Main Street and Rusk Avenue, Houston, Texas|
1927 to 1929
Architects: Alfred C. Finn, Principal Architect
Kenneth Franzheim and J.E.R. Carpenter
Estimated Cost: $3,500,000
Height: 430 ft.
Style: Characteristic of 1920s
American skyscrapers in Northern cities, the Gulf Building is described in the
1990 AIA Houston Architectural Guide as having a "crypto-Gothic" tower
profile with Art Deco ornamentation.
Building by Night"
Things You Might Not Know About the Gulf Building
The house of Charlotte Baldwin Allen, wife of one of the founders of Houston,
had originally been located on the site. By the time of Mrs. Allen's death, in
1895, the neighborhood was already in transition from residential to commercial
- Two annexes,
one of 13 stories and the other of 16, were added after World War II but are freestanding
structures and not attached to the building proper.
the 37th level was a viewing platform which housed the Jesse H. Jones Aeronautical
Beacon. This beacon was described as two searchlights, one pointed in a vertical
position emitting 15,000 candlepower and another pointed in a horizontal position
emitting 8,000 candlepower. It was touted as an aid to government mail planes.
- Also mounted
on the roof of the building was an observation deck equipped with a telescope.
It was said that on a clear day Galveston
was easily visible.
1965 to 1974 a 53 foot high rotating sign with the name GULF was mounted atop
the building with 4,700 square feet of display area and 7,350 lineal feet of neon
tubes, like those found in old department stores or in drive-up bank windows were
installed in the building. Leather pouches from this system are said to be on
display on the 17th and 19th floors.
The great window above the Travis Street entrance, with its stained-glass depiction
of the Battle
of San Jacinto, was installed in 1960.
It was the tallest building west of the Mississippi River until 1931 (surpassed
by a Kansas City building), and the tallest building in Houston
until 1963 when it was surpassed by the Humble Building.
The three original tenants were to be the National Bank of Commerce, the Gulf
Oil companies, and the Sakowitz Brothers store.
The Gulf Building was one of only two Art Deco skyscrapers erected in Houston.
Gulf Building / JP Morgan / Chase Building
Main Street Entrance
TE Photo 2005
Gulf Building c. 1930s
building as photographed by Lauren Meyers, 2006
Building with neighbors - seen from the SW
TE Photo 2006
Building and the nearby Niels
Esperson Building remain two of Houston's most prestigious office buildings.
The lower six stories of the structure are faced with limestone, there are three
principal entrances to the Gulf Building, two from Main Street and one from Travis
Street. Along the crosswalks of the lobby are eight frescoes illustrating historic
Texas scenes. A central air-conditioning system was installed around 1939." -
from The Texas Historic Sites Atlas|
In 1987 Texas Commerce Bank (the
present owner) spent 50 million dollars on rehabilitation.
The Texas Historic Sites Atlas, The Handbook of Texas and the AIA Houston Architectural
Guide - Text by Stephen Fox
Alfred C. Finn c. 1950
man who built Houston"
Photo courtesy Austin County Historical Society
C. Finn Alfred
C. Finn, principal architect was originally from Bellville,
Texas. Sent to work in the Houston office of Sanguinet and Staats in 1913
he opened his own office two years later and commenced upon a long career, becoming
known as "The Man who Built Houston."
Finn projects included the Houston Light Guard Armory, the Lamar Hotel, the Metropolitan
and State theaters in Houston (both demolished), the second Jefferson Davis Hospital
(razed in 1989), the Federal Building in Galveston,
Jacinto Monument, the Brenham Country Club, the Simon Theater in Brenham
(undergoing restoration in 2006), a high-rise bank in Tyler,
Texas and the former San Jacinto High School in Houston (now an Houston Community
Courtesy Austin County Historical Society
Gulf Oil building Houston Texas
Thank you so much for Texas
Esapes. My family and I have planned many day trips from there.
Oil Building photo was taken by my Grandfather W.W. Bryant sometime in the early
1970's. I found the picture in a box full of photos he and my Grandmother had
left to us. Unfortunately gulf air wreaked havoc on it. I restored it to this
condition using photoshop. Best regards. - Walter S. Fuller, Conroe, Texas,
August 13, 2010
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