Category Archives: Other Buildings

Original DePelchin Faith Home Building (1913)

As an organization, the DePelchin Faith Home (now the DePelchin Children’s Center) dates back even further than 1913. Houstonian Kezia Payne DePelchin was born in 1828, in the Madeira Islands. She lost both her mother and father by the time she was eight, and was raised from that age, in Houston, by her father’s second wife, an English governess. She married during the Civil War, but the marriage failed. Immune to yellow fever, she spent many years as a nurse. She later became the first female matron at the Bayland Orphans’ Home for Boys.

DePelchin founded the “Faith Home” in 1892. While the home’s original purpose seems to have been to fund the care of two homeless children (elsewhere described as “three unwanted babies”), the home was organized to provide day care for the children of working mothers, charging only those mothers who could afford to pay.

DePelchin’s September 1892 report of donations to the “Faith Home” notes: “We have eight besides the matron, although they come and go. Per week, 75 cents; per day, 10 cents. None turned away. . . . This is for little children.” The report also mentions that “one of our little ones died and the cemetery company gave it a resting place.”

DePelchin herself died just a few months later, in January 1893. In that same month, in honor of her memory and to carry on her work, 100 Houston women organized the “DePelchin Faith Home”, which continued operating primarily as an orphanage.

In 1913, Jesse Jones commissioned a building for the orphanage at 2700 Albany, in the Fourth Ward. Jones also led the fundraising for the project, raising $55,000. The neo-Mediterranean-style three-story stucco building was designed by the St. Louis architecture firm Mauran & Russell, which also designed the Rice Hotel and the Hotel Galvez. The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance notes that “[i]ts broad eaves and sleeping porches were important features in the days before air conditioning when dozens of children lived here.”

Jones continued to raise money for the home after it was built. Copies of some of his fundraising letters, including letters to “Messrs. Neuhaus & Co.”, “Messrs. Sakowitz Bros.”, and Howard Hughes are posted on the DePelchin Children Center’s website. While all are very straightforward, one of the more humorous letters, to “Mr. Bassett Blakely”, reads: “You have not sent me your check for Faith Home. For all I know, you are responsible for some of these unfortunate children, and whether you are or not, you have got to kick in just the same. So come on across for $2,000. I asked you for $1,000 the first time, but you did not hear me.”

The orphanage relocated to its current Memorial Drive location in 1938, and the Albany building was later purchased by Lorraine Priester, who ran a club on the first floor called either the Rams Club or Ram’s Club (depending on the source) from the mid-1950’s to 1970. However, Priester carried on DePelchin’s philanthropic tradition by using income from the Rams Club to care for the elderly residents to whom she gave rooms on the upper floors of the building.

The Rams Club was an upscale private supper club frequented by leading Houston politicians. Houstorian commenter Elizabeth Rinker recalls it as a “fantastic place” featuring “dancing to Jose Ortiz’s orchestra,” and remembers her father being given the microphone “for several songs each and every time we went.” (Pianist and band leader Jose Ortiz was popular in the area as early as the 1940’s – a 1948 newpaper article describes Ortiz and Victor Lombardo (Guy Lombardo’s younger brother) playing together at the Balinese Room in Galveston. Ortiz’s history requires a separate posting.)

Other generations of Houstonians remember the building for the clubs that came later. In the 1970’s, a gay dance club called The Farmhouse was located there. The Farmhouse later became The Officer’s Club, popular during the disco age, and supposedly once visited by Robert Plant.

In the 1990’s, the 1913 building housed the memorable music club Emo’s – and, for a time, the after-hours club Club Some. (In 2000, the Houston Press reported that the building had been sold and that Club Some had already vacated, but that the general manager of Emo’s, which had been there for more than 10 years, promised that “[w]e’ll always be here.”) Reportedly, the swimming pool that Emo’s patrons will recall as a depository for empty beer bottles, remains.

While many Houstonians were sad to see Emo’s leave in 2002, the transformation of the Fourth Ward to “Midtown” was already underway and property values were on the rise, threatening the aging building’s existence.

The former DePelchin Faith Home building would have yet another patroness in Linda Bramlett Stewart. Stewart, along with her partners in HHN Homes LP, acquired the property in 2001 and renovated it to house condominiums. Stewart’s grandmother lived across the street from the building, which is now known as Villa Serena, and she remembered it from visits as a child.

More information:

M. McDermott Hamm, “Saving a Slice of Houston History – Good Brick Awards Honor Diverse Preservation Efforts”, Houston Chronicle, Dec. 26, 2003.

GHPA, 2004 Good Brick Awards, HHN Homes LP for Villa Serena.

J. Mathieu, “Pam’s Last Stand”, Houston Press, Apr. 25, 2002.

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Coombs Park and Heights Natatorium

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[1919 – Heights Natatorium – Houston Heights Association – Photo taken by Hawthorn Ramage, in about 1913, and donated to the Heights Museum Collection by Ms. Verna Topkins]

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[1909 – Ad from The Jewish Herald]

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[1895 map, showing Heights Blvd. on west of park, and Harvard, Cortlandt, Arlington, Columbia, and Oxford Streets intersecting with park from north]

Coombs Park (sometimes called Forest Park) was an amusement park that the Coombs family built around the turn of the last century on land they owned in the Houston Heights, just north of White Oak Bayou. The Coombs house itself was a sprawling mansion on the southern side of the bayou, in an elevated area that became known as “Coombs Terrace”. On the east side of the intersection of Heights Boulevard and 3rd Street (approximately where Heights Boulevard now intersects with the eastbound feeder road for Interstate 10), north of the bayou, E.L. Coombs dug a lake that featured live alligators and trick high-diving. Describing other features of the park, Sister M. Agatha’s History of the Heights states:

Sunday afternoon was the park’s big day. At three o’clock every Sunday, a Mrs. Roaming (significant name) went up in a balloon, with a monkey for a companion. Sometimes the monkey went up alone. The balloon had a basket and when the lady got ready to come down, she pulled a valve and gradually as the gas escaped, the balloon descended. When the monkey went up alone, the valve was fixed so that the gas was gradually leaking before the ascension. There was a track in the park for goat racing, and the children brought their pets, harnessed to various little wagons or traps, and took part in the race for prizes. Mr. Coombs also provided a zoo with all kinds of animals for the special delight of the children. Between his home and the bayou, extending back to Yale Street, he had an ostrich farm and children of the Heights loved to go near the fence to see the birds. These, too, were for the park.

In 1895, on the banks of the bayou at the southern end of Harvard Street, Coombs built a natatorium. Describing an early photograph of the natatorium, Sister Agatha reported: “Coombs built in the flamboyant style of Coney Island’s heyday. The picture shows a pleasure pier, two and a half stories, with dressing rooms for each floor, like galleries around the pool. The impressive building was topped off with one large round tower and two smaller turrets, each waving a flag.” The Galveston Daily News reported on April 12, 1895 that: “Houston’s new natatorium at Coombs park was thrown open to the public today, and in two hours after the opening every bathing suit in the house was out, and the jolly bathers were enjoying the fresh water. The tank has a capacity of 200,000 gallons of water and is 80×40 feet square, having a depth when full of from 4 to 9 feet of water.” The opening coincided with a Knights of Pythias convention at Coombs Park, and the same edition of the Daily News reported that “[t]he large pavilion is handsomely decorated with bunting, flags, and monograms, bidding the Knights of Pythias welcome,” and that many of the Knights had an opportunity to enjoy the “refreshing waters” of the natatorium.

When the original natatorium building burned, a smaller structure (pictured above) was built in its place. After E.L. Coombs died, the property on which the natatorium was located changed hands a number of times. The natatorium survived Coombs Park, and was still operating as late as 1942. The natatorium was filled in at some point thereafter, however, and there is now a self-storage facility located on the spot.

William L. Foley Building and House

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The building now called the Foley Building or Kennedy-Foley Building was built by John Kennedy, an early Houston merchant and Indian trader, in 1860. It served as a Confederate armory during the Civil War and was half-destroyed by fire in 1888.

Kennedy later gave the building to his son-in-law, William L. Foley, who has been referred to as the “dean of Houston dry goods merchants.” He was the “rich uncle” who, in 1900, gave Foley brothers Pat and James Foley the money to open the “Foley Brothers” store that would grow into the Foley’s department store chain.

Foley operated the W.L. Foley Dry Goods Co. in the building from 1896 until his death, in 1925. His children managed the business at that location until 1948. An advertisement in the November 20, 1897 edition of the Houston Daily Post announced a “Special Sale of Gloves and Hosiery” at “William L. Foley – 214, 216, 218 Travis Street”. The gloves listed are priced from 47 cents to $1.50, and the hosiery – “Quantity Limited. Only four pairs to each customer.” – is priced from 19 cents to 43 cents. The following day’s paper – a Sunday paper – contained a near full-page ad for the store, and competing ads from companies such as the Levy Brothers Dry Goods Company, Mistrot Bros. & Co., and Kiam Clothiers.

The Foley Building has more recently been home to the “12 Spot” bar, which closed in 2006, but is rumored to be re-opening in 2007.

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[Parasol Project at Foley House]

The William L. Foley House was built in 1904. The house was moved from its original location (704 Chenevert) to its present location on the 700 block of Avenida de las Americas. It sits next door to the Arthur B. Cohen house, built in 1905. Located between the George R. Brown Convention Center and Minute Maid Park, an area that has undergone considerable changes in recent years, the houses were at one time scheduled for demolition. In early 2007, however, the mayor announced plans to convert the two structures into a regional heritage tourism center.

The Foley House is pictured above during a 2006-2007 sculpture installation called the “Parasol Project”.

More information:
Texas Historical Commission entry for Foley Building
HAIF thread mentioning the Foley Building
HAIF thread discussing 12 Spot

Sam Houston Hall & 1928 Democratic National Convention

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[sloanegallery.com]

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[U.T. Center for American History]

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[sloanegallery.com]

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[sloanegallery.com]

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[sloanegallery.com]

Before there was a Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, and before there was a Sam Houston Coliseum or Music Hall, there was Sam Houston Hall. Sam Houston Hall stood on the same ground later occupied by the Coliseum, Music Hall, and (now) Hobby Center, but stood for less than a decade. The 20,000-person hall was built in a hurry for the 1928 Democratic National Convention – it took only 64 days to complete. (The Democratic presidential candidate in 1928 was Alfred Smith, who lost to Herbert Hoover.) The “official photograph” of the 1928 Democratic National Convention shows thousands of attendees. At the time, the plot of land on which Sam Houston Hall was built was directly adjacent to Houston’s Fire Station Number 2, as shown in some of the photos above. The hall was razed in 1936.

A marker outside the Hobby Center commemorates the building that once stood there.

Sadly, a lynching occurred in Houston during the convention – an event that TIME Magazine referred to as “Houston’s Shame”.

More information:

TIME Magazine, “To Houston”, Jan. 23, 1928
TIME Magazine, “The Democracy”, July 2, 1928
TIME Magazine, “Conventionale”, July 9, 1928

City Hall and Market House

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[1872 – First or Second City Hall and Market House (drawing is dated 1872, before the construction of the second building, but the building looks like the second building)]

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[1873 – Second City Hall and Market House – Notes accompanying the 1873 Bird’s-Eye Map of Houston suggest this was the second building]

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[1873 – Second City Hall and Market House – Notes accompanying the 1873 Bird’s-Eye Map of Houston suggest this was the second building]

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[Second City Hall and Market House]

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[Third City Hall and Market House]

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[Third City Hall and Market House – 1891 Panoramic Map of Houston]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House (1907) – Rootsweb.com]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House (1908) – Rootsweb.com]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House (1917) – Rootsweb.com]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House – U.T. Center for American History]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House – Rootsweb.com]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House – George Fuermann Texas and Houston Collection, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries]

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[Fourth City Hall and Market House – Sloanegallery.com]


[Fourth City Hall and Market House serving as bus station – WPA Writers’ Program, Houston, a History and Guide]

Market Square is bounded by Travis, Milam, Congress and Preston streets. The block, which is now a park, was the site of four different successive buildings known as City Hall and Market House. The first was built there in 1841, the second in 1873, and the third in 1876. The Houston Daily Post reported in November 1897 that:

A force of carpenters, plasterers, etc., were at work yesterday in putting the market house in shape for the industrial exhibit that is to be made there during the Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Festival, December 6 to 11. This will be a very much needed improvement, and it is fortunate that something has occurred to bring it about, as the city hall has for a long time been in a most unsightly and dilapidated condition.

The fourth City Hall and Market House on Market Square stood the longest – from 1904 to 1960. However, when City Hall moved to its present location in 1939, the building was converted to a bus station. The fire bell from the third City Hall and Market House (which was destroyed by fire in 1903), and the clock from the fourth (built in 1904), have been incorporated into the Market Square Clock.