The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Nineteenth Century Buildings
We tend to tear buildings down here in Houston. Sadly, new construction seems to win over preservation most of the time. There are a few buildings that have stood since the 1800s in the downtown area. Some are standing empty, but several are occupied and home to offices, restaurants or bars. Here's our list of our favorites.
All photos by Olivia Flores Alvarez, unless otherwise noted The Kiam Building
10. Kiam Building, 320 Main Street
1893, H. C. Holland
Originally home to the Ed Kiam clothing store, the five-story red brick building with a distinctive bull-nose corner bay at 320 Main Street was designed in 1893 by H. C. Holland, a relatively unknown English-born architect that worked for a short while in Houston. In 1981, the building was restored by Barry Moore Architects but the restoration kept most of the original features intact.
The Kennedy Corner Building
9. Kennedy Corner Building, 218 Travis Street
1889, Eugene T. Heiner
Two fires -- one in 1860 and another in 1988 -- have gutted the Kennedy Corner Building, but the structure's still standing (seen with the red canopy above). The 1988 fire exposed ground-floor cast iron columns which were restored by then owners artist Lee Benner, Peter Garcia and Larry Wilsford who opened the Twelve Spot Bar in 2001. In 2009, the building became the Hearsay bar. (The corner once held a four-bay range, including 214, 216, 218 and 220 Travis. The 220 Travis building on the lot south of the structure unfortunately was demolished in 1992.)
8. W. L. Foley Dry Goods Company Building, 214-216 Travis Street
1889, Eugene T. Heiner
Next door at 214 and 216 Travis is the W. L. Foley Dry Goods Company Building (on the right in the photo above) . Stretching over two bays, the structure features High Victorian constructive ornament including arched window heads of brick, and frieze bands. The building was damaged in 1976 and 1988 by fires, but in 1995 several Houston preservationists including art dealer Doug Lawing, restaurateurs Dan Tidwell and Jamie Mize rehabilitated the structure (Guy Hagstette was the architect on the project). Now a mixed commercial and residential use building, it features several elements that were typical in downtown Houston.
7. The Sweeney & Coombs Building, 310 Travis
1880, Eugene T. Heiner
In the 1990s, Scott Arnold, a lawyer, rehabilitated what was originally the Sweeney & Coombs Building, home to a jewelry store (the company later relocated across the street). Law offices are still located there.
The ornate facade features beautiful windows on the upper floors and a slightly less decorated storefront on the ground floor. A restrained color palate keeps the facade from looking overly fussy these days.
Part of a row of similar looking historic buildings, the Sweeney & Coombs Building is easily the most well rehabilitated and currently attractive.
The building now faces a Metro Rail Line stop.