Water District Building
The Board of Directors of the San Benito Land & Water Company hired the Austin architectural firm of Endress & Walsh to design a permanent office building. It is not known whether this occurred before or after the Company sold over $700,000 in bonds in November 1909. In any event, on January 3, 1910, the Company announced it would soon begin construction of its permanent office building at San Benito.
Construction of the building began in late January 1910, with L. Fleming as contractor. Thirty foot pine beams from San Augustine, Texas, and locally made brick were used in the construction of the building. The building cost $14,386.76 to construct; furniture and fixtures cost an additional $1,897.46.
The San Benito Land & Water Company occupied its new offices between April 8 and July 15, 1910. The sales department and the cashier occupied the first floor. The engineering department, water superintendent, attorney, and telephone exchange occupied the second floor.
No plans of the building are known to exist. The following is a description of the building as originally constructed:
"The building is a rectangle, 63 feet 2 inches by 47 feet 6 inches, with two central porches or porticos extending 12 feet from the building, one porch for the entrance facing Robertson Street (north) and one for the entrance facing Sam Houston Boulevard (east).
The building has three entrances: one facing Robertson Street, one facing Sam Houston Boulevard, and one facing south. The south entrance is directly opposite the Robertson Street entrance. The Robertson and Sam Houston entrances, which are the main entrances, each open onto a porch or portico with rounded or semi-circular arches on each side. All exterior doors are of wood inset panel construction with windows in the upper portion of the doors consisting of multi-panes of glass fitted together by means of muntins. All entrances have double doors. All exterior doors open inward. All door frames are flanked on each side by narrower sidelights. The doorways facing Sam Houston and Robertson have transom windows which are also flanked on each side by sidelights. The transom windows are hinged at the top and open inward for ventilation. The doors at the south entrance are slightly shorter and narrower than those at the other two entrances.
The main roof is a combination of hipped and flat styles. The roof of the porch facing Robertson is also a combination of hopped and flat styles, while the roof of the porch facing Sam Houston Boulevard is gable style. There is an awning or canopy type porch on the south side of the building. Red Spanish tile covers all roof aspects visible from the ground. The flat roofs are covered with tar and gravel. There is a central dormer on each side of the building. The face of the dormer is or resembles a curvilinear parapet and is an upward extension of the exterior wall. The face of the porch facing Sam Houston street is shaped similar to the dormer parapets. The main roof has bracketed eaves. The awning or canopy on the south side of the building is also bracketed.
Beginning approximately four feet above ground level, the exterior of the building is a rough, brownish stucco. A smooth stucco band, approximately four feet high and approximately 3 inches thick, encircles the exterior of the building. A much narrower band, situated just below the second floor windows and projecting a few inches from the wall, also encircles the building. Both bands are painted white.
The building is constructed on a concrete slab. The floor of the second story is wood. The second floor is reached by a return stairway, with balusters of 1x4 lumber ornamented with rectangular and diamond cutouts. There is no elevator.
The offices and rooms on the first floor are organized around a central T-shaped corridor, with the south and Robertson Street entrances directly across from each other. The stairwell is situated in the corridor for the south entrance.The ceilings of the first floor are 11 feet 8 inches high, and the ceilings of the second floor are 10 feet high. Each floor has a vault or walk-in safe with heavy metal door and combination lock for keeping and storing valuable records and money. The second floor vault is situated directly over the first floor vault. Most rooms connect to the adjoining room by a doorway.
There are three chimneys. Six offices or rooms, three on each floor, have fireplaces. The offices at the northeast and southeast corners of the building have interior chimneys in interior walls. The third is also an interior chimney, but is in the west exterior wall. All fireplaces project from the wall. The hearths are approximately 1 inch above the floor.
An exterior brick walkway, enclosed by a terrace wall or fence, connects the east and north porches. The terrace wall, constructed of concrete, has slat-like balusters.
Finally, all exterior wood, including the doors and casings, window sashes and frames, eaves, and brackets, is painted red.
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Distinctive characteristics of the building include the red tile roof, wooden bracketed eaves, stucco exterior, parapets, and two porches with arches. In 1910, the style of architecture employed was called Mission style. Jay C. Henry, Professor of Architecture and author of ARCHITECTURE IN TEXAS prefers to call this body of work,Mission Revival, to distinguish it from the eighteenth century expression known as Mission style. Mission Revival was the result of an attempt which began in California near the end of the nineteenth century to create a style of architecture to express the character of the southwest region of the United States. The style vaguely draws on the Spanish heritage of the region with the use of red tile roofs, wooden bracketed eaves, porches with arches, curved gable parapets, and stucco exterior. The style was used in Texas from around the turn of the century to World War 1. Few buildings of this style presently survive.
Mission Revival architecture was replaced by or evolved to a style now known as Spanish Colonial, which omits the parapets and stucco exterior.
In 1978, the LOWER RIO GRANDE VALLEY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL identified the building as one of the historical structures and sites considered to be most significant in the Valley.
George Albert Endress (1874-1949) and Dennis R. Walsh (1875-1921), while partners of the architectural firm Endress & Walsh, designed the building. They terminated their partnership between 1914 and 1916.
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