eight story, neoclassical commercial building was the first
steel-framed structure in Houston, and when completed in 1905
was as tall as any building in Texas. The First National Bank
building was the first Houston building designed by the architectural
firm of Sanguinet & Staats. This statewide architectural
firm designed many skyscrapers throughout Texas during the first
two decades of this century. Additionally, Staats were considered
to be the state's foremost skyscraper architect. Displaying
a wide variety of styles, many of the firm's buildings are listed
on, or nominated to, the National Register, including the Anderson
Building in Fort Worth, the Wilson Building in Dallas, the Post-Dispatch
building and several houses along Courtland Place in Houston.
The building is located on an important corner in the lower
downtown area, once the commercial center of town. The First
National Bank occupied and managed the building for fifty-one
years and during that time played a significant role in the
growth and development of Houston.
of the First National Bank Building, Sanguinet and Staats, had
been in business since 1903. Sanguinet had practiced in Fort
Worth since 1883, and Staats had worked for James Riley Gordon
until being hired by Sanguient in 1898. Sanguinet and Staats
quickly built a statewide practice and soon became known as
"the state's foremost skyscraper architects." Staats
was generally the designer in the firm, and Sanguinet was the
businessman. They worked throughout Texas, building the tallest
structures in Fort Worth, Midland, San Antonio, and Houston.
In 1911, the firm completed the 22-story Amicable Life Insurance
Building in Waco, the tallest building in the Southwest until
1922. The firm also ushered in a new era of architectural practice.
Rather than the typical small office, they established branches
in the cities throughout the state and aggressively marketed
their firm. They were among the first in Texas to gather a large
office of teams consisting of architects, engineers, and support
people, creating a professional staff ideally suited for the
complicated business of building skyscrapers.
Sanguinet and Staats set up their Houston office in 1903 with
a commission for the First National Bank Building at 201 Main.
This steel-framed structure, the firm's first tall building,
was probably the earliest "skyscraper" in Texas by
turn-of-the-century standards. Sanguinet and Staats were in
an ideal situation to take advantage of the city's growth between
1909 and 1913 and designed eight multi-story buildings in the
Sanguinet and Staats took in Richard D. Gottlieb as managing
partner in 1913. Additionally, in 1921, the parent company in
Fort Worth acquired another named partner, Wyatt C. Hedrick.
Hedrick, a native of Virginia, was an architect and engineer
with his own practice in Fort Worth from 1914, until he joined
Sanguinet and Staats in 1921. The Houston office became known
as Sanguient, Staats, Hedrick , and Gottlieb. Between 1921 and
1926, the firm designed and built five additional tall office
buildings in Houston and made substantial additions to earlier
ones. These included the Federal Reserve Branch (1921-1922),
Houston Cotton Exchange (1922-1924), Sam Houston Hotel (1924),
Medical Arts Building (1925-1926), and the Post-Dispatch Building.
The L-shaped First National Bank building housed banking facilities
on the first floor and in the basement, and let offices on the
upper seven floors 8,750 square feet per floor. The building,
completed in nine months at the cost of $228,000, was one of
the three tallest buildings in Texas.
B.A. Shepherd and T. M. Bagby organized the First National Bank
in 1866. Shepherd took over as president on July 1, 1867, and
for 24 years guided the bank to a position of financial stability.
When he died in 1891 his son-in-law, Alexander P. Root succeeded
him and led the bank throughout the years of its building program.
With growing capital and healthy assets, the bank bought a lot
(50 feet by 125 feet) located on the southeast corner of Main
and Franklin in June of 1903. Sanguinet & Staats were commissioned
to design the new building, and by April 1904 a contract had
been awarded. The office space was fully occupied by mid-1905.
In August 1908, two adjacent buildings belonging to the failed
House Bank were purchased and razed. With the additional 50-foot
frontage on Main Street, the narrow entry facade could be widened
to 75 feet. This addition, executed in 1909 in the same style
as the original by Sanguinet & Staats, doubled the size
of the structure. Another small annex was added to the rear
In 1918 the bank purchased the property behind the building
on the corner of Franklin and Fannin giving the bank space to
double its size. The new addition was opened in 1925. This last
addition of reinforced concrete along with the renovation of
the older section of the building reportedly cost $850,000.
The First National Bank occupied this building without further
change until 1956 when it merged with City National Bank. At
this time, the building was purchased by T.J. Bettes, a mortgage
loan company, and became known as the Bettes Building. Leasing
agent, Hawkins & Keith advertised the building as "ideal
for those requiring executive offices and suites in the downtown
area". The building was later acquired and occupied by
Lomas & Nettleton, also mortgage bankers. Harris County
purchased the building from Lomas & Nettleton and in 1999
Garvey Builders, Inc. purchased the building from Harris County.
The building has since been renamed "The Franklin Lofts"
by developer Frank
Garvey. This historic neoclassical building's exterior
is virtually unchanged since it was built in 1905. The Great
Hall, extending a full city block from Main to Fannin features
35 foot high Corinthian columns leading to the intricately decorated
original plaster ceiling. The first floor and mezzanine level
is the site of The Corinthian. The upper floors have been currently
being transformed into 66 luxury loft condominiums ranging in
size from 950 to 3700 square feet. An adjacent eight story parking
facility was built to accommodate both residents and tenants. In 2003 the Houston Preservation Alliance awarded the "Good Brick Award" for restoration to The Corinithian.