Bare Ground

I’m out in the country for a few days trying to get some reading and writing done before fall semester starts. (It’s sweltering out here on the front porch, but it’s very quiet.) But fear not. I’ve got lots of material stashed away in my laptop so there’s no reason to stop posting.

Here’s a weird one:

 I had to look closely to figure this out. It’s my beloved drainage wasteland between the track stadium and the power plant, back when it was much more heavily treed than it is today. (If you zoom in you can see the back of the stands in the trees to the left.) They’ve clearly just made another attempt to deal with the water issues that arise from the now partially buried Harris Gully. (But note the standing water in front of the shed to the right.)

Naturally, the photo is undated. So what are the clues? Well, the stadium stands are very tall–as tall as they ever got. There’s a storage shed. And the hedgerow that once went all the way to the stadium from the colleges has been removed from the reworked area. My gut reaction to the picture is that it was taken during or immediately after the construction of the new stadium in 1950.

And just by chance I happen to have here an aerial photo of the campus in 1950:

This is almost too easy. Click to enlarge, then zoom in. The new stadium looks finished, but the old one is still totally intact. Even the fieldhouse is still standing. Grass is just beginning to regrow to the east of it, where the ground was scraped bare for the drainage project, and you can clearly see the hedgerow stop abruptly at the edge. I can’t make out the shed, but I feel confident that’s it’s down in those trees somewhere.

Only slightly off-topic: This aerial shot shows my favorite Rice geographical feature EVER–the gaping maw in the stadium parking lot where the buried part of the gully ends. That is so cool.

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13 Responses to Bare Ground

  1. Leonard Lane says:

    What’s really scary is the vast parking lot in front of Lovett Hall in the 1950 photo! I’m guessing on weekends they hung a large screen over the front of the building and used it as a drive-in movie theater. Classy.

  2. Sandy Havens says:

    The photo of the “drainage wasteland” was taken later than 1950. I came to Rice as a Freshman in 1951 and the hedgerow was there at least through my graduation in 1956. Harris Gully was also part of the scene during that time. I returned to Rice as a member of the faculty in 1964. By that time Harris Gully had been replaced by a huge storm sewer. One of the ventilation outlets can be seen in the photo. My thought is that the photo was taken just after the leveling of the terrain after burying Harris Gully.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      I’ll try to dig up some more pictures. I’m absolutely sure the aerial was taken in 1950–I’m pretty sure the original even has the exact day written on the back of it and the internal evidence confirms it. (I’m not on campus right now so I can’t go pull things today.) There are a lot more aerial shots taken during this era, so we might be able to find something more about the evolution of this spot.

      • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT says:

        Neil “Sandy” Havens and I arrived at Rice at the same time, for Fall, 1952.

        Melissa, be very careful of all these OLD men: they are very forgetful — and irasible (?sp; NOTSL*) when corrected.

        * = Not on the Spelling List

      • Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT says:

        “irascible” looks better and might even be correct.

  3. Grungy says:

    Any idea what the vaguely cubical building is where “H” Lot once was?
    The Jones School now stands on what was once “H” Lot (and then some).

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Yes, although I’m away from the Woodson and can’t confirm this, I’m fairly certain it was a mechanical structure, either electrical or (surprise!) a pump of some kind. I’ll check when I get back on Thursday.

  4. Jeff Ross says:

    Does the fact that the middle wing extension of old Wiess College not exist help identify the year of the photo?

  5. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT says:

    Re. the NEW stadium, the upper stands are NOT completely built.

    I never saw the ‘maw’ in the parking lot. I arrived at Rice for the 1952 academic year — probably September.

    Notice the baseball diamond just above Weiss (North) Hall: NO backstop that I can identify; NO stands, NO fence. A ball hit between left and center fielders might roll all the way to the bushes. (I always thought those bushes were out on main street.) I can remember Bill Trotter and John Ludwig chasing balls out that way; John WOLDA must have been pitching on those occasions. (Just kidding, John.)

  6. Bob Willard says:

    Since the upper deck of the stadium on the east side had not been completed when the aerial picture was taken, Gene Pratt is correct. The picture would have had to be taken around mid-1950. When I left Houston in February 1950 there was just a big hole in the ground. When I came back in September 1950 there were over 70,000 people in the stadium watching Rice beat Santa Clara.

  7. Mike Ross says:

    Both of the stadium’s upper decks and lights appear to me to be completed in the picture above. The pillars supporting the decks extend toward each end zone.

  8. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT says:

    any comments

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