The former Houston Bar Center was rehabilitated by NewcrestImage into the AC Hotel by Marriott Houston Downtown. MHA Houston completed the federal and state historic tax credit applications, successfully listed the building in the National Register of Historic Places, and provided historic preservation consulting.
In 1914, architect Alfred Charles Finn and Houston entrepreneur, politician, and builder Jessie H. Jones originally designed and developed the building as a headquarters for Gulf Oil. In 1966, the building was completely renovated, and the exterior received a Mid-Century Modern redesign by architect Eugene “Gene” William Slater. Slater removed the building’s Gothic Revival style elements and added “spandrels of a highly polished synthetic granite product called ‘Granux,’ in the color ‘opalescent mahogany,’” vertical marble clad pilasters, and fixed aluminum-framed dark gray tinted windows. A new white marble band at the roofline replaced the original terracotta and a new steel framed and stucco clad canopy over the storefronts was added. Extensive renovations to the interior also took place at this time and air conditioning was added to the building. The lobby walls were clad in white marble with grey veining and a new terrazzo floor was installed.
The property is now a City of Houston Historic Landmark and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2017 for its 1960s New Formalism architecture. The property is also the site of a 1914 single-screen silent movie theatre, the Zoe Theatre, which was rehabilitated as part of the NewcrestImage project into the 3,600-square-foot Zoe Ballroom events space.
In addition to MHA Houston and MCS Architects, rehabilitation project partners included general contractor Arch-Con Corporation, SCA Engineers, Dabney Commercial Engineering, and Bill Franks Professional Services. The rehabilitation focused on preserving features of the 1966 New Formalism architecture. The exterior marble and Granux was retained, cleaned and repaired where needed. The marble walls were retained in the interior lobby, and new terrazzo floors and black granite baseboards were installed to restore its 1966 appearance. The first-floor tenant space was converted into a restaurant and the hotel lobby. The theater was repurposed as a ballroom event space, preserving the theater’s original barrel-vaulted ceiling. The elevator lobbies and L-plan hallways were retained on the upper floors, with the office space adapted into new hotel rooms. New interior walls were built in such a way as to respect the original windows.
The new AC Hotel by Marriott spans 92,833 square feet and includes 195 guest rooms and a 1,100-square-foot Starbucks on the first floor. Located downtown on Houston’s Main Street, the AC Hotel is also well-situated next to a stop on Houston’s MetroRail red line.
The building represents the post-World War II trend for recladding historic structures in new, modern styles. Utilizing state and federal historic tax credits, the rehabilitation of the building preserved its New Formalism design and allowed an often-under-represented style to remain part of downtown Houston’s architectural collection.
- Houston Business Journal | 2020 Landmark Award for Historic Renovation
- Preservation Houston | 2020 Good Brick Award
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