I’ve had some questions about exactly where the stream called Harris Bayou or Harris Gully ran into Main Street. James Medford correctly points out in the comments that you can very clearly see the path of the bayou in this aerial shot from the late 1920s. Here’s one of much more recent vintage. (With all these pictures, by the way, you can click on them to open, then click again to zoom in. They’re big files, so it’s a little slow, but you can really see a lot more. Also, by the way, I haven’t taken the time to date this picture as I’m on my way to go play tennis. If anyone wants to take a crack at it, be my guest.) The area I’ve been talking about is between the track stadium and the colleges. You can still follow the tree line quite clearly.
I went poking around out there myself one day last week and again this afternoon and took a few pictures. I don’t know if I should be surprised or not, but it turned out to be really wet and muddy despite the many serious drainage structures in the area.
This may well be the strangest spot on campus. It absolutely is the place that most evokes what it must have felt like here in 1910. I guess the water problem has made it unfit for anything other than it’s current use, which seems to be essentially as a retention basin with a disc golf course in it. I did note that there are a lot of new trees planted out there, and the ground is covered with wildflowers that are about to burst out. (This is just the kind of ground that bluebonnets love.) From the vantage point of this next picture–I was nearly standing in Main Street–you can get a pretty good idea of how the whole thing works.
This place feels eerie. On the one hand, I was standing in a spot that looks like it’s been preserved in amber. On the other, just a few yards away is a city that has been utterly transformed. Here’s a couple of shots looking the same direction and taken within maybe a dozen yards of each other almost exactly a hundred years apart:
First guess on date for the picture: after 1971 (Sid Richardson College opened) but before 1984 (45-90-180 sculpture installed). I’m not sure at present how to get tighter than that 13-year window, though I suppose the buildings downtown provide a guide.
In the 1920-era photo, what’s the building just off the track, near the intersection of Main and University? You can see a graceful semi-circular drive off of Main, and the more recent photo seems to show a ghost of the same structure south of the track. Was it an early gym building?
Yes, it was the first field house, designed by William Ward Watkin and completed in 1920. I just scanned some pictures of it for a post I’ll put up next week. It’s fate is tied to the drainage issues I’ve been writing about recently.
Thanks for reading and for your comment!
The picture is no later than 1975. The Hanszen College commons visible in the photo burned to the ground in the summer of ’75. It was replaced by the commons that was used until 2001, which was then razed and replaced by the current commons.
Two other clues for the photo date:
– Cameron Field (on the current site of Reckling Park) had not been built; the baseball field is just southwest of Wiess College.
– The right of way for Highway 288 has been cleared, but the road has not been built.
That area is actually -great- for the disc golf course in that it has the closest thing to any kind of elevation change you’ll ever find in Houston, which breaks up the monotony of flat tee to basket lies over and over. But the maintenance crews keep smashing the tee markers when they mow because they let the weeds get taller than the markers and they don’t see them. With just a very tiny budget that course could be made very nice indeed, but I have no idea what institutional entity would be responsible to even try.
And yes, as I’ve walked that course, it is the closest place I’ve found (without going all the way up to Sam Houston National Forest) to feeling any sense of what this part of Texas was like before it was completely full of people.
I think it is around 1972. The tall white building downtown is One Shell Plaza (1971) but there is no CenterPoint Energy Plaza (1973). Also, Hwy. 59, between Spur 527 and I-45 was completed by 1974.
Sweet! It would have taken me an afternoon to figure this out and even then I wouldn’t have much confidence. I say let’s call it “circa 1972.”