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Houston Center History and Randomness


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I've started this thread to try and capture the history of Houston Center that's not really related to construction or development of a given building. Maps, descriptions of acquisition, people involved, etc.

Here's a start. The name on nearly all of the documents I've found on the acquisition of the properties for Houston Center have George R Bolin as the trustee. He died in 2020, here's an excerpt from his obituary https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/houston-tx/george-bolin-9191588:

George was a licensed Texas Real Estate Broker since 1958, and he kept his license active for 61 years. Appointed by Gov. John B. Connally, Jr. to serve six years as a member of the Texas Real Estate Commission, including 2 years as its chairman, he was active in the commercial real estate brokerage and development business at various firms bearing his name. One of George's greatest relationships was with Trammell Crow. He helped Trammell assemble his first Houston land, 52 acres belonging to RE “Bob” Smith. Trammell waited until the last day of the option to decide to buy it, so George was to fly to Dallas last minute to get the contract signed. He missed his flight (terrifying for a 24-year-old facing a career-changing deal), but Trammell told him by phone, “Just put my signature on the contract” and so, with a shaky hand, he did. Suddenly, his small firm was the biggest real estate company in Houston, exclusively representing Trammell Crow and Gerald Hines. Then in 1969 he put together and led the team of brokers and attorneys that secretly assembled 33 contiguous blocks in downtown Houston for Texas Eastern Transmission Corp. It was cloak-and-dagger under his own name – he officed out of a secret space through the computer room at Texas Eastern headquarters overlooking the target area, and the company told everyone the team were IRS agents. It took nine months to acquire the tracts from 155 different owners, and remains to this day the largest single assemblage of property in a downtown urban core in the US. The area is now known as and encompasses Houston Center, Discovery Green, Hilton Americas, and the George R Brown Convention Center.

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Here's a block number map for Downtown with as many blocks as I could identify from property records. I think there were excess properties purchased, as Houston Center bought part of Block 115, which is North of Minute Maid, and I don't see where Block 289 fits n. Blocks 122, 123, and 248 disappeared into the GRB and Discovery Green, and under Avenidas de las Americas.



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I ran across this picture of the East side of Downtown from some time in the 70's Lots of parking lots, but notice they are all full. There weren't many garages in those days, and the surface lots were where the office workers parked. I think that was also the glory days of Houtran, the horrifically bad bus service Houston had. This picture shows the streets where the GRB and Avenida de las Americas are now. Someone asked about that the other day. At the bottom, you can see the old ramp that came off of 59 on to Texas.

The tall black building is 2 Houston Center, which opened in 1974


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I am working on a side project on the  blocks that made up the Houston Center  purchases. The data below is for Block 97, and is a summary of the purchases made to assemble the blocks. The formatting is awful, as it is coming from an Excel spreadsheet. Let me know if this is interesting, and I'll keep moving on to the other blocks. I will probably do that anyway, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

Date Seller Description Notes
8/26/1969 H S Autrey individually and as independent executor under the will of Selma A Lewis and as trustee of the RL Autrey Trust, Robert L Autrey, and Clare K Rolloson Undivided 5/6 interest in lots 3, 4, 5, North 10x100 feet of lot 2 lot 11 except for West 2 1/2 feet strip conveyed to Ike Kaiser 8/25/1928 R L Autrey was Secretary/Treasurer of Magnolia Brewery
Herbert Spencer Autrey was son of RL Autrey
Selma Autrey Lewis was sister of HS Autrey
11/7/1969 Steve G Caloudas and wife Georgia Caloudas Lots 6 and 7, 25x100 foot strip of lot 8 and a strip 2.6x121.67 of the West side of lot 12 Vendor lien of $205,061.44
9/23/1969 W H Orr and wife Mary Ann Orr West 30 feet of Lot 1 and the adjoining West 30 feet of the South 40 feet of Lot 2 Pay off $12,000 note.
10/6/1969 HS Autrey Lot 12 excluding 2,6x121.6 foot strip on West side owned by Caloudas  
11/14/1969 FCNB Trustee under the will of John Hoskins Foster Lots 9 and 10 and adjoining half of Lot 8 and 2.5 foot strip of the West sde of Lot 11, a small corner of Lot 12, and a strip of land out of the South half of lot 8 Subject to a lease from John H Foster to Margaret Dudley Jones date 11/1/1948 and amended 9/25/1958. This property occupied by the Kaiser apartments
1/23/1970 Annie King Sullivan, Trustee of the will of Dr Frank B King and Elizabeth Sullvan Lawler trustee under the will of Elizabeth W King East 70 feet of Lot 1 and the East 70 feet of the South 40 feet of Lot 2 and a strip of land 7.8 feet by 91.5 feet along the Eastern boundary of Lot 1 and the Southern boundary of Lot 2 and a strip .9 feet x 70 feet along the Southern boundary of Lot 1 quitclaimed from the City of Houston on 1/15/1927 $100,000 promissory note


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Here's the Block 97 map from the 1907 Sanborn Fire Maps, with the names of the owners/residents at the time. These are not the people who sold to Houston Center, although some are heirs. The Levi Kaiser property later became the Kaiser Apartments, but I haven't found anything yet on whether that was a newer building or a repurposing of the building from 1907.


Here's an extract from the HCAD interactive map showing the lot numbers for this block. It's not Block 97, as that was replatted into a single lot at some point


I found it interesting, given the times, that the blocks in the area are mixed in terms of religion, with Jews living next to Christians. Levi Kaiser, the Morris brothers, and Meyer Nussbaum were all Jewish. Levi Kaiser was a cotton merchant, and the Morris brothers were, I think grocers, but I'm still trying to confirm that. From the death certificates I've seen, there were a lot of folks dying from lymphoma, thyroid cancer, and such, as the causes of death were listed as mediastinal carcinoma. There were also some listed as colon cancer, heart attacks, arteriosclerosis, etc.

The Sanborn maps were done to show the buildings on every block in the city, so insurance companies would have an idea of what they were insuring.

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