Someone asked a fun question in the comments yesterday, and by “fun question” I mean one that I am able to answer:
In the aerial photo, across from the Main St. entrance, there seems to be a pathway, going over a bridge which crosses some stream of water. Correct? What was that body of water, where did it go and where is it now?
Yes, correct. The stream is Harris Gully, famous in Rice lore for being an early collecting ground for the Biology Department. Here’s a picture of it taken by someone standing on Main Street in 1913, looking towards campus. Note the newly installed culverts.
And here’s a picture of taken from the same spot after a hard rain:
Wilmer Waldo, the engineer who handled much of Rice’s early infrastructure tackled this problem head on right at the start and made significant drainage improvements, but the regular sequence of drought followed by floods continued to plague that part of campus. The constant soil expansion and contraction was the main culprit in the condemnation of the original field house after enormous cracks appeared in the late 1940s:
More drainage improvements were made in the 1950s and part of the gully was buried, resulting in the creation of my all-time favorite Rice geographical feature, the Gaping Maw. Zoom in and you can see it in the southeast part of the stadium parking lot. I’ve never seen anything that explains why this rather odd decision was made.
Since sometime in the 60s it’s all been buried but it’s still there, underground in concrete, and still a source of drainage problems on campus and in the Med Center.
Bonus: Here’s the only picture I’ve ever seen of the footbridge that allowed people to walk from the main part of campus to the athletic field. It was taken on Thanksgiving Day, 1926. It’s pretty fuzzy but it’s all I’ve got.
Extra Bonus: It’s still kind of rough out there.