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Prudential Building lost to history

Now know as Houston Main Bldg
The Texas Medical Center is about to lose some of its history so that progress can continue.
By Ralph Bivins     April 5th, 2010 at 10:50 AM

The Prudential Building is going to meet the ugly grim reaper of real estate – the wrecking ball. Located at 1100 Holcombe Blvd., it was built in 1952 and it is still loved as an example of modern architecture. It is considered one of the finest designs ever conceived by Houston architect Kenneth Franzheim.

The 18-story building may have been appreciated so much because it includes a lot of native materials — red Texas granite, Texas limestone and a much-loved mural of Texas farmers with a haul of Texas produce.

When the Prudential Building opened, it was way out in the suburbs of a much younger Houston. As a boy in the back seat of Dad’s car in the 1960s, I remember passing the building often as we traveled to our suburban homestead in Foster Place. At the front of the Prudential Building was a fountain with a sculpture of a man and woman holding a baby (entitled “Wave of Life” by artist Wheeler Williams.) Even as a kid I liked the sculpture.

Back then, the Prudential Building had an Olympic swimming pool out back and over 20 acres of land. The swimming pool is long gone and the land has been chewed up for other purposes.

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Center bought the building and surrounding property in 1974 for a reported $18.5 million. The Prudential Building was renamed the “Houston Main Building” by the hospital administrators.

Preservationists tried for years to save it. But retrofitting the old building is prohibitively expensive and more land is needed so more cancer patients can be treated in efficient new buildings. And now it’s time for the Prudential Building to go. The building is being fenced in, dismantled and will vanish forever in 2011.

As a native Houstonian, it saddens me to see the places I remember from my youth – the Astrodome, Sharpstown Mall and now the Prudential Building – become obsolete or go into decline.

Skip to Jan 8, 2012 Imploded

 

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