fpc073.jpg (45776 bytes)This 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.

The designers 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 downtown area.

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 1911.

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.





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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