|NRHP Reference #||00000751 |
|Added to NRHP||September 11, 2000|
The Link–Lee House is a large historic home located in Montrose in central Houston, Harris County, in the U.S. state of Texas. It is currently serving as the executive office of the University of St. Thomas. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Harris County, Texas in 2000, and became a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 2001.
The Link Lee mansion located at 3800 Montrose Blvd. (on the corner of Montrose Blvd. and West Alabama Street) in Houston is an outstanding example of the early glory days of Texas oil production. The building is a prime example of neoclassical architecture, featuring a pronounced portico, elaborate brickwork and ornate terra cota ornamentation that is consistent with the American neoclassical style. The building has been a Texas Historical Landmark since 2001. But long before it became a university building, the mansion already had a colorful past.
In 1910, John Wiley Link, a wealthy lumberman, financier, lawyer, and former mayor of Orange, Texas saw a great opportunity in Houston, so he moved there and formed the Houston Land Corporation. Then he bought several tracts consisting of 250 acres (1 km²) on the outskirts of the city and immediately set about improving the property, building a main street, now Montrose Boulevard, through the center of it.
At this point, Link began to divide the property into tracts and sold them as part of a strategy to develop the first upscale residential master-planned community in the Houston area, which during the early 1900s had only a total of about 26 miles (42 km) of decent roads. After Montrose and West Alabama were paved in 1911, Link announced that he would soon begin construction of his own home within the confines of the entire block number 41 in the Montrose addition that he purchased from his own corporation. He hired the architectural firm of Sanguinent, Staats, and Barnes to design the structure that the Young Contracting Company completed in 1912 at a cost of $60,000.
The Links lived in the house until December 9, 1916, when T. P. Lee purchased it for $90,000, reported to be the most ever paid for a single-family dwelling in the Houston area up to that time. Lee, a Houston oil man, investor, and main stockholder of the Yount-Lee Oil Company bought the largest private home in Houston at the time. It stood at 10,500 square feet (980 m2) of living space. In addition to the living space, the mansion has a basement that matches the first floor in its footprint. The living space includes a living room, formal dining room, breakfast room, conservatory (music room), study, butler’s pantry, and kitchen on the first floor. The second floor consists of five bedroom suites. The third floor housed the mansion’s ballroom complete with its own kitchen, bathroom and a platform for a small band.
After Lee's death, his home remained in the possession of his family until July 9, 1940 when family members, including Mrs. Essie N. Lee, sold the property to the University of St. Thomas for $120,000. At the wishes of all heirs and executors, the college separated the payment into two parts: $6,000 in cash and the remaining $114,000 as a donation, guaranteed by a promissory note dated September 1, 1946, made payable to the William M. Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science and Art in Houston.
University of St. Thomas
The home, now referred to as the Link-Lee Mansion, and its surrounding land, became the main building of the University of St. Thomas, which still occupies the site today. Originally the building housed the entire university, it now contains the executive offices of the university. While still mostly intact, the mansion has been adapted to accommodate the offices of the president, vice president for Academic Affairs, Dean of Arts and Sciences, vice president for Institutional Advancement, and Alumni Relations.
The surrounding patio, porch, and yard of the mansion was utilized each October as part of Neewollah, the university's Halloween party. This tradition ended in 2006 with the construction of the Edward P. White Memorial Plaza, which will feature a large granite monolith and fountain. The plaza is the last design of famous architect Philip Johnson.
Future plans involve moving the offices out of the mansion and restoring it back to how it looked in 1912. These plans are contingent upon the university purchasing adjacent properties prior to making any such moves.
- University of St. Thomas website
- McKinley, Fred B., and Greg Riley. Black Gold to Bluegrass: From the Oil Fields of Texas to Spindletop Farm of Kentucky. Austin: Eakin Press, 2005.