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AT&T Preston Main Office At 1121 Capitol St.


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Edit: The architect was Irvin Ray Timlin, who was SWB’s chief Architect.

I searched and could only find one mention of this building in a different thread.  What's the story here? Does AT&T still occupy it? I thought the Hyatt bought it when they converted the nearby Hyatt Place Hotel at 1114 Texas Street.

I researched this building today. I'm wondering the build date and architect if anyone knows.  In 1912, a piano store, Thos. Googan & Bros. occupied 1120-1122 Capitol Avenue.  I'll just assume that building has since been demolished. I wonder if the current building was specifically built for (then) Southwestern Bell? I found an article dated in the 1950s about a tour of the Southwestern Bell building.

I walked past the building today.  Cool looking windows and exterior!  Photos I took today:

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I've always guessed this building was full of phone/internet switching equipment since the windows are now glass-blocked, and it has all the weird access and ventilation panels. It's pure speculation, so I'm also interested in what's here.

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  • The title was changed to AT&T Capitol Central Office At 1121 Capitol St.
  • The title was changed to AT&T Preston Main Office At 1121 Capitol St.

Houstontimeportal.net http://www.houstontimeportal.net/bell-telephone.html identifies this telephone building as 1117-1119 Capitol (and by its appearance, it certainly looks to have originally been built as two buildings), apparently re-numbered it to the singular 1121 Capitol some time later.  

Timlin, Irvin Ray, architect (1121 Capitol Street). https://houstontx.gov/planning/Commissions/docs_pdfs/hahc/App_Materials_2017/February_MATERIALS/1114_Texas_LM_APP_Materials.pdf

https://houstontx.gov/planning/Commissions/docs_pdfs/hahc/App_Materials_2017/February_MATERIALS/1114_Texas_LM_APP_Materials.pdf

1121 Capitol Street (1912 with additions through 1938)

The Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company (hereafter “Southwestern Bell”) building at 1121 Capitol Street in downtown Houston, is at the northwest corner of San Jacinto and Capitol. All sides of the building are built to the lot lines. It is located three blocks southeast of the Main Street/Market Square National Register Historic District. The neighborhood is composed of commercial office and retail buildings, financial institutions, county judicial courts, hotels, restaurants, clubs, parking lots, and garages. Within two blocks are the individually listed National Register properties, including Christ Church, the Houston Post-Dispatch Building, and the Kress Building.

Originally a Beaux Arts skyscraper, the building’s ornament was simplified during later alterations through 1938. The building is a flat-roofed and sheathed in brick and limestone. It was built in four phases: 1912, 1926, 1929, and 1938, and remains one of two Central Offices (Switching or Exchange ) that serve downtown Houston, the other being the Clay Central Office located eight blocks to the south. The building is ten stories high on the east side and nine stories on the west side, with a basement. The structure is cast-in-place concrete for all the stories except for the top three, which are steel-framed and with exterior non-bearing brick walls. Atop the flat roof are a mechanical room and a small penthouse, set back from the facades.

South (Capitol Street) Elevation

The first two floors have a dark granite and light marble pedestal base with the remainder of the two story façade sheathed in limestone blocks up to a simple cornice with volutes. On the east side, the 1912 building (then called the Preston Central Office) has a half-round arch entrance with a pediment and a pair of aluminum and glass

Page 6

United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service / National Register of Historic Places REGISTRATION FORM NPS Form 10-900 OMB No. 1024-0018

Southwestern Bell Capitol Main Office, Houston, Harris County, Texas

entrance doors and transom. On the west side, the 1926 addition (then called the Fairfax Central Office)1 has a smaller rectangular entrance that has been closed in and pediment atop. The adjacent first floor windows have a simple limestone casing and keystone ornament. The third floor and above the base are faced with a tan colored brick with applied medallions and wreath ornaments above the top windows of the left side building. The windows on this façade are glass block or louvered vents. The glass block windows infill is a later replacement intended to protect the equipment inside from the possible damage from the weather, like hurricanes, while providing natural daylight to the interior.

East (San Jacinto Street) Elevation

The first two floors have a dark granite and light marble pedestal base with the remainder of the two story façade sheathed in limestone blocks up to a simple cornice with volutes. The first two floors windows have a simple limestone casing and keystone ornament. The third floor and above the base are faced with a tan colored brick with applied medallion ornaments above the top windows The windows on this façade are glass block or louvered vents. At the seventh floor there are four sets of three 1-over-1 wood double-hung windows. The glass block windows infill is a later replacement intended to protect the equipment inside from the possible damage from the weather, like hurricanes, while providing natural daylight to the interior.

North and West elevation

The north wall, where not abutting adjacent buildings, is at the property line that abuts the 1114 Texas Ave. building, and is plain tan brick with no openings. The west wall that faces a ten foot common alley is plain tan brick, with the previous windows having been bricked in.

Interior

NOTE: As a functionally-related complex with two historically interconnected buildings, both buildings are being nominated to the National Register, although only the building at 1114 Texas Avenue is being rehabilitated as a tax credit project. The owner of the 1121 Capitol Street Building (AT&T) has not granted the applicant access to the interior of the building.

Renovation plans dated 1989, by the Southwestern Bell Engineering Department, show that all the floors are largely open and undivided, occupied by telephone switching equipment or computers with some accessory office and vacant areas. 2 In the basement there is a cable vault that connects the copper and fiber optics telephone lines that enter Capitol St. On the second floor, there is a cable vault that is connected to the second floor of the 1114 Texas Ave. building. The entrance lobby on the first floor, visible through the glass doors but not open to the public, retains its original steps width and chrome decorative handrails and terrazzo steps and floor.

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Why are there what appear to be wooden doors on the exterior of the upper floors? Was there an exterior fire escape stair at some point. Otherwise, I cannot begin to understand why they exist.

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