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Preservation Progress

Historic preservation has become a key component of economic growth. Preservation projects create jobs, provide affordable quality housing, support diversified economic development, and efficiently and effectively maximize private and public investment benefits. Historic Preservation at Work for the Texas Economy (PDF/2.6MB) provides an in-depth look at preservation's positive role in economic development. In Houston, these recent preservation projects are making important contributions to the economic and cultural well-being of our city and state:

National Biscuit Co. Building, 1910

National Biscuit Co. Building
15 N. Chenevert St. [map]

The National Biscuit Co. Building at 15 North Chenevert is finding new life in the residential market. The historic property is being rehabilitated as CityView Lofts. The building will have 57 units on its expected completion in late 2006 or early 2007. GHPA Board member Tim Cisneros is the architect for the project.
The former cookie factory was designed in 1910 by A.G. Zimmerman, Nabisco’s corporate architect. The Chenevert facility served as the company’s southwest headquarters for baking, packaging and shipping until 1949, when Nabisco sold the property to Purse & Co., a wholesale furniture dealer. The building was designated a City of Houston Landmark in 1998.

Top: Lantrip Elementary, 1916
Bottom: Travis Elementary, 1926
(Photos by David Bush)

Lantrip and Travis Elementary Schools
Lantrip: 100 Telephone Road [map]; Travis: 3311 Beauchamp St. [map]

The Houston Independent School District is proceeding with the renovation of two historic schools. Strong neighborhood support played an important role in influencing the district's decision to preserve both local landmarks.
HISD discarded its proposal to demolish Dora Lantrip Elementary School after neighborhood residents convinced the district officials to renovate the complex. The successful effort was spearheaded by the Eastwood Historical Commission with support from GHPA.

Lantrip Elementary is the district's oldest building still in use. The Mission Style school was built in 1916 as Eastwood Elementary. HISD originally planned to tear down the historic structure, pictured above left, to make way for a replacement. Instead, the school's historic administration building and detached, bungalow-style classroom buildings will be restored. Later additions will be demolished with new facilities constructed in a style that complements the 1916 buildings.

HISD has also begun renovating William B. Travis Elementary School, 3311 Beauchamp. There had been concerns the 1926 building in Woodland Heights would be demolished and only the historic façade, pictured at left, would be retained. Again, neighborhood residents, this time led by the Travis PTA, were instrumental in convincing district officials to preserve rather than demolish the historic building.

Travis students and parents, school district officials and community leaders took part in the project's official groundbreaking on May 21. A family picnic was held on the school grounds to celebrate the occasion. Additional information about Travis Elementary School is available at www.traviselementary.org.

Work on the Lantrip and Travis projects is part of the district's "Rebuild HISD" program, which was funded by the 2002 bond issue. For additional information on HISD's plans, please visit the district's Web site.

Cage School, c. 1910

Cage School
1417 Telephone Road [map]

Neighborhood organizations led by the Greater Eastwood/Wayside/Lawndale Superneighborhood Group and Greater East End Management District have succeeded in their effort to convince Houston Independent School District to postpone the proposed sale of the former Rufus Cage Elementary School, 1417 Telephone Road. HISD had been accepting sealed bids on the historic Mission style school building and its one-acre site.

The two-story brick building was constructed around 1910 and is one of HISD's oldest facilities. The property has been used as a supply warehouse since 1983, when the current Cage Elementary opened. The former Cage School was included on Greater Houston Preservation Alliance's Endangered Buildings List in early 2004.

HISD is working with the neighborhood groups to find an appropriate use or a suitable developer for the property. In recent years, the Eastwood area has seen increased investment and revitalization, including HISD's planned renovation of Lantrip Elementary School (scroll down for information on that project). The school building is in a prominent location and could serve as a focal point for redevelopment activities.

Beatty-West Building, c. 1920 and 2004
(Top photo courtesy Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library; bottom photo by David Bush)

Beatty-West Building
Main Street at Walker Avenue [map]

Plans are under way to rehabilitate the 1912 Beatty-West Building at the corner of Main and Walker. The project will include a complete restoration of the building's exterior and will comply with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. The Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission has approved the building's designation as a City of Houston Historic Landmark.

The six-story reinforced concrete building was designed by architect Henry C. Cooke for David R. Beatty to house Beatty's oil and gas operations. Cooke was also the architect of the 1912 Magnolia Brewery Tap Room and Café (now the Magnolia Ballroom) at 715 Franklin Ave.

James M. West bought the building in 1922 and renamed it. West was a prominent Houston businessman with interests in lumber, oil, banking and ranching. A portion of his 35,000-acre ranch on Clear Lake southeast of Houston is now the site of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.

The Beatty-West Building housed a variety of retail tenants on its ground floor, including Craig's clothing store and Vogue Shoes. The local chain James Coney Island had its original location in the building from 1923-93. The street level facade has been significantly altered. New storefronts are being designed by architect Suzanne Labarthe, AIA.

Plaza Hotel, 1926
(Photo by David Bush)

Plaza Hotel
5020 Montrose Blvd. [map]

Work is under way to redevelop the historic Plaza Hotel, 5020 Montrose Blvd, as a medical office building to be called the Plaza Medical Center. A group of Houston investors has purchased the long-vacant landmark from the French company that has owned the property since the 1990s. According to the Houston Business Journal, total costs for the project could reach $24 million. Plans call for a total exterior restoration with modern interior design.

The building formally opened Feb. 21, 1926, as the Plaza Apartment Hotel, Houston's first facility to provide hotel accommodations and suites for permanent residents. The concept was based on the Ritz Carlton in New York and the Biltmore in Atlanta, among others. The architect Joseph Finger decorated the splayed wings of the building with neoclassical and Italian Renaissance motifs. The Plaza operated as a traditional hotel until the 1980s.

GHPA has been monitoring the building for many years. Staff members have met with neighborhood representatives and interested investors to discuss the property's potential and address local concerns about any redevelopment proposals.

Heights Church of Christ, 1925
(Photo by David Bush)

Heights Church of Christ
1548 Heights Blvd. [map]

The congregation of Heights Church of Christ is embarking on an ambitious plan to restore its historic sanctuary at 1548 Heights Boulevard. The building, a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, was constructed in 1925 from a design by Alfred C. Finn, architect of the San Jacinto Monument. Estimated cost of the restoration is $325,000.

In recent years, church membership has dropped to between 20 and 30 active members. The congregation hopes by restoring its landmark building it can revive interest in the church and increase membership.

If you would like to contribute to the preservation effort, please contact Shelley Bennett.

Texas State Hotel, 1929, before and after restoration
(Photos by David Bush)

Texas State Hotel
720 Fannin St. [map]

Restoration has been completed on the historic Texas State Hotel, 720 Fannin St. The designated City of Houston landmark is being redeveloped as a Club Quarters hotel. Exterior renovation included removing decades of grime and graffiti, replicating the original copper canopies and replacing decorative pinnacles that had broken off over the years.

The building was designed by architect Joseph Finger, who also created the plans for Houston's City Hall. The hotel is notable for its Spanish Renaissance detailing and ornate metal canopies, which remain largely intact even though the building has been vacant since the mid-1980s.

The restoration adds another chapter to a colorful history that has involved some of Houston's most prominent citizens. In 1926, a group of New York investors purchased property at the corner of Fannin and Rusk, demolished several boarding houses and began building the 16-story San Jacinto Hotel. When the original developer went into receivership, Will C. Hogg bought the property with the goal of opening the hotel in time for the 1928 Democratic National Convention. The contractor was unable to meet the convention deadline and Jesse H. Jones took over the project. Renamed the Texas State Hotel, the 381-room property opened in September 1929.

For many years the hotel was the meeting place of Houston's Variety Club and home of the popular Round-Up Room restaurant.

Harris County Courthouse, 1910
(Photo by Jim Parsons)

Harris County Courthouse
301 Fannin St. [map]

Restoration of the Harris County Courthouse is a step closer to reality. The master plan for the project has been completed under the direction of Bricker + Cannady Architects. Texas Historical Commission funded the plan with $500,000 grant to Harris County through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. GHPA submitted a letter of support with the grant application to THC at the request of County Judge Robert Eckels.
When the new Civil Courts Building is completed in the 200 block of Caroline, the historic courthouse will be vacated. The master plan for the restoration includes reopening the central rotunda and reconstructing the major entry stairs on the east and west facades. The rotunda and exterior stairs were elimnated during remodelling in 1953. Funding for the restoration must be put in place before any work begins.
Al Davis, chairman of the Harris County Historical Commission and GHPA ex-officio board member, said, "The restored courthouse will be the centerpiece for downtown preservation."
The classical, domed building was completed in 1910 from a design by the Dallas firm Lang & Witchell. It is the fifth courthouse to occupy the square bounded by Fannin, Congress, San Jacinto and Preston since the Congress of the Republic of Texas designated Houston the county seat in 1837.

Rein Co. Building, 1928
(Photo by David Bush)

Rein Co. Building
3401 Allen Parkway [map]

New owners with a commitment to preservation have made it possible for GHPA to take the Rein Company Building off the Endangered Buildings List. A law firm has renovated the historic printing plant at 3401 Allen Parkway. The Spanish/Mediterranean-style building and its distinctive clock tower have been local landmarks since 1928. Part of the complex houses attorneys' offices and the remainder is available for lease.  
Architect Tim Cisneros of Cisneros Design Studio planned the renovation, which recreated architectural elements that were removed when the building was remodeled as a savings and loan branch office. The designs were based on historic photographs provided by the original owner's granddaughter. Landscape architect James Burnett also created plans based on the historic designs.

The Rein Company Building had been on GHPA's Endangered List since the neighboring Gulf Publishing Company Building (1928) was demolished for a high-rise condominium project. Developers had considered demolishing the Rein Company Building to expand the condominium's parking garage.
The Rein Company Building was designed by Howell & Thomas, Ohio architects who specialized in printing plants. The Rein Company's office and advertising studio occupied the two-story wing while presses were housed in the adjacent one-story plant.

This project was selected as one of GHPA's 2005 Good Brick Award winners. Learn more >

Federal Land Bank Building, 1929
(Photo by David Bush)

Federal Land Bank Building
430 Lamar Ave. [map]

The former Federal Land Bank Building, 430 Lamar Ave., is being redeveloped as an office building. ING Clarion Realty Services is in charge of the project that is transforming the 1929 structure, which adjoins ChevronTexaco Heritage Plaza. The architectural firm of Hedrick & Gottlieb designed the building with Spanish Renaissance detailing that complements the architecture of the nearby Julia Ideson Building (1926) of the Houston Public Library.

Union National Bank, 1912
(Photo by Jim Parsons)

Union National Bank Building (Hotel Icon)
220 Main St. [map]

The former Union National Bank Building, 220 Main St., has found new life as the Hotel Icon. Developer Randall Davis led the investment group that transformed the historic office building into a 135-room boutique hotel.

Union National Bank constructed the building in 1912. The design features freestanding Corinthian columns and arched openings with keystones carved in the likeness of Mercury, the Roman god of commerce. St. Louis architects Mauran, Russell & Crowell created the blueprints. The firm designed several buildings in Houston for Jesse H. Jones, who was a director of Union National Bank.

The Union National Bank Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of Houston's Main Street/Market Square Historic District.

Heights branch library, 1925
(Photo by David Bush)

Heights Branch, Houston Public Library
1302 Heights Blvd. [map]

The historic Heights Branch of the Houston Public Library, 1302 Heights Blvd., is open again after extensive renovations. The Texas Historic Landmark had been closed since February 2002. Both the original 1925 building and the 1979 addition have been refurbished. The project brought the library into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards while preserving its historic character. The original building was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by architect J.M. Glover. It is one of the first two branch libraries built in Houston.

Humble Tower, 1936
(Photo by David Bush)

Humble Tower
1212 Main St. [map]

Work is complete on the $70 million redevelopment of the former Humble Oil Co. headquarters at 1212 Main St. The project includes the 1921 Humble Building designed by New York architects Clinton & Russell, the adjacent 1936 Humble Tower designed by John F. Staub and Kenneth Franzheim, and the Travis wing, completed in 1940. The Humble Building set a precedent in 1932 when it became the first office building in Houston equipped with central air conditioning.

The complex, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, includes a 191-room Courtyard by Marriott in the original Humble Building, 82 luxury apartments in the 17-story Tower, and a 171-room Residence Inn by Marriott in the Travis wing. Plans also include 6,000 square feet of commercial space and a 252-car garage.

GHPA has been involved with the project almost from its inception, providing tax credit information to the developer. The project is a certified historic rehabilitation in accordance with preservation guidelines established by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The redevelopment is a partnership between Housing Horizons, LLC, a wholly-owned company of Kimberly-Clark Corp. of Dallas, and Leddy Ventures Ltd. of San Antonio.

Post-Dispatch Building, 1926
(Photo by David Bush)

Post-Dispatch Building
1100 Texas Ave. [map]

Meanwhile, at 1100 Texas Ave., another historic building associated with Humble Oil founder Ross Sterling has also been reborn as a hotel. A $50 million renovation has transformed the 1926 Post-Dispatch Building into The Magnolia. The 314-room luxury hotel is expected to generate 175 new jobs in downtown Houston.

After future Texas governor Ross Sterling sold his interest in Humble Oil to the Standard Oil Co., he used the proceeds to purchase the Post-Dispatch newspaper, later renamed The Houston Post. Sanguinet, Staats, Hedrick & Gottlieb designed the 22-story skyscraper to house the newspaper's editorial offices and the original studios of KPRC radio. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The redevelopment is a project of Steve Holtze Hotels of Denver. The company owns and operates Magnolia Hotels in restored historic buildings in Denver and Dallas. The Magnolia in Dallas is familiar to generations of Texans; it is located in the 1922 Magnolia Building, which is topped by the landmark neon Pegasus sign. The flying horse was the emblem of the Magnolia Petroleum Co., predecessor of Mobil Oil.



Greater Houston Preservation Alliance 712 Main Street, Suite 110 Houston, Texas 77002
phone 713.216.5000
fax 713.216.2143 executive director: Ramona Davis

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