Several weeks ago I took a tour of the downtown tunnel system. I had worked downtown prior to moving to Brasil so I already knew the tunnels. How to make my way from the Bank of America Center, where I worked on the 23rd floor, to my favorite eateries and back. When I first started working downtown, I would have to go up the escalators every once in a while to figure out where I was then go back down and continue on my way. Unlike many of the downtown workers, sometimes I would pop up then walk on the streets, empty of people. I love the architecture, the mixture of old and new, and the sense of energy that emanates from all buildings.
So taking this tour was for learning facts and figures, unusual antidotes, and to see what buildings the tour group thought were important to the city, and important to me - to take photos. Like every tour I’ve ever taken, I came away vaguely disappointed. The young tour guide, although very pleasant, had no particular knowledge of the tunnels. We spent from 9:30 to 1:30 – walking about 3 miles (would normally take about 45 minutes), going up into only 3 buildings, having free time to eat lunch (at 11:00 to miss the lunch crowd??) and being taken into numerous stores to ‘shop’. And photos were not allowed inside the tunnels….. what!
There were three highlights though that I found delightful and well worth the time and the money spent for the tour. High atop the Chase towers, on the 60th floor, is a sky lobby where 1/2 of the city skyline is open to view. You can take photos but not video (???) and it was fun seeing the wonder on the other visitors faces as they looked out over our sprawl. (Lower left is the Bank of America center – the 23rd floor right at the center of the building as seen)
We also went into the basement of City Hall. I would have like to see the building itself but what we saw was the gift shop and visitor's center. First I didn’t know it was there, so that was great, and second they have brochures of every possible event or venue that you might be interested in seeing. There were brochures from Harris, Ft. Bend, and Galveston Counties. I brought home …. maybe 20, for things I would like to see and do. … Arboretum, Aquarium, glass bottom boat ride, Fire station Museum, Weather Museum; all there and I didn’t know about them.
Okay, I am finally getting to the stained glass.
The best, the star, the highlight of the tour for me was the Chase Bank Building. (no longer owned by Chase) Built in 1929 as the Gulf Oil Building and until 1963 it was the tallest building in Houston. The art-deco interior was restored in 1989 and is a must see. One end of the lobby, with its soaring 43 foot ceilings, is the elevator bank with their nickel plated doors and the other end a stained glass window depicting Texas history. I am sure that when this stained glass was added to the lobby-scape, it lit the lobby with color and light. Today surrounded by taller building as it is only the artificial light of today lit the space. Can you imagine this window when in its glory?
… a few more details…..