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Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Historic Heights Buildings

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The Heights area, now a mixed use neighborhood just north of downtown, was originally Houston Heights, a working-class suburb to the nearby city of Houston. Nebraska investors, the Omaha & South Texas Land Company, developed the area in 1891 and despite its blue-collar roots, the area boasted several large, expansive homes including several along Heights, the area's main thoroughfare. The remaining grand homes and bungalows are being rapidly replaced by new home construction, which means that what's there today might not be there tomorrow. Before the Heights landscape changes any further, we want to point some of our favorite historic buildings.

10. Heights City Hall and Fire Station 107 W. 12th Street, 1915

The Heights City Hall and Fire Station, designed by A. C. Pigg and completed in 1915, is an early example of consolidated municipal office buildings that were common in Texas in the 1920s. The two-story brick building (seen above) currently houses the Houston Heights Association. After leasing the building for a time, the Association purchased the building from the City of Houston and rehabilitated the structure in the late 1990s.

9. Heights State Bank Building / Rockefeller Hall 3620 Washington Avenue, 1925

The classically detailed and somewhat somber building was designed by Joseph Finger and completed in 1925. In 1978 Taft Architects rehabilitated the Heights State Bank Building into Rockefeller Hall, an intimate and extremely stylish nightclub for J. B. Cirincione and Sanford Criner. Musical notables such as Tito Puente, Tower of Power, Tuck and Patti graced the tiny stage while the club was active. The rehab managed to keep the bank's small scale grandeur intact. The building, which still occasionally used as a special events venue, anchors the intersection of Heights Boulevard and Washington Avenue.

8. Houston Public Library, Heights Branch 1302 Heights Boulevard, 1925

Architect J. M. Glover designed the Heights Branch of the Houston Public Library, in continuous use since its opening in 1925. One of the first two branch libraries in the city, the Italian Renaissance styled building's most dominate exterior element is the entrance bay which was constructed in cast stone. In 1979 Ray Bailey Architects rehabilitated the building and added a new extension. The extension's clean, modern lines compliment the original building.

7. Banta House 119 E. 20th Street, 1918

As with many private homes in the Heights area, the Banta House has been pressed into commercial use and is now an office building. The two-story building was completed in 1918 as a private residence for candy manufacturer Jonathan E. Banta. The brick structure is notable for its two level concrete porch, made of thick, tapered columns and cut out balusters, which wraps around the entire building. This story continues on the next page.

6. Mansfield House 1802 Harvard Street, 1899

The Victorian villa known as Mansfield House was built in 1899. It echoes a similarly styled Milroy Home at 1102 Heights (seen later on this list). Thanks to architect Bart Truxillo's careful restoration the Mansfield House is one of the few truly grand homes remaining in the Heights area.

The view of the home from the street is blocked by lush, overgrown landscaping and both the structure and grounds seem much smaller than they are.

5. Zagst House 347 W. 20th Street, 1904

Originally owned by carpenter and builder Stephen R. Zagst, the two-story five bedroom, three bathroom wooden home at 327 W. 20th isn't in prime condition but the grace and charm of the 1904 structure remains clearly evident. The curved veranda, present on both levels, is the home's most dominate feature. Other exterior decorative elements are minimal. Unlike many other homes in the area that were constructed at the turn of the 20th century, the Zagst house has retained its large yard. The grounds are a little larger than half an acre.

4. Reed House 308 Cordell Street, 1910

Frank R. Reed, a plasterer by profession, built his family home with its advertising potential in mind. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom house is surrounded by its original low fence.

This story continues on the next page.

3. Schleser House 1123 Harvard, 1912

The Alamo-styled bungalow was built by brick contractor Joseph Schleser as his family residence in the early 1900s. The structure, with its elaborate contrasting exterior trim, is considered the most notable structure of its kind in the city. It's also among the most intact rehabilitated homes in the Heights area.

2. Drumheller House 1525 Cortland Street, 1911

The three-bedroom, two bathroom Brumheller House, completed in 1911 is among the area's most impressive Craftsman bungalows. Dark wood trim stands out against the structure's light gray exterior. Cement steps leading to the front porch, which runs along the entire front of the home, are home to two stone lions. Minimal landscaping allow the home's understated and functional design to dominate the property.

1. Milroy House 1102 Heights Boulevard, 1896

Built by developer Henry F. MacGregor in 1896, the home at the top of our list is likely an adaptation of Design No. 30 in Cottage Souvenir No. 2, a 1891 pattern book by Knoxville architect George F. Barber. MacGregor sold the home to John A. Milroy, one of officials associated with Omaha & South Texas Land Company. A landmark in the area, it's the only remaining original structure of dozens of grand homes that lined Heights Boulevard most of which were owned by company officials. A large wrap-around porch and distinctive tower are among the home's most notable architectural elements. The large grounds, surrounded by a low wooden fence, contain a large Magnolia tree.

Special thanks to AIA Houston and Gerald Moorhead, FAIA for the photographs used in the this post.

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