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The Heights

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1890–1970. Bounded by the Texas Mexican Railway tracks, Zacate Creek, E. Saunders St., and N. Arkansas Ave.

Upon crossing Zacate Creek, the street grid of Laredo is more generous, with tree-lined avenues stretching to the east along hilly terrain. Laid out by the 1890s, the Heights sporadically developed until the economic boom of the 1920s prompted the residents of St. Peter's to move to newer houses on larger lots, along with their schools, churches, and civic organizations. The oil and gas boom of the 1930s, as well as postwar development, ensured that residential construction continued in the Heights into the 1980s.

At the southern fringes of the neighborhood, the two-story, well-maintained Fred Werner House (1934) at 2101 Guatemozin Street, with its crenellated corner pavilion, stands in an oasis of palm trees and lush shrubbery, ignoring nearby rail and commercial intrusions. In the vicinity at 1419 Chihuahua Street, the cast-stone Mexican suburban villa for Dr. Francisco R. Canseco (1924) was designed by Enrique Canseco, the owner's architect brother, and served as model for the Benavides House in the St. Peter's district (see LA13) the following year.

North of Guadalupe Street (U.S. 83), the Heights becomes more cohesive in its architectural offerings, and showcases the prime residential designs of eccentric, Los Angeles– born L. S. Sanderson. His walled, courtyard-plan, Moorish Mediterranean Gordon Gibson House (1931) at 1320 McClelland Avenue was “possibly one of the least understood residences in the state of Texas,” as related by Sanderson in the July 1937 issue of Architect and Engineer, where he also boasted that the low-lying, stuccoed elevations of his Mexican-inspired Frank C. Heins House (1937) at 1521 Lane Street “exist on no other building on the face of the earth, including Los Angeles.”

Sanderson's grandest residential design, the Nicolás D. Hachar House at 2201 Lane Street (1939) in Spanish Mediterranean, was built for a Syrian-born merchant who owned an Art Moderne department store in downtown. Nearly institutional in scale, the L-plan, two-story house is surrounded by a well-crafted scalloped garden wall. The house is entered through a cast-stone Baroque frontispiece set within a three-story tower at its eastern end capped by a red tile roof. The minimal fenestration of the street elevations is offset by the arcaded openings to the rear courtyard.

The Cronfel House (1970) at 2102 Fremont Street by Isaac Maxwell of San Antonio exhibits towerlike buff brick chimneys, cornices, and a distinctive curved porch recalling the Border Brick style. The Hal Ellsworth House at 2121 Musser Street (1937), the city's prime Moderne residence, was built by Maine-born, Laredo practitioner Lawson Libby Wagner at a corner site with typical horizontal window bands, cantilevered eaves, and a curved, two-story side bay.

An assortment of institutional designs also animates the architectural chronology of the Heights. At 1312 Galveston Street, the Ursuline Academy (1940) by Trout and Leyendecker sits imposingly in the middle of the neighborhood in a manner reminiscent of prominent religious schools in Latin America. The First United Methodist Church (1949) by San Antonio–based Henry Steinbomer at 1220 Guadalupe Street is composed of a half-block campus with a low-scaled, crisp neo-Gothic nave and fellowship hall that are more attuned to his traditionalist mode than his stark First Presbyterian Church in Raymondville of the same year ( MR32). The modern Blessed Sacrament School (1960) by Caudill Rowlett Scott at 1501 Bartlett Avenue includes a pair of tightly knit, one-story classroom blocks linked by an unusual metal canopy of splayed pipe columns and fiberglass sheet roofing. Although small in scale, the facility reveals the strong presence of the Houston-based firm in Laredo, which designed eight of its public schools in the 1950s and 1960s.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Gerald Moorhead et al.
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Citation

Gerald Moorhead et al., "The Heights", [Laredo, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/TX-01-LA18.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 276-276.

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