Sacrificing history for "progress"

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Local preservationists were taken by surprise by the ongoing demolition of a historic Houston hotel:

Demolition of the 1925 Penn Hotel, which quietly began Sunday, shocked Houston’s preservationists, who hadn’t considered the building endangered.

The 10-story brick building at 1423 Texas is owned by Spire Realty, which until now has been active in rehabilitating historic buildings in Houston’s downtown.

The building was designed by Joseph Finger, the architect who designed many of the city’s most important buildings of the era: among them, City Hall; Temple Beth Israel; Citizen’s State Bank (known to most Houstonians as the home of the Rockefeller’s); 701 Texas (now the Lancaster Hotel); the Jefferson Davis Hospital formerly on Allen Parkway; and the Houston Municipal Airport Terminal.

UPDATE: Nancy Sarnoff notes that Spire Realty determined the old Penn Hotel was beyond repair:

Spire has more historical renovation projects under its belt, including downtown’s Bayou Lofts and the Cotton Exchange building.

The William Penn just didn’t have the right formula to make a restoration project work, said Wilkins.

“After doing a half dozen of those, you really know what to look for and what can be done in the way of renovations,” he said.

The building was “uninhabitable beyond repair,” he said. Its ceiling heights, floor plates and ancient mechanical systems would have made it too costly to bring into the 21st century.

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Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.