People's Petroleum Building
Reaching a height of 15 stories, the People's Petroleum Building is one of the most prominent landmarks in Tyler. Noted Houston architect architect Alfred C. Finn (1883-1964) designed it in the Art Deco style. The building, which was first known as the People's National Bank Building (its main tenant), was built by prominent local businessman, real estate developer, and attorney Samuel A. Lindsey (c.1863-1961) in 1932. He recognized the need for office space for geologists, companies, engineers, and attorneys involved in the oil industry, which was booming at the time in East Texas. The Texas Bank & Trust company and other tenants occupy the building today.
Backstory and Context
Tyler was established in 1850 and almost from the beginning was an important economic hub. Agriculture, logging and milling, blacksmithing, and tanning were the primary industries in the early years. The economy grew rapidly after the railroads arrived in 1873. By the 1890s, Tyler had solidified its status as a key regional political and economic center and continued to thrive in the coming decades.
As alluded to above, the 1930s brought even more prosperity after oil was found near the city in October 1930. Tyler was the largest city in the county and as such was the best equipped to benefit from the industry given the business and professional services already in place. This was the context in which Linsey decided to construct the new office building, which cost around $910,000 to build. It was, at the time, one of the largest construction project west of the Mississippi River and the tallest building in East Texas. For the next couple of decades, the People's National Bank Building was the most prestigious business building in the city. During World War II, Texas oil supplied most of the oil for the Allies' war effort and much of it was produced in East Texas. The building, then, gains even more significance for its association with oil produced for the war. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
In terms of architecture, the building features a symmetrical facade on the College Avenue side of the building and a asymmetrical facades on the other sides, stepped massing at the top portion of the building, smooth and fluted black granite facades on the first floor, and an Art Deco banking lobby made with marble and granite. Other notable elements of the building include polished aluminum handrails, limestone and terrazzo floors, and marble-faced elevator entrances.
"The People's Petroleum Building: A Landmark is Reborn." People's Petroleum Building. Accessed October 22, 2020. http://www.peoplespetroleum.com/Pages/ArchHistory.html.
Williams, Diane Elizabeth. "People's National Bank Building." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. August 22, 2002. https://catalog.archives.gov/OpaAPI/media/40969943/content/electronic-records/rg-079/NPS_TX/02000896.pdf.
Rene Gomez, via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peoples_National_Bank_(1_of_1).jpg