Dear Friends and Media,
I just learned that the Trost-designed International Building, completed in 1921, was just sold to Jerome Karam, a Houston based real estate developer who apparently plans to improve the structure. Vic Kolenc recently reported that Karam purchased the Sunrise Shopping Center in Northeast El Paso, and he mentioned this pending sale, which apparently closed today.
Karam told Kolenc that his company specializes in buying “undervalued and underserved buildings” and refurbishing them, often into other uses.
Originally called the Two Republics Building, it was erected at the southwest corner of Stanton and Texas at a cost of $750,000 for the Two Republics Life Insurance Company. The plans called for an eight-story brick tower with terracotta facing and two entrances. When completed, it had 138 office rooms for lease. An ice water fountain was installed on each floor–a new modern feature.
The City National Bank signed a 20-year lease to occupy the entire ground floor and the basement beneath it. The entire seventh floor was occupied by the Two Republics Life Insurance company. The rest of the floors were occupied by lawyers, doctors, contracting companies, and other firms. For a time, the office of Trost & Trost Architects was located on the top floor. At the southwest corner of the building was the Kohlberg Brothers cigar store.
The interior lobby of the bank was revetted with fancy pink marble. There were eleven bronze bank cages for clerks and tellers. In the basement was the largest safety deposit vault in the state.
In the 1960s the exterior was modified with the addition of dark, unsightly windows separated by strips of painted concrete, gravely altering the original appearance. As a result, a bid to have the edifice added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 was rejected.
However, the 2017 County architectural survey determined that the building is eligible to be a “contributing” building in the proposed Downtown National Register Historic District, the application for which is still pending. If the district is created, federal and state tax credits could pay for up to 45% of the cost of renovating the structure.
Fabian Uribe of Team Juan Uribe handled the sale of the building, which was announced 4 hours ago.
We are delighted that the building has been sold to an excellent buyer and are hopeful that it will be thoughtfully rehabilitated.
Max Grossman, PhD
Board of Directors, Preservation Texas
Vice-Chair, The Trost Society
Co-Chair, Restore Sacred Heart Church