Update on The Pumphouse: Renovations underway at Riverside restaurant

Gabe Semenza

Nov. 20, 2010 at 5:20 a.m.

Victoria's Water Pumping Station No. 1 in Riverside Park is the planned site of a new restaurant called The PumpHouse.

Victoria's Water Pumping Station No. 1 in Riverside Park is the planned site of a new restaurant called The PumpHouse.

A Victoria couple revealed in March plans to transform the old Riverside Park pump house into a restaurant and bar featuring classic American cuisine.

After months of design work, permitting and minor environmental cleanup, physical renovation work finally began.

Here, we summarize the ongoing work, the upcoming steps and tidbits about this ambitious project.


Dennis Patillo and Louise Hull Patillo are no strangers to business or historic renovations. The couple owns a real estate and title company, and has restored five buildings to date.

Earlier this year, the Patillos bought from the city of Victoria a deteriorated but historic pump house and 1.73 acres on Stayton Street. The property has five buildings that total about 5,000 square feet.

The city council, faced with $20,000 in yearly maintenance costs, considered demolishing the building about three years ago, but it would have cost $250,000 to $300,000 to do so.

The Patillos paid $68,500 for the property and announced they'd invest at least $1 million to transform it into The PumpHouse - a restaurant, bar and park attraction.

While portions of the property appear in the floodplain, the building does not.


Since the couple's March announcement, the Patillos commissioned soil testing and structural reviews, and worked with designers to create plans true to the property's history.

"Taking old buildings like that and re-purposing them for a restaurant is not as simple as if you had a blank slate," Louise Hull Patillo said. "Because we're committed to restoring the old buildings, it complicates things."

In recent weeks, workers removed asbestos from the glazing on the windows. Other crews staged scaffolding and replaced the roof and repaired the masonry facade, to name a few projects.

"No stone was left unturned," Dennis Patillo said. "We had to ensure the structural and architectural design was just right."


Once structural and cosmetic restorations are complete, work will begin on adding a kitchen, walkways, decks overlooking the Guadalupe River and more.

When work is done, the 5,000-square-foot original pump house will be a 9,000-square-foot complex complete with landscaping, exterior lighting and parking.

In coming months, the couple will hire the restaurant's general manager, manager for the front of the complex, support staff, suppliers and a chef. Already, more than 100 chefs nationwide applied for the job.

The restaurant will offer indoor and outdoor dining, including a mix of upscale, casual and private atmospheres. For private functions, chefs on staff will provide any cuisine requested.

The restaurant will have 32 employees.


For months, the Patillos surveyed Victorians to learn what residents here want to eat. The couple will soon take requests on its website - www.VictoriaPumphouse.com.

If a Victorian suggests a dish the Patillos add to their menu, the couple will consider naming the dish after the contributor. The Patillos are even willing to travel to other cities to sample menu suggestions.

While evolving still, the menu will include classic American cuisine, comfort food and dishes that taste homemade, the couple said.

Examples include appetizers, soups, sandwiches, burgers, steaks and desserts, with specials ranging from comfort food to gourmet fare.

The goal is to offer lunches for between $6.99 and $7.99, and dinners for about $12.99.

"What's the point if customers feel they can only come here for a special occasion?" Dennis Patillo said. "I want people to feel this is a place they can come to whenever they want to."


With the help of a Victoria researcher, the Patillos learned they are the pump house's second owners in its storied history.

"The deed was signed in 1842 by Sam Houston, the president of the Republic of Texas, to the Township of Victoria," Dennis Patillo said. "The next deed transfer was from the City of Victoria to us - with no other owners in between."


The Patillos say they want to create a restaurant Victoria is proud of, and a Riverside Park destination that will draw out-of-towners to the city.

The restaurant and bar will also offer a venue for live entertainment and private functions.

During the Patillos' early courtship in 2001, Dennis Patillo, who lived in Houston, visited Victoria to see his future wife.

"The very first time he saw the building in 2001, he said someone should turn this into a restaurant," Louise Hull Patillo said. "He said that never thinking he'd be the one to build the restaurant or even live in Victoria."

Now that the Patillos are about five months from opening the restaurant, Dennis Patillo said he's excited to help draw visitors to the park, which he calls one of the city's most underused assets.

"Hopefully, this will be a great thing for Victoria," he said. "To have a successful restaurant, it takes a great location, exemplary service and great food. You have to deliver all of those things consistently, every day. If better is possible, good is not enough."



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