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The downtown Houston icon is a bar and a kind of art gallery, a place for conversation or to see a new band, a place to grab a drink and soak up the history.

HOUSTON — It's not just unique. It's not just bizarre. It is notsuoH.

"Some people will see it as Houston backwards right away and sometimes they're like, ‘What does that mean?’" laughed co-owner Missy Bosch.

The name 'notsuoH' is Houston spelled backward, but it’s not that simple.

"When we were looking at the history of Houston, we saw the notsuoH Festival, a carnival that was around from 1899 to the start of the first world war," Bosch explained. "We’re like, ‘We love Houston. We love history. This is history. Let’s call it notsuoH.’"

It is a downtown Houston bar and a kind of art gallery, a place for conversation or to see a new band, where you can grab a drink and soak up the history.

"The building was built in 1893," Co-owner Jim Pirtle said.

The space that is now notsuoH really got its start because a coffee shop where Jim hung out and played chess kicked him out so they could turn tables.

"I wanted to get a building where I could live above it, then have my coffee shop below it," he shares.

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At the time, he and Bosch were married and they decided to look into how much a downtown Houston building would cost. 

"It ended up being the cost of a house," Bosch said.

When they found 314 Main Street, they saw potential.

"We really wanted to preserve it," Bosch remembered. "We saw all these buildings that were boarded up and decaying."

The then-couple tracked down the owner and made a deal.

"I said, ‘How much?’ Jim said, ‘How about $20,000?’ I said, ‘Oh, alright.’ I took out my teacher retirement and bought the building."

That was 26 years ago.

"It started with one idea that just kept changing and evolving and evolving and evolving," Jim said.

The current incarnation -- craft cocktail bar -- is one that brings the family and the building full circle.

Jim's grandmother worked in the building during the 1920s when the Sakowitz department store occupied the space.

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"She worked upstairs," John Pirtle, Jim's father, shared. "They would deliver the money and she would send the change back down."

Then a couple of years ago, Jim and Missy's daughter started bartending at notsuoH. That means four generations of the Pirtle family spent part of their lives here, the stories of which are told through Jim’s creations.

"I’m an artist and a lot of my art is about memory," he said.

One booth, for example, pays homage to Jim's mother.

"It really is a wonderful statement of who she was," John said, looking at the photos of his wife that are tucked under a protective layer on the table. "Ann was crazy about elephants. We’ve been all over the world and she’s sought elephants everywhere, even in Alaska, she found one."

Every piece has a story, which the staff is happy to share with curious visitors.

"A lot of Houston is tear down and rebuild, and I think we understood from the beginning, no, we’re not going to do that," Bosch said.

Instead, notsuoH is building on downtown’s history.

"I’m very proud of it and I know my daughter is too."

For more information about notsuoH, click here.

Brandi Smith on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Do you have a hidden gem we should check out? Let us know by emailing Brandi Smith at bsmith@khou.com!

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