Building History: The Kahn & Stanzel building was built in 1890 and, in 1999, underwent a 10-year restoration, supervised by architect James P. Arnold at the behest of owner Dr. Betty Edwards. The restoration proved to be so excellent, the building received a listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally, the building housed the retail hardware and furniture business of early Hallettsville businessmen Joseph Kahn and Joseph Stanzel. It was designed and built by architect James Riely Gordon (1863-1937), who is best known for his landmark county courthouses, particularly those in Texas. Gordon worked during the state’s “golden age” of courthouse construction, from the 1880s through the 1890s. He saw 18 of his designs erected. Twelve remain today, including the Arizona State Capitol building. For the Kahn & Stanzel building, Gordon used “Muldoon Blue” sandstone, quarried in nearby Fayette County. The building expresses several architectural styles, including Italianate, Neo-Grec, and Romanesque Revival. Each doorway has a cast iron threshold stamped “Kahn & Stanzel.
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National Register of Historic Places
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service
Historic Name: Kahn & Stanzel Building
Location: 115 North Main Street, Hallettsville, TX 77964. Lavaca County.
Owner: Privately Owned
Historic Functions: Commercial: General Store, Bar, Grocery Store
Current Functions: Commercial: Cultural Center, Art Gallery, Hall
Architectural Classification: Late Victorian: Neo Grec,
Italianate and Romanesque Revival
Materials: Stone: Muldoon Sandstone
National Register Criteria: Property is associated with events that have
made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.
Property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or
method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high
artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity
whose components lack individual distinction.
Areas of Significance: Architecture, Commerce Period of Significance:
1890-1964 Significant Dates: 1890
Architect/Builder: Famed Texan James Riely Gordon (1863-1937)
Restoration/Preservation Specialist: James P. Arnold (1999-2012)
Three types of architectural elements are present in this historical building:
Romanesque Revival is most identified with Richardsonian Romanesque — a term describing a building style in the mid-19th century which was popularized by the great American architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardsonian Romanesque was the only “revival style” of architecture that began in the United States and is considered the first truly “American” style of architecture. Richardson combined elements of an ancient style of arches, heavy stone motifs and multi-colored palettes with his own unique designs, some of which are considered the seeds of modernism. The alternating 6 in. x 6 in. square, smooth cut, and rusticated stones that can be seen as a checkerboard background for most of the K&S Building’s front east side wall is the quintessential example of Richardsonian Romanesque design.
Neo-Grec is a part of the style of architecture we call “Greek Revival”, but speaks to certain decorative elements. Neo-Grec is exhibited in the K&S Building by the decoration in the metal cornice on top of the building. Also, Neo-Grec is exhibited the serpentine arabesques carved into the stone lintels above the second floor windows.
Italianate is a revival of architecture from the 16th century Italian Renaissance and is a distinct part of the 19th century Victorian architecture. In the K&S Building, Italianate is exhibited by the proportions of the building, height and width of the entire front exterior wall, as well as the proportions of the doors and windows. Also, the style of hooded lintels above the second story windows is an abstraction and simplification of unique Italianate elements.
Jim Arnold, the K & S preservation specialist who worked with Dr. Betty Edwards on restoring the building, said: “It’s unknown how the Kahn & Stanzel partners came about hiring J. Riely Gordon, as it was rare up to that time to hire an architecture commercial design; perhaps it was to use the building itself to attract customers in the competitive and fast growing Hallettsville economy of the early 1890’s. Most design was driven by catalogs or by construction draftsman. It’s rare that such a building would be built for commercial purposes other than a religious or a wealthy residential project.
J. Riely Gordon, Kahn & Stanzel Building Architect
The Kahn & Stanzel building in Hallettsville, Texas, built in 1890, has recently been restored in the first part of this century and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. This edifice was designed by architect J. Riely Gordon, and is currently used as an art, performance and learning center.
James Riely Gordon (1863-1937), referred to as Riely, was born in Virginia, and moved with his family to San Antonio when he was around ten years old. He graduated from the public school at age 14 and worked as a civil engineer and a draftsman. His education as an architect was self-taught, making his extraordinary career all the more impressive. In 1902 Gordon moved to New York City, where he continued his successful career and served as President of the New York Society of Architects for thirteen years.
Texas was blessed with a number of fine architects in the late-19th century, but few were self-educated and most received their training outside the state. For example, Nicholas Clayton (1840-1916) emigrated from Ireland with his widowed mother, eventually apprenticed with a Memphis architectural firm that sent him to Galveston to supervise work there. He decided to stay. Alfred Giles (1853-1920) was educated in England at King’s College, London University and worked for a London architectural firm before immigrating to the United States and settling in San Antonio. Eugene T. Heiner (1853-1901), designer of the 1897 Lavaca County Courthouse, apprenticed with the Chicago architect William LeBaron Jenney before moving to Houston in 1878.
Built over 30 County Courthouses – 18 in Texas:
J. Riely Gordon became known for designing county courthouses that were particularly well suited for the Texas climate and building materials.
Aransas County Courthouse in Rockport (1889-90, now lost) Fayette County Courthouse in La Grange (1890-91)
Bexar County Courthouse (1892-97)
Erath County Courthouse in Stephenville (1891-92)
Old Victoria County Courthouse (1892)
Old Brazoria County Courthouse in Brazoria (1894-95, now lost)
Hopkins County Courthouse in Sulphur Springs (1894-95)
Gonzales County Courthouse (1894-96)
San Patricio County Courthouse in Sinton (1894-95, now lost)
Van Zandt County Courthouse in Canton (1894-96, now lost)
Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie (1894-97)
Wise County Courthouse in Decatur (1895-97)
Comal County Courthouse in New Braunfels (1898)
Lee County Courthouse in Giddings (1898-99)
Old Harrison County Courthouse in Marshall (1899-1901)
Callahan County Courthouse in Baird (1900, now lost)
McLennan County Courthouse in Waco (1900-02)
Angelina County Courthouse in Lufkin (1902-03, now lost)
Gordon also designed many buildings that were not courthouses. For Hallettsville, he designed the 1890 Kahn & Stanzel Building; an opera house (now lost); and the Rosenberg Building (remodeled).
Other notable buildings by J. Riely Gordon include the Texas State Building for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1892-93, now lost) and the Arizona Territorial Capitol in Phoenix (1899-1900, now the Arizona Capitol Museum).
About Lavaca County: