More Questions than Answers

I’ve recently been spending some time looking for photos that might shed some light on this 1944 map I talked about the other day:

1944 Map Thresher

In particular I’m interested in finding the rifle range and handball court just east of the stadium. This afternoon I was looking through a box of oversized materials–and I really mean big–and came across this aerial shot I hadn’t seen before. It’s dated 1946 but I suspect it was really taken in 1947. The quality is pretty bad and I can’t see either the range or the building with the handball court, which I suspect are hidden by trees. And yet I’m still interested in it:

Aerial oversized 1946

Zoom in and look to the left of the stadium, at the corner of University and Main where the BRC is now. What the heck is that big oval? It’s visible in photos over many, many years and I’ve never been able to understand what it is. It looks kind of like a small race track. Anyone?

Tomorrow: A similar shot ten years later.

Bonus: An especially alert reader sends this sign of the season. I would make a joke about How the Grinch Stole Christmas but that would be impolitic.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to More Questions than Answers

  1. James Medford says:

    I looked at the 1944 aerial photo on Google Earth, and couldn’t find anything that looked like a rifle range or a handball court there. I also suspect that they were hidden by trees. No clue what that oval might have been. The great thing for me in this aerial is I can see the building where I currently live just northwest of the Contemporary Arts Museum!

  2. Grungy says:

    There are several round tent-like roofs next to the oval.
    It might be a pony ride associated with a small carnival or amusement park.

  3. Cameron Cooper says:

    There’s definitely an elevated rectangular structure about where the handball court is shown to be. Look just above and to the right of the bridge (on “the road back”) that passes over the gully (“the blue danube”) right outside the old stadium. A pale rectangle casting a shadow. Hard to say with the overexposure, but probably a flat roof. Matches perfectly with the handball courts.

    Doesn’t look that big next to the stadium, but it’s a decent-sized building. About as wide as the Baker old wing. Appears to be a light-colored path (gravel?) going down to the main path, a little left of center. There also appears to be an ad hoc path running to it from the “West Hall”.

    Don’t see any indication of a rifle range. A modern range I’d expect a visible berm for the target end, or at least a clearing where it was built, but maybe they were more casual about it back then. Never seen a forested rifle range, but it’s possible. May well have been decommissioned by 1947 if it was a war-time thing.

    That area is still undeveloped; unless those structures were thoroughly removed, there could still be some trace. I may go take a look next time I’m on campus. Unfortunately, unless the rifle range was very short, its target area was probably just recently bulldozed for the new IM field. I bet a metal detector would turn something up on the firing line; shell casings get everywhere.

    There’s a clearing and complex of buildings a good distance above the stadium; the stables? It’s on the edge of what could be the “cornfield”.

    One thing I find interesting about the aerial is the three-tree clusters running all along the Sunset/Rice Blvd side of campus. I don’t think any of those survive, unless one is the big tree near the observatory lot, or maybe somewhere near Martel.

  4. Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

    looking at the images from 1944 there only appears to be the track, no sign of buildings and further south (where the shopping center used to be) is a parking lot. The 1953 image shows the same thing. Could it be termpoary concessions for events in the stadium?

  5. In, the oval is there in ’53 and ’57. By the ’50s there are other structures just to the south between the oval and the shopping center. The Tidelands is there by ’62. In Google Earth, the oval, with nothing much else around it, is there in ’44, with a few other buildings around it by ’53. This ought to be easy to figure out since it looks like it was there for more than ten years. Mr. Pratt? Anyone?

  6. marmer01 says:

    From the 1950-ish Sanborn map, I clearly see “Portable Merry-go-Rounds” and “Pony Stable.” Grungy got it!

  7. mjthannisch says:

    I am surprised you didn’t know about Kiddy Wonderland, it was there until the mid 90’s, and every time I drove by I noticed the ponies, and yes, we did go there when I was just a kid. I also went to Peppermint Park once
    On horses in general, there used to be several stables around Houston where you could rent horsed by the hour and ride around. When our favourite closed down, we would go to Hermann Park and rent horses to ride through the park. I don’t know if they still have that or not. I know they were still there in 1974 because I rented several for my Campanile picture in 74 and had to get permit ion from the stables and the Campos to bring them on campus

  8. mjthannisch says:

    @Loki the bubba, thanks for those links. Brought back many fond memories, and even a picture of a restaurant whose name I have been trying to ascertain.

    • loki_the_bubba says:

      Kaphan’s? I miss that place.

      • mjthannisch says:

        No, but that’s a place I miss as well. I think it was called Polynesian Gardens, but I am not totally sure. It was on South Main with a very long drive and at night had torches in front. It was known for its Peiking Duck, and on that video about Houston in 1960 it was between the Red Lion and Ye Olde College Inn, but I couldn’t make out the name on the sign.

  9. Y’all should check out the Historic Houston subforum on Houston Architecture Info Forum.
    Lots of discussion about these South Main landmarks, racetracks, restaurants, etc.
    Yes, it was Polynesian Gardens. Apparently there was also a swimming pool near there (Gateway?) which had a large “bubble” of compressed air under the water where you could breathe.

  10. Lou Jackson says:

    Not sure about the pony ride or gas station but I do remember the Dryden Drive Inn located on Dryden in the upper left corner of that block. It was a drive-in in every sense of the word. You park under the palm frond shade, sit in your car and order beer at 25 cents a bottle from the waitress. They didn’t ask for proof of age and they opened for business about 1:00 PM and stayed open until midnight.

  11. Pingback: “Rice and the Navy” | Rice History Corner

  12. George Webb '88, '91 says:

    The handball court wasn’t necessarily a building: it could have been just a concrete square with a single wall, or perhaps three walls. These are still common in New York, but I’ve seen them elsewhere.

Leave a Reply