3400 Montrose: Piece of Houston History Going...Going....Gone
"What was significant about the 3400 block of Montrose was the concentration of mid-rise office buildings and a multistory apartment building there between the early fifties and early sixties," Fox explains.
But 3400 wasn't the first mid-rise building on Montrose Boulevard. The Plaza Apartment Hotel opened at 5020 Montrose in 1926, and it became home to many of the city's movers and shakers, including Rice University President Edgar O. Lovett. It was modeled on the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City. It has since been renovated for office and medical occupants.
Three decades later, the original two-story structure at 3400 Montrose was built to house the Southern States Life Insurance Company. Along with some other moneyed local financial players, Southern States president L.E. Cowling filed to organize the Montrose National Bank on June 6, 1955, and the group received its charter May 31, 1956, just as the eight-story addition to the original structure was completed. (Cowling and his sons were also the developers of Kiddieland, an amusement park that opened in 1957.)
Fox notes that "the mid-block mid-rise building that used to be diagonally across the intersection from the Southern States Life building was demolished to build the Walgreens. The mid-rise apartment was transformed into the Consulate General of China."
Montrose National Bank eventually became Central Bank and left the 3400 Montrose location in 1961 in favor of a new downtown office at 2100 Travis. L.E. Cowling was part of the powerful but secretive group of wealthy Houstonians known informally as the Suite 8F Group. He eventually found himself entangled in one of the biggest stock swindles of the late sixties for manipulating the sale of shares of Alabama Life Insurance Company, a company the courts eventually ruled that he controlled. Members of the group would later lie near the heart of the Enron meltdown.
(Check back in a few days. We'll have another blog about the shenanigans in the penthouse.)