In between tasks today I only had about ten minutes to look at pictures, a very sad state of affairs. One of the things I was working on took me to the papers of Rice architect William Ward Watkin where I quickly found what I needed, a couple of early construction photos. Some of these images are rather bland, but others remain startling no matter how many times I see them. Here’s one from 1910:
I mean, obviously we should put a university in the middle of this field. Let’s start digging right . . . . here.
Here’s one from a little later, sometime in 1911:
Instead of a pasture, we now have soggy chaos. (It’s worth zooming in on.)
This one, though, really surprised me. It shows construction materials for the first buildings laid out in neat rows. It’s an eye-catcher—they almost look like headstones—and I’ve paused over it many times before. This time, though, I scanned it. And looking at the scan I noticed something I hadn’t seen before—behind the building materials sits a train and a train track stretches off into the distance.
At first I excitedly thought this was the Rice spur, but then realized that it can’t be. The spur wasn’t built until 1913 and this picture was clearly taken much earlier than that, in 1910 or 1911. The farmhouses don’t look familiar either. (Believe it or not, I can identify every farmhouse that bordered Rice at a glance. Talk about wasted youth.)
So what are we looking at here? I think it must be a train unloading the supplies, maybe up at the Aransas Pass line, for transport down to the construction site. I guess they would have finished the trip by wagon. Sounds like kind of a drag.