Texans celebrated San Jacinto Day on Wednesday, April 21. The day marks the anniversary of Texas’ war for independence from Mexico on April 21, 1836. During the Battle of San Jacinto, Texas General Sam Houston and approximately 800 members of the Texas militia routed the Mexican Army, capturing hundreds of enemy combatants, including Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
“Remember the Alamo” was reportedly the battle cry during the Battle of San Jacinto, a tribute to massacres at the Alamo on March 6, 1836, and at Goliad on March 27, 1836. The phrase has been attributed to both General Sam Houston and Col. Sidney Sherman, men who fought in the Battle of San Jacinto.
The skirmish became known as the Battle of San Jacinto and was fought near what is now LaPorte, Texas, not far from Houston. Today, the San Jacinto Monument stands near the site to honor those who were killed and fought in the battle, which lasted just 20 minutes, according to historical documents.
What few Liberty County residents may realize is that the architect for the San Jacinto Monument had a hand in the remodeling and addition of the San Jacinto Professional Building in Cleveland, Texas, back in 1931. At the time, the building was the headquarters for First National Bank in Cleveland. The bank was chartered in 1912 and was located in a brick, two-story building at the corner of San Jacinto and Crockett streets.
In 1931, Alfred C. Finn was hired by the owners of First National Bank to design an addition and remodeling of the bank. This was prior to his work as an architect on the San Jacinto Monument, which was constructed between 1936 and 1939. Finn’s connection to the Cleveland bank was not discovered until many years later when Danny and Sherry Cook of Tarkington, the current owners of the building, began researching documents related to the bank.
“We were able to go to Houston and see Alfred Finn’s work, which is on file. We even have Finn’s blueprints of our building that were made for us. Having that increased our confidence in the construction of our building,” Sherry said.
At the time, the Cooks had just purchased the building and were looking at an extensive remodeling project. After the bank changed locations in 1969, moving to the site of the current-day Prosperity Bank on the corner of W. Crockett and N. Washington Ave. The San Jacinto Professional Building has outlasted the building where First National Bank relocated, which Sherry likes to believe is because of the master architecture that Finn provided.
“As we got into the building, we could see that it was properly constructed. The building had been used for multiple purposes after the bank left. It had been used by the First Fundamental Baptist Church. In rooms upstairs, Cleveland ISD held board meetings for a number of years. People at the school district have sent us minutes of their board meetings from that time to show that it was the location,” she said. “There was also a dentist and an attorney in offices upstairs. There have been many businesses in the building.”
For the 20 years before the Cooks purchased it, the building had been used for a resale shop business.
“When we bought it eight years ago, the resale shop owners had put the building on the market for about a year. I had seen the ‘For Sale’ signs but never thought about buying it. One day I was in the store looking around and was told they had found a buyer and were moving,” Sherry said.
When the deal fell through, the woman who owned it asked Sherry if she was interested in purchasing it.
“I told her I appreciate old buildings but I wasn’t interested in owning it. The lady’s son was there and he showed me around a bit. He took me through different parts of the building. They had a ramp they were using to get to the second floor. When I walked upstairs, you could see all of the exposed rafters and they still looked brand new,” she said. “I was astonished and impressed by it.”
Sherry asked her husband, Danny, who owns Cook Construction, to stop by to see the building, and the couple soon agreed to purchase it.
Today, the building serves as a professional building with 23 office spaces and a conference room available for lease. The Cooks installed a central indoor staircase and an elevator – features the original building lacked. Originally, a staircase was located outdoors on the west side of the building that faces the railroad tracks and San Jacinto Street.
The Cooks chose to leave many of the building’s original features in order to provide each office space with its own personality.
“The offices are not cookie cutter. We left brick exposures and what we could to show off the history of the building. It looks like a historical building but has been modernized to have current capabilities such as Internet and phone lines,” she said.
When picking a name for the building, the idea was to recognize the street that it faces, said Sherry, never realizing its connection to the San Jacinto Monument.
“I think it’s kind of neat that it has connections to the San Jacinto Monument through Albert Finn, just happens to be on San Jacinto Street and we just happened to name it the San Jacinto Professional Building,” she said. “It’s like it was meant to be.”