Flashback Fridays blog

Serving the City of San Antonio: Fire Station #51

Completed back in November of 2011, Fire Station #51 was constructed by G.W Mitchell Construction through a contract given by the City of San Antonio. Located at 5040 Beckwith Boulevard, the fire station was built to meet the LEED (Silver Leadership in Energy and Environment Development) Silver certification and federal green standards.

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Designed by Chesney Morales, this single-story, 14,015 square foot project included ground-up construction of CMU interiors, a brick exterior, and a radiused standing seam metal roof. In addition, it included the building of three apparatus bays, one EMS bay, first-rate living quarters for fire companies and EMS technicians, and a fitness facility.

San Antonio’s Fire Station #51 hosts the city’s second-heaviest rescue team, improving response times within the urban community of Bexar County.

G.W Mitchell Construction would like to personally thank all first responders and essential personnel in the surrounding area of San Antonio during this unprecedented time of COVID-19. We could not be here today without your service. Thank you.

The Harvey E. Najim Hope Center

Completed in 2015, the Harvey E. Najim Hope Children’s Center provides a safe haven for many abused and neglected children across Bexar County. This project was very dear to our hearts as we were able to partner and assist in the building of the facility, supplying family services to thousands of San Antonio children in their time of need.
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The Hope Center is a trauma-informed facility specialized in administering emergency shelter and foster care assistance to youth and children. Standing as a symbol of hope and refuge for many, the center provides specialized outpatient therapy and mental health services to children and families across South Texas.

Funded by Harvey Najim and other generous donors, the construction of this 4,033 square foot, one-story facility consisted of a total renovation and extensive structural repair to an existing dilapidated building along with an addition to the building that added much needed space for the shelter.

Courtesy of Lopez Salas Architects, the interior of the building is completely furnished and designed with bright colors and homestyle decoration to comfort every child who walks through their doors. The center is located at 2939 W. Woodlawn and resides on a 10-acre lot of land, ready for future expansion.

And expanding is exactly what happened! Recently the center expanded their facility to provide mental health care for children as young as 2, who have experienced neglect, abuse and/or abandonment. The Hope Center 2 renovation of approximately 4,000 sf area on the existing Children’s Center Campus. The project construction of new treatment rooms, observation areas, doctor’s offices, social worker touch down spaces, upgraded restrooms and a new break area created the facilities needed to expand medical services. We are proud to say we built this facility that allows for a continuation of outpatient services for more than 4,100 children every year.

The First Modern Art Museum in Texas is Breaking Ground Again

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The McNay Museum of Visual Art is a staple in providing San Antonio with some of the most unique and engaging pieces of art available in Bexar county. For more than 60 years, the McNay has been a destination point for tourists and art seekers alike. Over 22,000 works of art from around the world reside in the McNay, but did you know that there may be some artwork by a Mitchell on display? In 1954, the McNay opened its doors becoming the first modern art museum in Texas. At the museum’s center lays an extravagant mansion with the construction performed by G.W. Mitchell Construction (GWM).

Marion McNay, an American painter, art collector, and teacher moved to San Antonio in 1926 where she met and married Donald T. Atkinson. In July 1927, the Atkinsons commissioned GWM to build the 24-room Spanish colonial revival home, designed by Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres. The project was completed in 1929 and cost $131,657 – about $4,800,000 in today’s dollars. Between January 1929 and July 1935, GWM was commissioned for several additions and repairs to the property for a total of $33,703 which would be valued at $1.24 million today. The construction and renovations are not the only ties we have with the McNay. We also share a link with some artwork seen inside. Cecil Mitchell, brother of G.W. Mitchell, and painting subcontractor for the project, painted the stencils seen on the ceiling of the lobby.

Upon her death in 1950, Marion McNay left over 700 art pieces, her luxurious Spanish Colonial house, and the beautiful 23 acres that surrounded it to the City of San Antonio. This donation established the first modern art museum in Texas. The McNay Museum of Visual Arts opened its doors to the public in 1954 and began gaining critical acclaim. Today, the McNay has over 95,000 visitors each year, a collection of over 22,000 works of art, and covers more than 64,000 square feet.

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The McNay has come a long way from its establishment in 1954. As the museum continues to grow, we are happy to announce that we will be part of a future expansion plan. G.W. Mitchell has been commissioned to build a $4 million-dollar landscape master plan! This plan aims to further the McNay’s mission of engaging a diverse community in the discovery and enjoyment of the visual arts through enhancing the outdoor museum experience with additional works of art, “invisible” fencing, new landscaping and increased accessibility. We are excited to be part of the continued development of the McNay Museum of Visual Arts and look forward to continuing our partnership with the first modern art museum in Texas.

Cutting Edge Construction at Southwest Research Institute

In 1947 Thomas Baker Slick Jr. founded the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) in South Texas. As an adventurer, philanthropist, and oilman he recruited scientists and engineers from across the nation with one goal – seek revolutionary advancements through advanced science and applied technology. Today that spirit lives on at Southwest Research Institute, however, it took more than a ranch and a brilliant team to turn this dream into reality.


Between the years of 1947 and 1967, Slick recruited Harold Vagtborg as the first president to lead his team of scientists and engineers at the original 1,200-acre ranch outside San Antonio. In the first five years they went from 64 projects to 600! They gained national notoriety for automotive testing, environmental research, and radio direction finding.

As Southwest Institute Research continued to be a pioneer in scientific advancements, it began to set standards in microencapsulation, space research, oil and gas, ocean engineering, and materials research. By the 1980’s, the institute had developed new research and safety standards for emissions, fire, and air pollution, as well as expanding into new areas such as aviation systems, automation, artificial intelligence, and manufacturing. In 1982, G.W. Mitchell joined the momentum by providing an extension of the library. Melvin Mitchell acted as project manager.

By the 1990’s it was time to expand the campus and G.W. Mitchell was ready for the challenge. In 1995, we provided a small addition to a specialized testing facility known as building 75, designed by architect Lawrence Wilson. Bill Mitchell was the project manager. In addition to this expansion, we also tripled building 171 designed by McCall & Associates. The project included multiple labs, administration offices, and conferences rooms. Due to extensive mechanical and electrical systems, this project was very complex and required extensive coordination to integrate properly with the architectural features of the building. Additionally, while completing 171, we completed several small projects on the property.

In recent history, the Southwest Research Institute gained international attention under current president Adam L. Hamilton for leading NASA missions including New Horizons missions to Pluto, Juno mission to Jupiter, Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, and Interstellar Boundary Explore (IBEX).

Decades of Building Trinity University

With a history like ours, it’s easy to boast decade-long relationships in San Antonio. A particular relationship that holds dear to our hearts is the one we have with Trinity University. What many might not know, the current campus is actually the third location for the university.

The original campus opened in 1869 in Techuacana, near Mexia, Texas. In less than 20 years, there was discussion of expansion or moving the campus because of quick growth. In 1902, the university moved to Waxahachie where it remained for nearly 40 years. Then, in February of 1942, the Synod of Texas accepted an invitation from the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce to move to The Alamo City.

This is where you might think the moving ends, but Trinity was actually located off Woodlawn Avenue for 10 years before settling on the current campus we’ve grown to love. Because of the quick growth, Trinity obtained a new site of more than 100 acres and made plans for its newest campus, in the location we know today. This campus would be called the “hilltop” campus due to the hills of limestone.

This is the time when our stories meet. Construction on the campus began in 1950 and opened in 1952 but some of the buildings were not complete. Since the women’s dormitory had not been completed, female students stayed in the men’s dormitory which housed 60 students. Between 1950 and 1959 G.W. helped complete, construct, and expand the men’s and women’s dormitories, student union, music building, and tennis courts. In the 1960’s we returned to construct the refectory and baseball field, which seats 1,000. Later we were asked to construct the popular Laurie Auditorium.

With decades of building for Trinity, a deep bond and understanding of the campus had grown. When we were tasked with Laurie Auditorium, we knew this was also a special way to pay tribute to James Woodin Laurie, the first president of the hilltop campus. It was under his leadership that 40 major buildings were added to the Trinity campus.

The Laurie Auditorium seats 2,700 and has wide views of the entire venue. It is also one of the largest non-faculty buildings on campus. Laurie Auditorium hosts commencement ceremonies, the Trinity Distinguished Lecture Series, jazz concerts, and has welcomed artists such as Patti LaBelle, B.B. King, and Duran Duran. Second generation Melvin and Bob Mitchell were Project Managers spearheading the construction efforts on the auditorium. Melvin handled phase one, the structural phase, of the project while Bob was in charge of phase two, the finish out.


Since then, G.W. Mitchell Construction has continued to expand the campus, constructing several projects such as the Ruth Taylor Theater, and work in both the arts and the athletic departments. Go Tigers!

Castle Hills 1st Baptist Church Sanctuary

Today we’re taking it back, way back to 1979. Many of those who have worked closely with us know that faith is a cornerstone within the Mitchell family. It is always an honor to build a church and other religious facilities. One project that we are fond of is the Castle Hills 1st Baptist Church Sanctuary.

Castle Hills 1st Baptist Church, now known as Castle Hills Church was founded in 1953 and over the decades has seen periods of great growth. During Jack Taylor’s and George Harris’ tenure, the congregation quickly grew during the 70’s and there was a need for expansion. G.W. Mitchell was commissioned, with architects Bartlett Cocke & Associates, to work on the Castle Hills Church Sanctuary. We began working on the project in 1978 and finished in 1979. This four-story building is home to a 1,200 seat auditorium that also includes a basement level choir room cut straight into limestone. Not to mention the Baptist Fan auditorium design with incredible acoustics and sight lines.

This project had a very complex layout. Both Lane and Bill Mitchell contributed to the Castle Hills project at the ground level. Bill recalls being in college working as a laborer digging ditches for grade beams and using a #90 jackhammer. He mentions how this was a great motivator to finish school and get his degree at Texas A&M (Gig ‘Em!). A memorable takeaway for Bill was when he was introduced to the now widely-known “breakfast taco.” Since Taco Cabana was not around in the late ‘70’s, he remembers his fellow laborers bringing tacos with homemade tortillas. If he had only known how popular they’d become in the future, he might have taken a different path.

Lane Mitchell’s first job was with Mitchell Equipment, a separate company at the time, washing concrete pumps and keeping them clean for only $2.00 an hour! He recalls both he and Bill wanted to come home and work over Christmas break. They earned the job of painting the lattice boom on a conventional truck crane parked at the Castle Hills Church. As Texas weather has it, there was a cold front and the weather stayed well below freezing while Lane and Bill painted. Lucky for them the paint was oil-based so it didn’t freeze but it felt like smearing tar onto ice. Once done, the crane had a new layer of black paint and looked wonderful.

Lane remembers how the Castle Hills Church project had a very complex layout. Superintendent, Larry Carlile, had the architect come and walk him through all levels that needed to coordinate with each other. This was a lesson that has stayed with G.W. Mitchell over the years, to maintain consistent and open communications. They began with the sanctuary which was laid out in a Baptist Fan pattern with steps on both sides working their way to the balcony level. The choir loft was duplicated below the platform area so that the rehearsal area matched the layout of the sanctuary. Lane notes that the ceiling beams were isolated concrete and were high above the ground floor with plenty of span across the room. When the project was complete, they had a very functional and modern church sanctuary.

All in all, G.W. Mitchell Construction is honored to have been a part of several projects throughout the Castle Hills Church’s vibrant history including the Faith Building remodel, the Victory Building, a gymnasium and the new steeple all while enjoying both the work and breakfast tacos.

Building a Legacy in Aggieland

Since our inception, we have always believed in providing our children with the best education possible, which is why we take pride in every educational facility we work on. In honor of the new school year, we’re revisiting a project near and dear to our hearts, the Harrington Education Center at Texas A&M University.

It all begins with our founder, George W. Mitchell who attended Texas A&M University. He then went on to serve as a U.S Army Officer in France. In 1921 he came to San Antonio and quickly established himself as a contractor.  It was in the 1940’s that his sons joined him to expand the company. They continued to thrive and took on more prestigious projects, including the Harrington Educational Center.


This project was particularly special as it was built in honor of Marion Thomas Harrington (class of 1922). and because many of the Mitchell family members also attended Texas A&M. From George W. Mitchell to all three sons, too many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we bleed maroon and white!

Dr. Harrington was the first Aggie to serve as President of Texas A&M University from 1950-1953. He then went on to serve as Chancellor of the A&M System. During this time, he was elected once again to serve as President of Texas A&M University from 1957-1959.

With such a legacy left behind by Dr. Harrington, we knew that the Harrington Educational Center had to serve not only as a functional building but also as a tribute. G.W. Mitchell began construction in 1972 and the project was completed in 1973.

Today, the Harrington Education Center serves as an eight-story administration building with an outdoor skywalk connecting the Harrington Education Center to the Harrington Education Classroom building. For the Aggies out there, we hope you have many fond memories of this building and for the newcomers, best of luck to you and Gig ‘Em!

Buying More Time for CPS Headquarters

CPS Energy has been in the news quite a bit lately concerning their new headquarters in the old AT&T Building downtown. Did you know that G.W. Mitchell (GWM) helped CPS grow and expand in their current building, allowing them more time in their current headquarters?

In November of 1984, GWM began work on the challenging task – building an additional three stories to the existing seven story CPS building in a very tight space at 145 Navarro Street. Being located in the heart of downtown San Antonio, there was no laydown area as the job was constrained on all four sides by Villita Street, Navarro Street, the River Walk and the Tower Life parking garage. The job required the construction and design team, including 3D/I Architecture, to work very closely and creatively with the owner, city and subcontractors to complete the project. In total, the addition was a 61,000 square feet expansion of an operating office building.

GW Mitchell bid the project but was actually selected by CPS to do the work because of their logistics plan, not because of the bid. A tower crane had to be erected in one lane of Villita Street and the tower crane base had to avoid hitting live sewer and water mains. All deliveries were scheduled on a “just on time” basis as there was no room to lay down the structural steel, brick, etc. The brick and cast stone façade were selected and manufactured to closely match the existing brick and cast stone materials and were installed using San Antonio subcontractors.

The original CPS Headquarters building was built right here in the heart of San Antonio in 1942, and since then CPS Energy has serviced over 800,000 electricity customers and over 300,000 natural gas customers in Bexar County and portions of its seven surrounding counties.

As CPS is a large contributor to the San Antonio area, we at GWM are glad that we could give back over 30 years ago and contribute three additional stories to its headquarters. Despite the challenges at hand, and weather delays due to the snow storm in January of 1985, GWM finished the project exactly one year after it began just in time for the holidays.

CPS just received a set guaranteed maximum price of $150 million to build their new headquarters at what is now the AT&T building off McCullough and Avenue B. With a rich history on Navarro Street, the utility company is looking ahead to building a bright future at their new home.

Building a Relationship with Architect O’Neil Ford

As you know, G.W. Mitchell Construction (GWM) recently moved. As busy and hectic as it was, we still had fun reminiscing about our hard work over the last 97 years. For instance, we found a letter from a famous architect, O’Neil Ford’s office, stating gratitude to the team for their countless hours of hard work and dedication during the La Villita Assembly Hall build in 1958. The letter specifically states his appreciation for the relationships developed throughout the project.

GWM’s relationship with Ford all began in 1937 when Mr. & Mrs. T. Frank Murchison commissioned him to design their residence. Ford contracted our founder G.W. to build the $36,000 home (equal to $660,000 in 2018). The project went so well that the interior decorator, Earl Hart Miller, sent a letter praising the collaboration and G.W.’s tireless dedication to the project.

Ford was known for many projects around Texas, projects like the Denton Convention Center, several projects at Trinity University, Saint Mary’s Hall campus, and the Tower of the Americas. His firm’s specialty designs were for higher education buildings, as he designed projects on twenty university campuses. However, in addition to higher education, the firm has had specialty practices in residential, planning and urban, theatre, historic preservation and interior design. Shortly before his death, he completed a design in Kerrville for the building of the Museum of Western Art.

The now-famous La Villita Historic Arts Village is an art community downtown that connects to the River Walk and houses a number of art galleries, souvenir shops, restaurants and La Villita Assembly Hall. One of the most distinguishing features of the Assembly Hall is the roof, suspended on 200 Bethlehem steel strand assemblies attached to an outer ring, 132 feet in diameter, and a 40-foot inner ring, designed to resemble the bullring, typical in historical Mexican villages.

This type of roof construction is not only one of the first in the nation but also first of its kind in Texas. It eliminates the need for any columns allowing unobstructed views to all parts of the hall, a truly beautiful site. Can you believe the construction team lifted the roof with a single World War I Liberty truck and an A-frame pulley system?!

In the fall of 1958, in the book O’Neil FordArchitect by Mary Carolyn Hollers George, Ford described the construction of the La Villita assembly building:

“What a beautiful thing is that roof structure on the Public Service Building. Everyone in town is excited about it – never have I seen such fine steel fabrication – such marvelous accuracy – and so quickly erected by G. W. Mitchell with his old, World War I Liberty truck!

Amazing, complex of mechanical equipment….Henry Groteus is foreman – enthusiastic and resourceful. Job looks good – great credit to Nic Salas (the project architect). He’s done wonderfully as architectural supervisor.”

The La Villita Assembly Hall project led to 17 more projects at Trinity University that spanned from 1950-1970. Not entirely, but certainly a big part of this expansion was thanks to architect Ford and his great work and appreciation of GWM.