I’ve written quite a bit about early infrastructure construction on campus and in particular the role of the site engineer that Dr. Lovett hired, a Princeton man named Wilmer Waldo. We have a good deal of correspondence from Waldo in various files but his own papers are housed in the archives at the University of Houston. I’ve intended to go over and see what’s there for a long time but only recently had the chance to do so. It was a short visit and I only had time to look in one box, but that box was completely mind blowing–it was a veritable mother lode of dry, arcane, technical matter, all of it completely new to me. Much of it relates to Waldo’s considerable work for the city of Houston but there are also records from the Rice job. Here’s the folder that leapt out at me:
My attention was initially attracted by the “pipe drains” but when I opened it up I found something even more exciting than that. Look at this:
Bills of lading for the materials that were used for that early campus infrastructure! These are important for one big reason: they tell us exactly where the building supplies were shipped to, which in turn will help me understand precisely how they got all that stuff out to a site in the middle of nowhere. This has come up before several times, as I’ve struggled to figure out the various pictures that show what seem to be at least two different sets of railroad tracks on the Rice property. (Here, here and here).
Everything Waldo ordered was sent to the same station, a place I’d never heard of: Blodgett. I turned to the internet and of course found what I needed in a matter of moments. (There’s apparently a fairly large population of railroad enthusiasts out there who are interested in this kind of thing).
The Blodgett station, also known as Tower 12, was a crossing of the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway and the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway. It was established in 1903 near the intersection of South Main and Blodgett, south of downtown and near the future site of the Rice Institute. There’s lot more information at this Texas Railroad History site and maps that show the station’s exact location. (The link is seriously broken and I can’t find a way to fix it but if you google “Blodgett tower 12 Houston” it will pop right up. I promise!)
I still have no idea how they got the materials from Blodgett to here, but at least I now know what direction they were coming from: