spending money. That the property wasn’t sold and restored comes as no surprise at all. It was a loss from the start.

It deserves a mention because its owner, one Bill List, was murdered there. List made a fortune selling or renting trailers for hauling pipeline sections during the 1960s-70s oil boom, and built his dream house on a lot about 300 feet wide and 1000 feet deep, running from Todville Rd to Galveston Bay. It was a single structure that looked like a 1950s factory from the side and contained two sections of living area, each easily the size of a modern McMansion, joined by an atrium with a pool and garden.

The man had no concept of architectural aesthetic value, and the interiors screamed new money. The green Fiberglas panels atop the high-ceiling atrium area were missing in some places. I sort of wondered whether it was a product of neglecting repairs following Alicia the year before the crime. Some rooms, particularly on waterfront (rearward) side, felt like being inside a typical, late-1970s suburban house — what with textured ceilings, light brown wall-to-wall carpeting, and chintzy masonry for fireplaces. There were effectively no overt traces from the crime scene, but then again, I also fail to recall an access point from within the compound to the attached garage (which was either a three- or four-port, doors all opened, but iron barrier preventing accessibility). There was still parked a racing orange (I seem to recall), black-canvassed MGB convertible with dust gathered on its body from years of disuse, and the black-on-white-era expired licence plate tags that still showed 1984 (which would have been green for that year, I think). The garage, which while viewable from outside, was at the time all but inaccessible — hence the relatively pristine state.

List liked to pick up male runaways and hustlers from Montrose, along lower Westheimer, in Houston, and take them back to his place. Some were to share his bed and some just to look after the place. Basically they were like he was before Fortune smiled on him for awhile. One day in 1984, one of the kids killed List with a shotgun as List came home.

The place was available for years afterward but nobody would buy it. Some developers picked it up and hired various caretakers–stoners, rock and rollers, angry white guys looking for excuses to shoot trespassers, and even a nice family or two.

Some time in the mid 1990s, the place caught fire and was demolished. Now a half-dozen condos occupy the land. The adjacent cul-de-sac neighborhood of 3 or 4 houses, even changed its name from Gay Vista to Bay Vista, if anything to avoid jokes. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with the place.

Sometime between 1988 and 1991, a friend and I drove up the long driveway and parked on the coast side, so the car couldn’t be seen from the road or by neighbors. We sneaked in the back gate somehow and ran through the house taking pictures (hence the blurriness on some). The place looked like it was in between caretakers, so it didn’t look occupied, but it didn’t look trashed either. The section facing Todville was locked I think. There are loads of ghost stories connected with the place now, but then, in broad daylight, it looked exactly like what it was–a derelict house. It sat vacant for many more years and was finally torn down, to the delight of many neighbors and Seabrook residents.

It is still an interesting story, because not much happens in Seabrook, and especially not back in the early 1980s.

Further Reading:

Houston Chronicle article discussion thread

The House on Todville Road, a cheezy horror movie

Inside the middle section and walkway

Inside the middle section and walkway

Basement Bar

Basement Bar