28 September 1910: This rendition of the Rossonian Flats is something of an artist's interpretation of a building perhaps at that time not fully completed [See also the similarly depicted Southern Pacific Hospital]. The surrounding buildings are somewhat of a fantasy, such as the multistory building on the left (which should be the Baptist Church [LINK]), the discordantly disproportionate buildings on the right, which should have been depicted as residences, and the church steeple which does not correspond to any known congregation.
James Oliver Ross (1849-1929) built this rather grand 7-story apartment hotel at the corner of McKinney and Fannin in 1910 and it quickly became the home of Houstonians who desired a life filled with urban conveniences. The building featured a rooftop pergola, a café, beauty shop, even Oscar Sauermann’s sanitarium should anyone fall ill. Over the years tenants in the 60-82 apartments included: Sidney Westheimer; Niels Esperson (namesake for the iconic 1927 Esperson Building at 800-814 Travis Street); and Julia Ideson, who for many years headed the Carnegie Library. Less well known tenants included lumbermen, bankers, capitalists, spinsters, widows and music teachers. One Estelle Levy (1855-1931), long-time widow of Marx Block from Galveston, lived there in #43, a member of nearby reformed Beth Israel Synagogue and friend of the rabbi, Dr. Henry Barnstein. As the taste for downtown living became supplanted by the lure of suburban living, the Rossonian became Hotel Ambassador by 1942, conveniently located across the street from the bus station on McKinney and the YMCA across Fannin.
See also YMCA Rossonian and Rossonian at McKinney for different angles of the Rossonian.
10 July 2004: The 40-story 2 Houston Center was finished in 1974 as the first installment of a grand plan for eastern portions of downtown. The economic downturn of the early 1980’s forced this vast project to be set aside, but recent building around Discovery Green are a continuation of this vision under another name.
The buildings on the left have been renovated since this image was taken to become apartments: (left) The Star - North Building and The Star - South Building. The South Building at 720 San Jacinto Street was finished in 1913 as a 13 story headquarters for the Texaco Company, then in 1938 the annex at 1111 Rusk (far left) was added as a 16 story building. In 1989 Texaco relocated to Heritage Plaza at 1111 Bagby Street, and the buildings lay empty until renovations 2014-2016.
Postmarked: 28 September 1910 Houston, Tex.
Stamp: 1c Green Ben Franklin #331
To: Mrs R. W. Turney
1046 Sixth Ave.
Huntington, W. Va.
Do you want a fig tree?
Dear Sister: Why dont you write? Hope you are all as well as this leaves us. Eliz. goes to school. We are all very busy, but happy and contented, W. S’s health is just fine again. All send love. Sister Etta
Sep 28 – fine weather.
Etta wrote this postcard from her home at 1816 Pierce to her sister-in-law, Annie McBride Turney. Etta was married to William Stokes Turney, and Annie was married to his brother, Robert William Turney. The Turney family was originally from Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA, about 25 miles southeast of Pittsburg. She offers a fig tree to her northern relations, an odd proposal in a sense, as Ficus carica would not thrive near the Ohio River of West Virginia.
Etta mentions that Eliz. was going to school. Elizabeth was only weeks away from her 17th birthday, and if she was attending public school, it is likely that she was going to Houston High School [LINK], a streetcar ride of about 15 blocks toward the center of town. Her full name was Elizabeth Cook Turney, namesake for her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cook. Mirroring this tradition of grandmother-honoring, her Aunt Annie McBride Turney was named for her own grandmother, Isabella McBride.
William Stokes Turney’s first wife was Regina Mattie Fry, older sister to Etta, they were daughters of Isaac Fry and Margaret Ann Shirey. Mattie and W. S’s sons, his first family, were Harry L. (1858), Edward Kenley (1880) and Eli Mack (1882). Mattie died 25 August 1891 and W. S. married Etta 29 December 1892 In Westmoreland County, PA. Their daughter, his second family, was Elizabeth Cook was born 6 November 1893 in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA.
In keeping with this tradition of sister-marrying, William Stokes Turney’s brother Robert W. married Annie McBride Lauderback in about 1880, and a year after she died in 1915, he married her sister Emma Louderback, both daughters of Peter Lauderback and Isabella McBride. They were still in Pennsylvania in 1900 where the household also included included Elizabeth C. Turney, William’s mother, and a cousin, Etta. With two Etta’s and two Elizabeth Cooks, there must have been a code to keep things from becoming confusing. Robert W’s family was also burdened with redundant naming. In 1910 his Huntington, WV household included his daughter Emma B. (15) as well as his sister-in-law Emma Lauderback (54) who, it must be remembered, he would marry in 1916.
The Turney brothers remained in the towns they had moved to from Westmoreland County, PA, Robert W. in Huntington, WV and William Stokes in Houston, TX. W. S. worked in real estate with his offices in the Binz Building. They moved from their near downtown address at 1816 Pierce to 3718 Bell on the east side near the intersection of Scott and Leeland before 1929. Elizabeth Cook Turney worked as a public school teacher, and did not marry.
Etta Priscilla Fry Turney died in 1944 and William Stokes Turney died in 1946; they are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Houston. Their daughter Elizabeth Cook Turney died in 1966. Robert William Turney died in 1927 and his widow Emma Louderback Turney died in 1936, they and their sister / wife Annie McBride Louderback Turney are buried in Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington, Cabell County, WV.