The Arts

May 11, 2016

Like no Other Packing Plant in the World

House of Mo-Rose

Ultra-Modern Gift Fruit Packing Plant Opening, read a headline in the San Benito News on January 1st, 1962. J. L. Brett, Valley cotton broker turned citrus marketer, announces opening of ultra-modern gift fruit packaging plant at Brett Orchards near Olmito, nine miles from San Benito. The House of Mo-Rose to begin operation with capacity for 100,000 units of gift citrus per year. Ruby Red grapefruit will be main bill of fare. Oranges and other fruits will also be packed. Jack Dobson to manage 13,425 sf plant.

Architect Charles Croft of Taniguchi Assoc. says it is shaped like no other packing plant in the world. Inverted hyperbolic paraboloid: upside down columns with warps at their tops that add strength to the building. Precast concrete and glass are two most prominent materials. Massive concrete walls and columns were cast on site and then lifted into place. One-story with open catwalk connecting two mezzanines. On first floor is an air-conditioned 800 sf office and reception area paneled with Brazilian rosewood.

 Croft says all colors are coordinated. Color harmony important because everything is exposed. Even the machinery will be painted. Delivery, washing, sizing, grading, packing, and shipping of gift fruit all take place on first floor. Mezzanines used for materials storage, fruit drying, and box construction. Extensive planning went into design of building, according to J. L. Brett & Co. spokesman. Located on edge of 200-acre orchard, within walking distance of where grapefruit is grown.


House of Mo Rose today

House of Mo Rose today

Since 2014, Preservation Texas has announced an annual list of Most Endangered Places to rally Texans to step up and save them. This year, as a new member of the Preservation Texas board of directors, I had the privilege of presenting the House of Mo-Rose during the official announcement held at Wooldridge Square in Austin, Texas. The House of Mo-Rose is located within the grounds of Rancho Viejo Resort and Country Club in Rancho Viejo, Texas.

This designation is actually a good thing, for it brings attention to an architecture style that may be taken for granted or not considered to have much historic value. According to Preservation Texas Executive Director Evan Thompson it is difficult for many to understand the importance of recognizing places from our recent past. Particularly when personal taste drives a reaction to a building. “The architecture of the recent past, is often victim to the tyranny of taste. Yet taste changes, and we are glad that those who gleefully removed all of the ‘ugly’ Victorian courthouses and turreted landmarks weren’t successful in removing every last vestige of the late 19th century,” Thompson wrote in Preservation Texas’ Winter 2016 newsletter.

Last January, Houston Mod and Preservation Texas board members toured the House of Mo-Rose with Rice University Professor Stephen Fox where property owner Sergio Arguelles welcomed the group and was interested in learning about the history of the building and the architect who designed this original structure. “We want to make something happen here. We have been looking into restoring this building for some time now,” Arguelles said. Thanks to the Most Endangered nomination, restoration counseling and guidance could be available through Preservation Texas including support in finding suitable repurposing of such an incredible mid-twentieth-century landmark.

From left: Stephen Fox and Sergio Arguelles

From left: Stephen Fox and Sergio Arguelles

Alan Taniguchi’s now-demolished Flato Memorial Livestock Pavilion in Kingsville (1959), on which he collaborated with planner S. B. Zisman and landscape architect Stewart King, was his first experiment with thin shell concrete construction. Taniguchi and Croft were inspired by the Spanish-Mexican engineer Félix Candela, who attained international recognition in the 1950s for his boldly shaped, thin-shell concrete structures. Candela was engineering consultant to O’Neil Ford and Richard S. Colley for the design of their Crossroads Restaurant in Arlington TX (1957) and their Texas Instruments Semiconductor Building in Dallas (1958), on both of which Zisman and King also collaborated. O’Neil Ford, Alan Taniguchi, and Max Burkhart collaborated on the design of Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School (1960) in the Valley town of Pharr. Although Taniguchi and Croft did not work directly with Candela, they worked with other design professionals who had, suggesting how the assertive but economical hyperbolic paraboloid shapes, justifiable because they were outgrowths of the process and materials of construction, came to figure in Valley architecture.

After Taniguchi departed for Austin, Croft continued to experiment with concrete construction, as can be seen at San Felipe Neri Catholic Mission in Harlingen and office buildings for the Cameron County Water Irrigation District in Harlingen and La Feria.

Preservation is about the future, for who can conceive a future without landmarks of the past? How can communities move forward disregarding their past and their architectural heritage? I simply do not see it.

For more information on specific sites and all of the sites on the Most Endangered Places Lists (2004-2016 , please visit

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and my spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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