In the summer of 1956 the Bank of the Southwest building was completed as the first major office building since the Great Depression to be located west of Main Street: a decision considered daring in Houston financial circles. Colonel W. B. Bates, Chairman of the Bank, along with Ed Rotan and Tenneco Chairman Gardiner Symonds, organized what was to become Houston’s premier lunch club located in the bank building. It was small and select, numbering only 100 members while providing facilities for expansion with space for the bank to entertain its clients in a designated area.
To provide the ideal ambiance for the Club, the Committee engaged Kenneth Franzheim, a well-known and highly regarded Houston architect. It was he who established the Nineteenth Century European motif that we continue to enjoy today. He also gave the Club its name after Francisco Vasquez Coronado a Sixteenth Century Spanish explorer. (See Coronado’s Children by Frank R. Dobie, in the Club’s library.)
The Club officially opened January 1957 with approximately 100 members from downtown banking, legal and accounting firms, oil and gas companies, brokerage houses and insurance companies. Ed Rotan was the Club’s first president serving from 1956 to 1959. With its outstanding facilities and membership, the Club doubled its membership. In the early eighties, the by-laws were amended to invite women to become members and more recently established a ceiling of 750 for the total membership.
In the 1960’s as Houston continued to grow, the Coronado Club was the scene of many significant and historical negotiations in the business community. Many businesses had their monthly and quarterly board meetings here. The Bank of the Southwest conducted its executive committee meetings here. A. G. McNeese, the bank’s president and a Club member was a valuable member in the Club’s relationship with the bank.
In the early days, card games were popular and the players were ably assisted by Rudy Frierson, the bartender, who later served as the Club’s Manager for a number of years. Rudy was the confidant of many members, notably Leon Jaworski, then special prosecutor in the Nixon Watergate matter. If only the walls could talk! Rudy didn’t.
The Solo Room, once the center of many fascinating deals, discussions and debates regarding the local business scene has become an integral addition into the newly refashioned Churchill Bar. The site of lively conversation and colorful stories, the Churchill Bar is rapidly establishing itself as a venue reminiscent of days gone by.
Throughout its distinguished history the Coronado Club has remained a bastion of strength and financial stability in Houston’s downtown business district. Our members are committed to Houston’s growth and economic development and represent the stabilizing economic basis which has made Houston a prominent player in the world market and upheld its positive national image through all economic cycles.
Members of the Coronado Club are among a family of local and national leaders who throughout the history of the Club have played a vital role in Houston’s growth and who represent the highest standards in personal and business ethics.