Fort Sam Rescues Its Heritage s a n a n t o n i o Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1975, Fort Sam Houston has over 900 structures deemed historic (built before 1960), more than any other active military installation in the U.S. Unfortunately, many of the historic structures have sustained deterioration due to decades of neglect. However, many of those abandoned and decaying buildings are being revitalized through a $250 million effort that began in 2006. The federally funded program has so far successfully renovated a dozen major buildings to provide 770,000 square feet of space for offices now used by approximately 2,000 military and civilian employees. According to Randy Holman, deputy director for Fort Sam’s Joint Program Office, a separate initiative also has renovated 900 single-family houses. As with all renovation efforts on historic federal properties, the work at Fort Sam is required to follow the National Historic Preservation Act. Additionally, Holman said, the renovation contracts at Fort Sam include an agreement to “ensure that the visual character of the buildings is maintained.” According to this clause, he added, project teams consult regularly with the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation as well as the Texas Historical Commission. The renovations are part of a larger picture of improvements now underway at Fort Sam as the military readies the installation for an influx of 12,000 additional personnel, a 40-percent increase that will culminate in September 2011.
(See previous news article in the May/June Texas Architect.) Perhaps the most notable of the recently renovated buildings is known as the Old Hospital, designed in Georgian Revival style and built in 1908. Characteristics of the original building include three sand-colored brick stories, an attic with rounded dormers, wrap-around verandahs on the first two levels, and limestone watercourses and lintels. Before renovation began in 2007, the Old Hospital sat vacant for about 10 years with its windows boarded up and its porches sagging. Completed last year, the work has exquisitely preserved and rehabilitated the building. Wood decking, columns, railings, and ceilings of the verandahs were restored or replaced to their original stateliness and the multi-paned windows replaced with laminated, blast-resistant replicas of the orig inals. Wood trim and moldings at the windows, doors, cornices, and rounded dormers were also restored or replicated as needed. In addition, artifacts significant to the heritage and culture of Fort Sam were preserved, including the refinished wood floors, refurbished wood paneled doors with transoms, stripped and refinished wood stairs and balustrades, and two reconditioned fireplace mantles. However, most of the interior work was more practical in nature—providing modern work spaces. For example, interior partitions were removed and relocated, structural reinforcement was added in the walls and floors
to prevent progressive collapse in the event of an explosion, and an elevator was installed to comply with ADA requirements. Although the interior renovations did not completely preserve the original plans, the work areas are pleasant. To retain the tall proportions of the spaces, HVAC ducts are exposed at the ceiling. Similarly, daylight is plentiful in all of the offices and cubicles because the hospital’s footprint was originally designed to be narrow to allow cross ventilation. Designed by Killis Almond & Associates of San Antonio and performed by RKJ Construction of Lampasas, the two-year renovation of the 50,000-sf Old Hospital was completed last year for $15.8 million that was funded through the U.S. Defense Depar tment’s Facilities Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization program. The rehabilitated building is now occupied by the 275-person Installation Management Command, West Region, which maintains roads, buildings, and landscaping on military bases throughout the western U.S. The office was consolidated and relocated to Fort Sam by the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) of 2005. Currently, the historic Post Theater is undergoing a meticulous restoration after being vacant for more than two decades. Following restoration, the 1935 movie theater will re-open as a live-venue theater. One of the first U.S. Army movie houses, it was built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style with a white stucco extecontinued on page 92
Photo courtesy Joint Program Management Office, Fort Sam Houston
Fort Sam Houston’s Old Hospital, originally built in 1908, stood vacant for 10 years prior to renovations begun in 2007. Completed last year, the $15.8 million project is one of several major improvement projects on the base necessary to prepare for a 40-percent increase in personnel by September 2011.
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