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Texas Commerce Bank, originally the Gulf Building (now Chase Bank), 1997 HCEL
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The 35 story, art-deco Gulf Building, completed in 1929, had the distinction of being the tallest building west of the Mississippi for 33 years. The project was a landmark in the development of foundation design and has forever changed the way buildings in the region are designed. The use of a mat foundation, rather than piles, was agreed upon after an extensive geotechnical review (with advice from Karl Terzaghi). Settlement records, taken from a set of special bolts which were set to monitor the structure for 19 years, pioneered data collection, the results of which were put to good use in the development of other Gulf Coast buildings and in the use of mat foundations.

The following excerpt from Engineering a Better Texas: ASCE and 100 Years of Civil Engineering in the Lone Star State by Betsy Tyson, is a testament to engineering flexibility and ingenuity:
 After 14 floors had been completed, building owner Jesse Jones decided he wanted to add four more stories to be sure his building was the tallest west of the Mississippi, and he placed a call to Simpson who responded it would take time to calculate if this would be possible. Jones replied, “That’s all right. I’ll hold the line open for 20 minutes waiting for your reply.” Simpson and his chief engineer, Manfred Gerhardt, determined within the allotted time that they could add the requested stories after strengthening the main columns for the first 14 floors.

Upon completion, the Gulf Building rose 430 feet high. One could see Galveston from the observation deck (with the help of a strong telescope). The deck was also home to an Aeronautical Beacon consisting of two searchlights: one directed vertical, one horizontal, illuminating the night sky.

Owner/Developer:
Jesse H. Jones
Architect: 
Alfred C. Finn
Engineers: 
J.E.R. Carpenter
  Kenneth Franzheim
  R.J. Cummings (structural)
  W.E. Simpson Co. (chief structural)
  Dr. Charles Terzaghi (foundation)
  Raymond F. Dawson (geotechnical investigations)
Contractor: 
Bellows Construction Co.
Photo:
Jerry R. Rogers Ph.D., P.E., Dipl, D.WRE, Dist.M.ASCE, ASCE Texas Section
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