The 1914 building was birthplace of U of Houston, HCC
HOUSTON – The San Jacinto Memorial Building, the nearly 100-year-old neo-classical and Art Deco masterwork on the campus of Houston Community College’s Central College, now joins the list of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
The National Park Service in Washington, D.C. approved inclusion of the three-story building on the National Register on December 4, 2012. The building, constructed in 1914, is currently undergoing a $60 million dollar restoration and renovation. It is expected to reopen in late fall 2013.
“It is a fitting recognition of a facility that has spawned so many productive citizens for the city of Houston,” says Dr. William W. Harmon, President, HCC Central College. “We look forward to returning to the building and educating future generations of students.”
The San Jacinto Memorial Building’s strong architectural design and its educational significance to Houston were the chief considerations for its listing on the National Register, says Carlyn Hammons, historian with the Texas Historical Commission.
“The building is associated with some of the best architects of their time, and it is educationally significant,” says Hammons. “The National Register designation will bring a certain amount of good recognition to the building.”
The San Jacinto Memorial Building is the second building at HCC Central to be placed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The college’s Heinen Theatre, built in 1925 as the home of Congregation Beth Israel of Houston, was listed on the National Registry in 1984. Both buildings join 250 other Houston-area properties and more than 3,000 structures in Texas on the National Register, which was created in 1966 and serves as the nation’s official list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation.
Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture, the prime consultant for the San Jacinto historic structure report to the Texas Historical Commission, hired SWCA Environmental Consultants and historian Anna Mod to research the historical significance of the building. The San Jacinto building proposal was reviewed and approved this past September, then sent to the National Park Service for final approval and listing, Hammons says.
Kim A. Williams, AIA, principal with the firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture, says the San Jacinto renovation continues the building’s innovative legacy. “In 1914, Houston was on the cutting edge of education reform and new school design,” says Williams, “and today that commitment to state-of-the-art programs and facilities continues through the HCC rehabilitation of the San Jacinto Memorial Building.”
Originally constructed as South End Junior High School in 1914, the massive concrete structure, featuring monumental Doric columns, was considered a state-of-the-art facility with innovative teaching strategies. Local educators hoped its design and the addition of a wider selection of academic, elective and vocational courses would encourage Houston students to stay in school and graduate.
To alleviate overcrowding, the Houston Independent School District converted the junior high school into a high school in 1926, and built six other high schools around Houston. Master architects Hedrick & Gottlieb and Joseph Finger designed two wings in the same design style as the original building in 1928 and 1936, respectively, which strengthened the building’s architectural impact.
The building is the birthplace of several well-known Houston institutions of higher education. In 1927, the San Jacinto building served as the home of the newly created Houston Junior College, which became a four-year college (later known as the University of Houston) in 1934.
In 1970, the final class graduated from San Jacinto Senior High School. Houston Independent School District’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts took over the building in 1970, and a year later, in 1971, Houston Community College began holding classes in what became known as the San Jacinto Memorial Building.
The list of famous individuals who graduated from San Jacinto H.S. is also significant. It includes legendary television newsman Walter Cronkite, billionaire businessman Howard Hughes, race-car driver Joseph “A. J.” Foyt Jr., renowned Houston heart surgeon Dr. Denton Cooley and former Houston mayor Kathy Whitmire.
The building is beloved by its alumni; the San Jacinto H.S. Alumni Association is an active organization with hundreds of graduates as members, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s.
As the centerpiece of HCC Central’s campus, the San Jacinto building is part of a larger, college-wide renovation of the campus and surrounding streets. Classes are expected to resume in the facility in November 2013.
Director of Public Relations and Student Communications
HCC Central College
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