By L.A. ShivelyApril 15, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The Fort Sam Houston Officers Club, Building 407, was officially unveiled as the renovated Main Resident Center April 9. Lincoln Military Housing hosted a week-long open house last July to introduce the neighborhood to the new facility.
Originally the Bachelor Officers Quarters and Mess, the building was part of the "New Post" construction project and one of over 300 buildings erected from 1928 to 1941. The officers club was completed in 1935.
The New Post project introduced novel concepts of city planning where entire blocks were laid out that included every utility necessary - streets, sewers, lights and power sources according to John Mancuso, director of the FSH Museum.
Buildings were designed for administration, operations and housing and modeled after Chief of the Design Branch of the Quartermaster Corps, Lt. H.B. Nurse's ideas of unity.
Nurse used recurring geometric figures, parallels, diagonals and ornamentation that were symmetrical, with elements radiating from the common center and referring back to the common center to confer balance and, what he called a natural beauty.
Construction for the New Post project began in response to outraged citizens angry with the unsanitary conditions of the Soldiers' living quarters.
Prior to the Housing Program of 1926, much of the construction on Fort Sam had been in response to WWI where more than 1,400 temporary quarters were hastily erected to house the 120,000 Soldiers returning after the war.
A major aspect of the Housing Program of 1926, Mancuso said, was use of styles and materials typical for Texas.
The program introduced the Spanish Colonial Revival style employed by Architect Atlee B. Ayers, designer of the San Antonio Municipal Auditorium and the McNay Art Institute to Fort Sam, and had an early focus on quality-of-life for residents. Wives of both officers and noncommissioned officers were consulted on housing preferences.
The original Officers Club was constructed in a U-shape and included 12 apartments with bathrooms upstairs; and a kitchen, dining room, bar and grill, lounge, reading room, dance terrace and two card rooms downstairs.
Over the next 60 years, the building was renovated and modified to include more dining spaces, lounges, bars, restrooms, and an alternate entrance said Patricia Baker, program management specialist with the Residential Communities Initiative, whose office occupies one of the renovated apartments.
"We've removed some of the doors and created a linear office space," she said, adding that LMH occupies one half of the upstairs space with RCI.
The organizations are partners providing management and maintenance services to residents of the post while maintaining buildings and facilities.
The current renovation was done only on the historical portion of the building, while the non-historical portion was demolished. The original floors were kept as was the tile in the foyer and in the kitchen.
"Its keeping the historic nature of the building, but its intended purpose was for officers and their Families to enjoy. So now all Families can enjoy the building," Baker said.
A pool, playground, and sports court were added. The Resident Center also features a game room, full kitchen, media room, main or ball room, meeting rooms, and a business center.
Baker said she was most intrigued with the ballroom. "The floors; the stained-glass windows; the furniture - it's the perfect setting for functions."
"The food was good, the service was good," reminisced Doug Dupre, who said he was a 1961 University of Texas ROTC midshipman who spent one tour as a Marine, and is currently a member of the board for Association of the United States Army. Upstairs was formal dining with white table cloths - the whole nine yards. Downstairs [in the basement] was the Raven Room with young people and live music."
Dupre jokes the pool is not as large as the original pool and there are not as many beautiful girls as there once was, that would catch a young Marine's eye. "But it's not summer yet either," he interjects. "It's certainly returned to its elegance - they've done a nice job." he said.
"We've been able to turn the building into a focal point for the residents of Fort Sam Houston," said Garrison Commander Col. Mary Garr. "I would like to continue to bring our community together in other ways - through programs, events, team building. We're not where we need to be yet but I still see opportunities."
"We're providing additional activities for all the residents to enjoy a personal experience," said Allyson McKay, executive director for LMH. "We wanted to do it right."