CLICK on this image to go to the modeling work for the San Antonio City Crest created by T.M. Battersby (Apr 1994)
The San Antonio City Council Chamber now occupies a space originally occupied by the Frost Bank Lobby. Constructed in 1922, the twelve story structure, built on the site in use by Col. Frost since 1868, was one of the largest structures of its kind in the United States. Construction was commissioned by J. H. Frost, son of Col. Thomas Claiborne Frost. San Antonio architect Lou Harrington (1872-1950) drew the plans. This building, along with the Maverick Bldg. on E. Houston St., is a fine example of the early "skyscraper" style of construction, representing a new and modern approach to office building.
This prominent location on the historic Main Plaza, next to the San Fernando Cathedral, was vacated by the banking organization in 1973, moving to a new downtown landmark close by, the 400,000 sq. ft Frost Tower. Luby's Restaurants, another prestigious local business, had a restaurant located there, in the lobby,for fifteen years. This downtown location served lunch only and was used as a Luby's management training school. It was closed in 1989.
Col. Frost based his philosophy on being a "people" business, not a "money" business. This has continued successfully for 130 years. Frost, born in 1833, in Alabama, came to Texas and studied law in Sam Houston's office. In 1857 he was appointed to theTexas Rangers. In 1861 he was a delegate to the Secession convention in Austin, and immediately volunteered in the Texas State Troops, when Texas seceded from the Union,and was assigned to the First Regiment Texas Mounted Riflemen Unit.
Reconstruction regulations disallowed the practice of law by Confederate Officers, so Frost started a freight business and moved to the Main Plaza location. As the business became more sophisticated Frost began merchandising, financing, and marketing wool. Giving up the wool commission in 1896, the bank was chartered nationally in 1899. Financial stability was so strong that even The Great Depression could not close its doors. Many financial institutions struggled to survive in the 1980s due to the drop in oil prices, the real estate crash, and the savings and loan scandal. Frost remained healthy and became the only one of Texas' top 10 banking companies to survive without Federal assistance.
BATTERSBY ORNAMENTAL, in 1994, restored the coffered ceiling in the building's lobby, designed and adapted the new downlighting penetrations, and created a new interpretation of the city crest that hangs directly behind the mayor's chair. At this time the city restored and remodeled the lobby as a new space for the city council to hold their weekly meetings. The original city crest, carved in wood by Johannes C. Scholze, in 1925, was very small. My crest, modeled in clay after the original design, and cast in plaster, is about four times larger. The ornament in place in the chamber is exquisitely polychromed, and gold leafed by Cisi Jary and her daughter Pam Rosser. The new city council chamber was officially dedicated on May 19, 1994.
The image below shows part of the view from the rear of the Council Chamber,
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T.M. Battersby