The Pillot Building

August 29, 2018 by  
Filed under Blogs, Community

Located in the 1000 block of Congress Avenue at Fannin, the Pillot Building is a living marker of both our state’s history and a prominent Houston family. Joseph Eugene Pillot (1820–1896) emigrated from France in his youth, arriving in Houston in 1837, when it was still capital of the Republic of Texas. As a businessman, Pillot was involved with both the railroads and barge-shipping, helping to make his adopted city competitive with its then-rival, Galveston. He was also the proprietor of Pillot’s Opera House—a playhouse, music hall and all-purpose public auditorium—where noted performers of the day, such as Lillie Langtry and Edwin Booth, appeared. (Unfortunately, in 1889 the Opera House burned to the ground, a not-so-uncommon fate for buildings of the period.) One of Pillot’s sons, Camille Gabriel Pillot (1861–1953), became a partner in the Henke and Pillot grocery-store chain, which operated throughout East Texas for nearly a century before it was ultimately subsumed by the Kroger Company.

Yet another, later scion of the clan, Houston-born Eugene Pillot (1886–1966) achieved national recognition as a playwright, poet, author and songwriter; his most-noted work, the one-act Two Crooks and a Lady (written circa 1918), was produced across the country during the 1920s and 1930s and remains in print to this day.

The three-story Pillot Building itself is most notable for its cast-iron front structure and ornate Corinthian columns. The neglected edifice suffered major damage during the 1980s; it had to be painstakingly reconstructed using its original materials, a feat accomplished by Morris Architects and the construction firm of Henry Alvin Lott (1908–2006). Today the Pillot Building’s ground floor is home to Christian’s Tailgate Bar and Grill, a popular sports bar and restaurant. —Clifford Crouch