1933 State Highway Building - Austin, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Raven
N 30° 16.338 W 097° 44.411
14R E 621178 N 3349630
Quick Description: Added to the Register on Jan 7th 1998 (under #97001625, along with the nearby 1918 State Office Building), the "Dewitt C. Greer" State Highway Building has housed the now-renamed Texas Department Of Transportation since its construction in 1933.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 4/16/2015 1:37:58 PM
Waymark Code: WMNQ1X
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Outspoken1
Views: 6

Long Description:
Located on 125 E. 11th Street in Austin, TX (just south of the Texas State Capitol Building), the 1933 State Highway building -- also known as the "Dewitt C. Greer" building -- is a 9-story steel-and-masonry structure built in 1933 to house the Texas Highway Department (now called the Texas Department of Transportation, or "TxDOT" for short).

Designed by San Antonio architect Carleton Adams at a cost of $455,000, the building features elaborate Art Deco styling, including decorative carved limestone panels above the front doors. Below is a full description of the historic building, per an NRHP listing as recorded by the Texas Historical Commission's Atlas website:

"Rectangular in plan with a recessed central entry and corresponding inset on the rear, the 9-story State Highway Building is one of Austin's best examples of Art Deco architecture. The building features cream-colored limestone exterior walls, polished pink granite skirting, cast stone spandrels and metal entry doors and canopies. A full basement is partially exposed on the east and south sides of the building, due to the south-sloping grade of the site. Despite the replacement of original sash windows with plate glass windows, the building retains a high degree of its historic and architectural integrity.

The State Highway Building rises from an H-plan base, to a penthouse-topped 8-story central rectangular block. A series of symmetrical setbacks gives the building its distinctive "shoulders." The massing of the building above the H-plan footprint of the first two floors consists of a 6-bay-wide central block, rising to the eighth floor, slightly set back from the central recessed entry. This central block has two-bay-wide setbacks to the height of the eighth floor; from the third to the seventh floor, the block is further augmented by another 2-bay-wide setback. This series of setbacks results in a fourteen-bay elevation to the seventh floor, and a 10-bay elevation on the eighth floor. The ninth floor consists of a penthouse, set back on all sides from the eighth floor roof. The building is capped with a flagpole at the center of the ninth floor roof. Side elevations contain eleven window bays on the first and second floors, seven window bays on the third through eighth floors, and three window bays on the ninth floor penthouse.

The principal elevation (north) contains a central, recessed two-story entry framed by two-story projecting wings, each four bays wide, with one window bay facing on the entry recess. The main entrance to the building consists of four single-leaf 9-foot tall hollow white-metal doors. The entrance features a granite landing and granite steps leading up from 11th Street. Above the entrance doors is a white-metal frieze containing flat paterae set in rectangular blocks and stylized floral ornaments in the Art Deco style. A white-metal and plate glass patterned transom rises above this ornamented door-head. Immediately above the transom are three cast metal bas-relief panels representing three stages of road-builders, signed "H. Villa, 1933." From left to right, the first depicts mounted Indians pulling long poles, the second depicts a covered wagon pulled by oxen, and the third, a 1930s automobile on a paved highway. Above the bas-relief panels is a cut stone sill, and three single-light metal casement windows. Crowning the entry is a cut limestone panel reading "State Highway Building" in intaglio, topped with a round metal state seal flanked by cut limestone volutes.

The entrance is flanked by 2-story engaged fluted limestone columns, each set on polished granite round plinth and chamfered base. Each column is capped with a free-standing stone stylized eagle, atop a stone band of Art Deco-styled floral motifs.

The building has four other entrances. At the basement level on the west elevation, the entrance consists of a metal door with a grille and 2-light glazing, with a stationary transom. This entrance is framed by a pink granite surround, which forms a part of the building's granite skirting. The south elevation has two entrances: one at basement level in the first (from east to west) bay of the recessed section, consisting of a metal two-panel door with single-light glazing; and a second entrance at the first floor level, consisting of a metal door with four-light glazing, topped with a two-light with a vertical mullion hinged transom. Both south entries have suspended metal canopies.

The projecting east entrance opens onto Brazos Street, and functions as the secondary entrance to the building. The east entrance is in the first (from north to south) bay of the central block, and consists of double-leaf metal doors with single-light glazing. On each side of the double-leaf unit is a single-light sidelight. Above the door and sidelights, a single-pane transom echoes the entrance configuration. The east entrance has a granite floor and step, and is framed with a polished granite surround to the height of the sidelights. A metal canopy is suspended between the transom and the doorway unit. A cut stone transom crown features square panels separated by pointed mullions. The entrance features polished granite skirting and fluted cut stone chamfering on the rounded exterior corners, and is topped with a cast stone parapet ornament with a floral motif. At the top of each corner of the projection is a lamp-shaped finial.

The first two floors of the north elevation contain stylized pilasters separating the window bays of the projecting wings. Cast stone spandrels with a stylized floral motif separate the first and second floor windows, which are topped by a cut stone lintel. The first two floors also feature a small cast stone parapet containing angular volutes.

From the third to the eighth floor, window bays are separated by streamlined cut stone pilasters. Each of the pilasters contains a double band of horizontal raised fillets. The pilasters which define the building's setbacks are wider than those separating the window bays. The ninth floor penthouse also contains stone pilasters between each window bay, which feature chamfered edges and a sloping top.

Window bays are separated by cast stone spandrels. Between the first and second floor, the spandrels contain a floral motif in intaglio; from between the third and fourth floor to between the sixth and seventh floor, the spandrels feature vertical rectilinear elements. Between the seventh and the eighth floor, the spandrels incorporate vertical elements of lower spandrels, but also feature double angular volutes. Each vertical window band is capped with a cast stone parapet spandrel, which features a floral motif topped with three vertical points. The penthouse windows contain cut stone sills. The windows are capped with cast stone parapet spandrels which feature pointed vertical shafts forming a series of four angular volutes.

The general floor plan consists of a central elevator/utility core flanked by stairwells on the east and west. On the first floor, the vestibule and lobby are central focal points; the hearing room occupying the east wing is the other principal public room in the building. The lobby contains a metal and marble five-pointed star design set into the floor. The ceiling is plaster, with crown molding ornamented with silver leaf. The lobby and vestibule feature polished white and black marble baseboards, with black marble door and elevator accents, and a black marble information counter on the west side. Perforated marble vents on the west and east lobby walls depict a road roller. The east and west lobby walls feature decorative friezes with stepped geometric panels.

Two elevators on the south lobby wall feature metal elevator doors with "SHB" on the left door, and the state seal on the right. Above the elevators is a large mural which features a map of Texas with counties highlighted in various colors, surrounded by scenes depicting agriculture in the northeast, lumber and fishing in the southeast, cotton, cattle, and oil in the southwest, and a compass supporting the six national flags from Texas' history. Harold E. (Bubi) Jessen and Charles E. Millhouse won the mural commission through a contest sponsored by the building architect. The design was spray-painted through a wire screen over applied silver leaf.

Landscaping consists of a planted yard, including a row of red oak trees on the north side, with a concrete retaining wall on the 11th Street and Brazos Street boundaries. A paved parking lot slopes away from the west side of the building, and the west entrance now contains a wood deck at the level of the basement entrance. Metal lamp posts flank the main entrance. The front yard contains two low concrete signs reading "Texas Department of Transportation" and "DeWitt C. Greer Building."

The building has undergone several alterations and renovations since its construction. Most of interior spaces have been modified and reconfigured. Beginning in 1975, the interior of the building was remodeled to allow for greater space-use flexibility. Most of the offices in the building originally had wood-frame partitions, with wood doors, transoms, and windows containing frosted glass. The hallways had plaster walls with marble wainscoting and acoustic tile ceilings. Much of the wood trim and marble wainscots were replaced with sheetrock. Many original floor surfaces have been carpeted. Original double-hung aluminum-framed windows were replaced with single-light sealed smoked glass panes in dark aluminum frames in 1981.

Reversing the trend of neglect and a series of unsympathetic alterations to the building, the Texas Department of Transportation (the modern incarnation of the Texas Highway Department) began a partial restoration, completed in August 1995. Exterior walls were cleaned and repointed. An entrance conforming to ADA requirements was added to the west side of the building. Public rooms on the interior of the building were also restored to approximate their original appearance. In the lobby, the elevator mural was cleaned and restored to its original condition. Asbestos ceiling tiles were removed, and the cornice detailing was restored with new silver leaf. Lighting fixtures in the lobby and the hearing room were replaced with fixtures approximating the originals, and the hearing room ceiling and ornamentation was restored. Other features of interior design, such as carpet and curtains, were replaced with historically-accurate materials.

The State Highway Building retains integrity of location, setting, workmanship, design, materials, feeling and association. The lobby and exterior are largely unchanged since its completion in 1933, and it retains its original function as the headquarters of the State Highway Department, known today as the Texas Department of Transportation. Despite modifications, the State Highway Building retains a high level of integrity of location, setting, materials, workmanship, design, feeling and association."
Street address:
125 E. 11th Street
Austin, TX USA
78701


County / Borough / Parish: Travis County

Year listed: 1998

Historic (Areas of) Significance: Architecture/Engineering

Periods of significance: 1900-1924, 1925-1949

Historic function: Government / Government Office

Current function: Government / Government Office

Privately owned?: no

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 2: [Web Link]

Season start / Season finish: Not listed

Hours of operation: Not listed

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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