Leonel J. Castillo Community Center
Built in 1919, the Robert E. Lee Elementary School was closed in 2002, vacant for 10 years, and badly damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008. Harris County acquired it in 2011 for historic restoration and conversion to a community center.
PGAL repurposed the facility as a flexible, multipurpose community center while retaining and restoring as many of the original elements as possible, and visually integrating the building’s exteriors with the aesthetics of the contemporary neighborhood.
The original front and side clay masonry walls were deemed salvageable and were preserved and restored, while the remainder of the building was carefully demolished to prevent damage or collapse of the historic walls. PGAL designed a secondary independent steel frame structural system in the interior perimeter to brace, anchor, and stabilize the walls. Original windows and doors were damaged beyond restoration, but were historically reconstructed to match historic profiles and details.
The structure’s most historically significant feature, the entry portico, was deemed structurally unstable to preserve or restore. The design team accurately documented these details using laser scanning, salvaged all masonry precast elements, demolished all portico walls, and reconstructed the entry to historic specifications. Original precast columns, capitols, and parapet cartouche were reinstalled to near exact historic locations. The design team used delicate cleaning, patching, and injecting with epoxies to repair and preserve to original condition.
The vibrant interior was redesigned to house a 500-person assembly room, two meeting rooms, a warming kitchen, and staffed reception lobby. A museum room celebrates the school's history, original architect Alfred C. Finn, and the center’s namesake.
- Secondary independent steel frame structural system to brace, anchor, and stabilize the walls
- Original precast columns, capitols, and parapet cartouche reinstalled to near exact historic locations
- Entry portico reconstructed to historic specifications
- 500-person assembly room, two meeting rooms, warming kitchen, staffed reception lobby, and museum room