Prelude to the Flood of 1912, Part II

(No, I don’t know how many times I’m going to write about drainage. A lot, probably. Don’t even think about trying to stop me.)

This is the main approach to the Administration Building eight months before the Institute was scheduled to open. Note the standing water to the right.

So, to pick up after Tuesday’s cliffhanger, by the fall of 1911 our hero, handsome engineer Wilmer Waldo, had been so hampered by heavy rainfall that he had to ask for an extension in fulfilling his contract requirements, which called for the storm drains and sewers to be in place by February 1. (Remember, he was responsible for the construction of the roads and tunnels as well as the sanitary sewers, septic tanks, and storm drains, all of which were frequently full of water!) He got the extension, but the letter was pretty stern. Bear in mind that by this point, Lovett was already receiving replies from academics all around the world who had been invited to the opening scheduled for October.

By mid-winter of 1911-12, with conditions having dried out (a little) and the necessary materials on site, work on drainage was in full swing. These pictures were all taken in early February, 1912. The one to the right here shows the beginning of trenching work in the quad. (Click on it to zoom in, take a close look at that dirt, and then just think about this for a minute.) From what I can tell, everything was dug out by people except a large drainage ditch that was “excavated from its outfall at Harris Bayou northerly along the west line of the property to a point at the Northwest corner of the property.” Waldo used mules for at least part of that project.

Waldo also had a contract for the “clearing, grubbing, grading and smoothing of an athletic field designated as the Campus Athletic Field, located on the grounds of the Rice Institute North of Harris Bayou.” This proved to be extremely problematic, even with the construction of the ditch along the edge of campus. With the bayou so close and the land so low, Waldo had to do a lot of intense work in the area surrounding the athletic field (today it’s between the track stadium and the new power plant), installing multiple large catch basins and drains to deal with heavy rainfalls.

Here’s something to look forward to: Either tomorrow or next week I’ll be taking a field trip over to the archives of the University of Houston, which is where Wilmer Waldo’s papers reside. There isn’t an online inventory of the collection, so I have no idea what’s in there. This makes it doubly exciting!

Today’s Bonus Picture:

This is where Harris Gully meets Main Street. We'll see this spot again.

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5 Responses to Prelude to the Flood of 1912, Part II

  1. Bill says:

    Is there a map that shows the original location of Harris Bayou compared to the campus today? I am having a hard time picturing where it was. Thanks, love the blog.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      I’ll see what I can find–I also went out and took some pictures yesterday of the same rough location. I’ll post a couple of them as well.

      • James Medford says:

        The aerial photo in your December 20 post about the mulesheds shows the location of Harris Bayou very clearly in the upper left quadrant of the photo. The trees lining the bayou can be seen starting at Main Street near the old football stadium, and ending at Rice Blvd. where the parking lot for the current stadium is located.

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