San Antonio Conservation Society

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The Society advocates preserving the architectural, natural and cultural heritage of San Antonio.

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This week we’ll be looking at what is posed to be a part of a new adaptive reuse project on Houston Street. The enigmatic Book Building has an enduring appeal without any known connection to the local architects that shaped late 19th and early 20th century San Antonio. All that is known of its architect Dwight Book is that he was a civil engineer with the U. S. Army, but his education and life remain a mystery. Clad in red brick, the three-story building features repeated arches delineated by Corinthian pilasters. A dentilated cornice caps the building. Despite the classical ornament, the Book Building is reminiscent of the Richardsonian Romanesque Style, especially commercial work of H.H Richardson.

The Marshall Field’s Wholesale Store designed by Richardson in 1887 expressed an image of strength in association with commercialism, featuring repeated arches organized in a tripartite façade and constructed out of rough-cut stone blocks. Built for the department store empire of the same name, Marshall Fields provided Richardson with an established ethos from which to draw inspiration. The Book Building partially shares the image of strength in the solidity evoked by the repeated arches, however the classical ornament and large windows likely appeal to a wider array of potential tenants.

A plan to re-purpose the Book Building, along with several surrounding buildings, was approved by HDRC on Wednesday. The plan appears sensitive in scale with the facades remaining intact and interstitial spaces are intended to be utilized.
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