Museum Of Fine Arts-Houston (Beck Building)

Museum District Bed And Breakfast

Comtemporary Arts Museum of Hoston

Holocost Museum

Mecom fountain

Museum District Church

Museum District Church

Museum District Church

Museum of Fine arts-Houston

Museum of Fine Arts-Houston

Museum of Fine Arts-Houston

Museum of Natural Science & Cockrell Butterfly Building-Houston

Museum of Natural Science & Cockrell Butterfly Building-Houston

Museum of Natural Science & Cockrell Butterfly Building-Houston

Museum Shops

Museum Tower

Plaza Hotel
The Plaza Apartment Hotel

5020 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77005


With the 1900 hurricane in Galveston and the discovery of oil at Spindletop just four months later, the course of Houstonís history was changed. The exponential growth of the Texas oil industry, fueled by the increasing demand for gasoline and petroleum products, fostered the redevelopment of the Houston Ship Channel enabling Houston to quickly gain recognition as a leading inland port city. Coupling that with the expansion of the railroads, Houston emerged in the first few decades of the 20th century as a leading center for trade and transportation.

The 20th century also brought a change to the American family and its style of living. The expanding industrial age economy rapidly produced new modern conveniences, such as gas lighting and the automobile, intended to simplify daily lives. With these modern inventions came a nostalgia for the simpler, more amiable, pre-machine age way of life. The perceived notion that country living and suburban life was superior to that of the city prevailed. Country retreats and suburban residences fulfilled these desires and with the automobile became more accessible.

Before the turn of the century, the land to the southwest of downtown Houston was prairie used primarily for farming. Much of the land in this area originated from the 1836 Obedience Smith land grant of 3370-acres under headright certificate number 203. Following Smithís death, her heirs sold the land. In 1903 and 1917, the city of Houston annexed much of this land and developers slowly began purchasing parcels for development.

New residential neighborhoods began developing in this rural landscape as an alternative to urban housing. Often modeled after the private places of St. Louis, the neighborhoods of Westmorland (1902), Courtlandt Place (1906), Avondale (1907), the Bute Addition (1907), Hyde Park (1906), Cherryhurst (1908), the Montrose Addition (1911), Shadyside (1916), and Broadacres (1923) were developed reflecting popular preferences. Varying in size from one-block enclaves to large, 1000-lot subdivisions, each of the neighborhoods incorporated park-like settings to create the ambiance of refined country living. Regardless of scale the extensive use of landscaping and terraced lawns were pivotal design elements for these newly formed residential neighborhoods. Paved streets and streetcar service linked many of these suburban neighborhoods to downtown. Many of the smaller exclusive neighborhoods (Broadacres, Courtlandt Place, West 11 _ Place, Shadyside, and Westmoreland) were comprised of a limited number of property owners who came together on the basis of personal and professional associations. Distinctive planning as well as the quality of the domestic architecture characterized these newly formed residential neighborhoods and enclaves.

By the early 1920ís this southwest section of Houston had emerged as a center of cultural and residential real estate activity. Although physically unprepossessing, the proximity to Rice Institute, which opened in 1912, Hermann Park which developed in 1914, the proposed site of the Art Leagueís planned museum which was acquired in 1916, and the newly formed residential neighborhoods of Shadyside, the Montrose Addition, West Eleventh Place, and Broadacres, continued to draw development to this area. Situated on south east corner of Block 18, at the intersection of Montrose Boulevard and Bartlett Street, the Plaza Apartment Hotel was constructed in 1925 and opened for business in early 1926. The Plaza Apartment Hotel offered the comforts of an elegantly furnished home with all of the conveniences of a modern hotel. Situated in what was becoming one of the most desirable areas of Houston, the Plaza Apartment Hotel afforded access to Rice University, the developing Texas Medical Center, Hermann Park and the Museum of Fine Arts, yet was far enough off Main Street to escape the heavy traffic and noise. Surrounded by several of Houstonís most exclusive neighborhoods, the Plaza Apartment Hotel afforded the luxury of hotel living in a suburban ambiance.

The Plaza Apartment Hotel was Houstonís first Apartment Hotel. The Plaza Apartment Hotel offered both hotel accommodations and suites for permanent residents with a small number of rooms for transient-family living. At its opening advertisements announced that the Plaza Apartment Hotel embraced all the comforts of a modern home with many of the conveniences of a high-class hotel thereby fulfilling a genuine need in the community life of Houston. Designed for luxury living, the Plaza Apartment Hotel provided 165 apartments ranging in size from one-room hotel accommodations to 4 room suites, a dining room, a commissary (from which the busy housewife could order by phone), barber shop and beauty parlor, as well as a basement cocktail lounge and a garage. The Plaza Apartment hotel was modeled after the Ritz-Carlton in New York, the Biltmore in Atlanta, and the Hotel Winten in Cleveland each of which offered the highest standards in quality and service. The Plaza Apartment Hotel cost over $1 million dollars to construct and included running ice water and "mechanical refrigeration" (an early form of air conditioning) and refrigerators that made ice cubes in all of the suites. The Plaza Apartment Hotel was considered the last word in southern elegance at its opening on February 21, 1926. Over the years it was home to many of Houstonís prominent leaders, including Dr. Edgar Odell Lovett, the first president of Rice University.

Sited diagonally across the southeast corner of the block, the Plaza Apartment Hotel addresses the intersection of Montrose Boulevard and Bartlett Street. Symmetrically composed about a central axis, the building is constructed from a reinforced concrete frame. A stone water table surrounds the first floor level, and above the building is clad with a buff colored tapestry brick. Rising to a height of eight stories, the central block of five bays rises above the roofline of the symmetrical wings achieving a harmonious relationship of parts (a center surrounded by identical wings) and allowing effective light penetration to the interior spaces. On the principal elevation, the four outer bays of each wing project forward one bay then recede back for three bays to join the central block. Italian Renaissance detailing is evidenced in the heavy cornice supported by large consoles which surrounds the building. A neo-classically derived tripartite faÁade is achieved by a broad header brick beltcourse above the first floor level and a second header brick beltcourse with secondary stone cornice surrounds the building above the seventh floor level.

The entrances to the semi-circular drive are marked on either side pairs of brick pillars topped by garland draped stone urns. A central, projected, arched main entrance is approached by a short flight of stairs to either side of the front balustraded balcony. The original double doors of the main entrance were replaced with a metal frame double glass doors. Above the projected central door opening, a pair of French doors crowned with a broken pediment and a cartouche with the letter P, accesses a secondóstory balustraded stone balcony, thus creating both compositional order and ornamental program. Stylized low relief stone lintel accentuates each of the windows of the second floor. On the eighth floor stone roundels highlight the windows of the two outer bays, and a pedimented window highlights the central bay. The rectangular windows have soldier course brick lintels with stone sills and were originally wood, double hung 6/1 light configuration. In 1958 the building was air conditioned and renovated. In 1977 the building was again renovated and the original windows of the main faÁade, as well as those of the east and south elevations, were replaced with an incompatible fixed pane window of tinted glass.

The Plaza Apartment Hotel was designed by Joseph Finger (1887-1953) and built by the Southwestern Construction Company. Joseph Finger was the cityís most successful proponent of the Moderne Style. Throughout his career Joseph Finger successfully provided his clients an effectual blending of the latest architectural styles excelling in the expression of the Art Deco and the Streamline Moderne. Finger designed many of Houstonís finest commercial and institutional buildings built between 1920 and 1945. Born and trained in Austria, he came to the United States in 1905, and after a short stay in New Orleans, he moved to Houston in 1908. He worked in partnership with several architects including L. S. Green, James Ruskin Bailey, and Lamar Q. Cato before opening his own Houston practice in 1914. Practicing for over forty years Joseph Finger is considered one of Houstonís most successful architects. During his first few years in practice he designed the Panama Hotel (1912-13) the American National Insurance Building (1912, demolished) and the Model Laundry Building (1913, Galveston Central Business District, N.R. Listed 1984) all in Galveston. During the 1920ís his practice rapidly expanded and he was commissioned to design numerous hotels, office buildings, retail facilities, industrial plants, institutional structures and residences in Texas and Louisiana. Finger was one of the first architects in Houston to incorporate into his designs the stark, abstracted, and stylized forms of modernistic architecture. He designed residences in many of Houstonís finest neighborhoods including the Joe Weingarten House, the Abe Weingarten House and the Abe Battlestein House in Houstonís Riverside Terrace, the Tennison House in Montrose, Edel House in Braeswood, the Wade and Mamie Irvin House at Morganís Point. The James and Jessie West Mansion (1929, N.R. Listed) which is located on the north bend of Clear Lake, is considered one of the most substantial, well crafted, and opulent dwellings constructed in Texas in the 1920ís. Its richly detailed interior furnishings and fittings are considered to be one of the finest Art Deco interiors to be executed in Houston" (Stephen Fox Houston Architectural Survey).

Many of his buildings have been recognized as paragons of the Moderne style, distinguished not only for their designed but also for the quality and methods of construction which often accommodated state-ofóthe-art equipment and technology. Many of his buildings have been recognized architecturally by individual listing to the National Register of Historic Places. His major works in Houston include the Temple Beth Israel (1924, NR 1984), the Houston TurnVerein (1929, NR 1978, demolished 1993), the Clarke and Courts Building (1936, NR 1994), Houston City Hall (1939, NR 1990), and the Houston Municipal Airport Terminal and Hanger (1940). By the 1930ís he had turned to the "Streamline" Moderne and his affinity for modernistic detail can be see in his preference for low relief sculptural detailing expressing uniform surface treatments accented with stylized geometrical and floral elements, continuous horizontal banding, rounded end bays and thematically consistent decorative graphics.

The Plaza Apartment Hotel is worthy of preservation as an outstanding local example of neo-classical design, exhibiting Italian Renaissance influences and early modernistic architectural detailing that represents an important period in Houstonís residential and cultural development. The Plaza Apartment Hotel represents one of the largest projects from Fingerís early period. After the success of this project Fingerís turned his attention to the interpretation of the Moderne style, especially Zig-Zag Moderne and Streamline Moderne. As one of Fingerís early works, the Plaza Apartment Hotel is an amalgamation of the classical ideals of arrangement of shapes, forms using Italian Renaissance and historical detailing blended with early modernist concept of the wall surface as a plane with detailing reduced to low relief sculptural work located in selected spots. Over the course of his career Joseph Finger produced works of simple elegance and beauty that were recognized for their design as well as their methods of construction. Virtually unchanged, the Plaza Apartment Hotel remains as a visible reminder of the early work of this important architect whose buildings helped shape the look of Houston. The Plaza Apartment Hotel retains a high degree of its historic fabric as well as sufficient integrity of design, materials, craftsmanship, location, setting, feeling and association remain recognizable to its period of significance. The Plaza Apartment Hotel would qualify for listing to the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion C, in the area of architecture at the local level of significance.

View of the Museum District from my friends apartment in the Warwick Towers

Sam Houston Statue

Sam Houston Statue

Sam Houston statue

Sam Houston Statue

Warwick Hotel

Warwick Hotel

Warwick Towers

Light rail tracks leading to the Warwick Hotel