“Wm. Rice Institute Houston Tex. 1920”

I was hanging around in the Friends of Fondren office yesterday when I noticed that the panorama hanging on the wall was not, as I had assumed, the same one we have several copies of in the Woodson. On closer inspection it turns out to be a marvel–a wide view of the south side of campus on what looks to be a late spring day in 1920. If pressed I would guess that it was taken from the top of the late, lamented Gate 3. Because it’s so wide you have to click on it once to get any detail, then again if you’d like to get really close in. Download it and you can get a more helpful gradual zoom.

There’s a lot going on here. Starting at the far right, you can see a slice of Main Street with still newish streetlights and the beginnings of the hedges. As you move left the first thing of note is through the trees–it looks like a construction site for a house in Shadyside. Next are the two mule-drawn wagons, one with an umbrella-like cover to keep off the sun. The large multi-storied building off in the distance just before you get to the Administration Building is, I think, the Plaza Hotel on Montrose, where the Lovett family would live from the late 1920’s on.

In the center, if you look straight up the road towards the Mech Lab then a bit right you’ll see the chemistry annex, the frame house that Mr. Dennis, who was in charge of the power plant, lived in, and right next to that a railroad car, another oil tanker.

At left are the men’s dorms of course, but keep going and it gets more interesting. You can see the men’s tennis courts just to the side of West Hall and then something that surprised me–students walking out towards a pretty full parking lot that had escaped my notice. You’ll also happily note, I’m sure, the workman with the two mules pulling what is most likely a mower. Even better, if you lift your eyes up into the trees behind the parked cars, there are small glimpses of the barns and sheds that came down when the gym was put there in 1950.

What am I missing??


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15 Responses to “Wm. Rice Institute Houston Tex. 1920”

  1. effegee says:

    There are several structures visible above the cloister connecting North Hall and the Dining Hall. A couple of them appear distant enough, and large enough, to be in Southampton. Some others may be small structures on campus.

  2. jem1958 says:

    Are there a couple of kids at a window or hanging out of one?

    Ed Mullery emullery@comcast.net


  3. Galloway Hudson '60 says:

    I don’t think there was a North Hall in 1920. When I matriculated in 1956, the newest men’s dorm was Weiss Hall, also known as North Hall. It was, I believe, built in 1950. It became Weiss College in1957.

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" Pratt, Rice Institute 1956 says:

      In 1952-56, and for several years afterwards, Weiss Hall (or North Hall) was situated between the perimeter road and West Hall. North Hall was considered the Athletic dorm, although it was NOT that exclusively, and some Freshmen jocks lived in West Hall.

      I never heard the building effegee described called “North Hall”, in my years.

      • Francis Eugene "Gene" Pratt, Rice Institute 1956 says:

        BTW, scuttlebutt in my years claimed that West Hall was NOT a true 90 degrees vertical, but that the top floors actually hung out some. I could NOT tell that with my uncanny vision, so I accepted it tongue-cheeked.
        Who knows for sure?

      • effegee says:

        Sorry guys, I thought North Hall was the former name of the old wing of Baker College. It is that building and the building currently known as Baker Commons to which I refer.

  4. effegee says:

    Does the brick building suggested as the Plaza Hotel have 8 floors? I am unable to see the windows clearly in the photo. The photos on http://arch-ive.org/archive/plaza-hotel-houston/ the windows suggest 8 floors and a basement.

    According to that site, Plaza Hotel was built 1929 (although an advertising image for “Fine Foods” on the same page indicates “since 1926”). A little late given the oil tanker?

    • Melissa Kean says:

      This is an excellent point. I didn’t check too see when the Plaza was built. Apologies are issued!
      So what is it?

      • effegee says:

        I haven’t been able to find a candidate building. Here are some notes on my search.

        After a bit of playing with maps, I have concluded that the sight line from the camera to the right hand corner of the Administration Building is pretty close to true north. (Main Street is closer to NNE.) So, I’d put the building within 0-7.5 degrees relative to the lately lamented Entrance 3 (LLE3).

        It appears to be behind a number of residential buildings. So I don’t think it can be closer than Bissonnet (or Binz or whatever it was in the 1920s). It might as far north as Richmond but I think that’s too far. I don’t think it is any further west than Mandell or as far east as Yoakum.

        We appear to be looking at the front of the building (large entry arch in center). So the building should be on the north side of the street.

        I looked at the Google Earth historical imagery for 1944 and 1953 looking for a building with a slightly protruding center section. Nothing particularly jumps out as a candidate. (The 1944 aerial photo has a lot of misaligned images in the area of interest making it really hard to follow streets and locate structures.)

        My first thought was that it might be the old Southwestern Bell building that housed the JAckson exchange but the building in the photo appears to both wider and taller than the exchange building. It is very near the northeast limit of the area I searched.

        It occurred to me that the building might have been demolished for the construction of the Southwest Freeway. But I believe most of the land within the search area came from a HL&P transmission line easement. (The transmission line was relocated into the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad right of way east of Greenbriar where it could be seen running down the middle of the abandoned track bed the last time I looked. The SA&AP spur was where the Rice spur connected while the latter existed.)

        Of course, it is possible that there is a lot more foreshortening in the photo than I am assuming and that the building is on much further north and east of Montrose.

      • James Medford says:

        Per Stephen Fox’s Houston Architectural Guide, the Plaza Hotel was built in 1926. I live on Bartlett just a few blocks west of there.

        The multi-storied building in the distance also appears in the second photo posted March 27, 2018 (Chemistry Building under construction). Zoom in on that photo and look above and to the left of the Physics Building. I think it’s the same building. I’ve been trying to figure out what that could have been, but no clues.

  5. Having lived in West Hall (Hanszen old section) in 1976-1978, this picture amazes me in two ways. The first is in how little different the building looks in this picture and in my memory from the 1970’s. The second is in how small the oak trees near the building are in this picture. They were so large in the 1970’s that I assumed they were older than the building. I still remember the whine of the many cicadas that lived in them.

    • Francis Eugene "Gene" Pratt, Rice Institute 1956 says:

      Those were NOT cicadas, Deborah.
      Those were the mating calls of frustrated freshmen.

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