The Rice Hotel, c1909

There’s a pretty good sized collection back in the vault that consists of materials gathered by Ray Watkin Hoagland Strange ’36 about the career of her father, William Ward Watkin. I kind of knew those boxes were back there but I assumed they were full of copies of things we had elsewhere in the original. It turns out I was wrong, at least partly. There are copies to be sure, but also much material I’d never seen before. (Ray was nothing if not thorough.)

One of the surprises I encountered there was this photograph of a downtown street scene in front of the Rice Hotel:

It’s labeled “1909 or 1910” which if accurate suggests that it was taken by Watkin in the very early days of what would become his life-long association with the Rice Institute.

The only way I can think to date it is the cars.

Calling Marty Merritt!

Bonus: The campus looks just wonderful right now. It’s always well manicured but recently there’s been a lot of rain and the heat of summer hasn’t yet set in so every walk is a joyful experience of lovely lush greenery. You’ve got to enjoy it while it lasts.

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9 Responses to The Rice Hotel, c1909

  1. I am completely OK with this being 1909-1910. The cars look like Ford Model T’s, with brass radiators, acetylene lamps, and white tires. Black tires (because of added carbon for durability) and electric lights began to appear in the 1915 period; by 1920 there was much less shiny brass.

  2. marmer01 says:

    Also, is that a brick street? That might be another way to date it.

  3. Richard Schafer says:

    The picture can’t be later than sometime in 1911. This is the 1881 version of the building, which was sold to Jesse Jones and razed in 1911, then rebuilt as the building we know now. The Chronicle posted an article about the history of the hotel at, which shows a similar shot of the building by Westlake Construction dated 1911, pictures while it was being razed in 1911, as well as construction photos dated 1912.

    • marmer01 says:

      Duh! I should have noticed that! I was too busy looking at the cars to notice that this looks nothing like the “modern” Rice Hotel.

      • Richard Schafer says:

        Since my current office directly looks out at the Rice, it was easy for me to notice.

  4. Jeff Ross says:

    While the campus may be lush, the perimeter oaks and ligustrum hedge are infested with ball moss which will gradually lead to their demise. Rice is working on path restoration; will tree maintenance be next? The surrounding neighborhoods don’t need the ball moss spreading.

    • Steve Lukingbeal, Hanszen '76 says:

      Jeff, since we are both retired and live next to campus, why don’t we form a Ball Moss Extraction Team? I’ll print up the T-shirts if you design the logo. Could you extract the low areas and leave the high areas for me?

    • James Medford says:

      Ball moss is an epiphyte, so it’s not all that harmful.

      • jdrum00 says:

        Taking off some more loosely-attached ones for aesthetic reasons probably wouldn’t be a problem. But my reaction to the desire for ball moss removal is mostly to make sure a significant injury isn’t done to the trees during removal — a firmly-attached ball moss will take bark with it if it’s removed by force, and a bark wound could be substantially more damaging than the passenger was in the first place.

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