Ellington Field, circa 1918

One of the many things that I once knew, then forgot, then learned again was that although Rice History Professor Floyd Lear first arrived on campus in 1925, he had been in Houston before, stationed at Ellington Field from 1917 until 1919. When I found the envelopes full of pictures in the last box of his collection I stared for some time in amazement. Here’s a sample–I’ve never seen better images of Ellington Field anywhere. Zoom in–there’s a lot to see, including horses:



The next one is breath taking–ship building on the ship channel:

I don’t know where the last one might be. If you have any thoughts I’d love to hear them.

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16 Responses to Ellington Field, circa 1918

  1. Michael Bludworth says:

    Great find! These are fairly common pictures from Ellington – they are in common circulation but, if you indeed have some nice, early prints – that’s great! All are in the 1918 Ellington “year book” I have. The ship building shot is fantastic – most folks don’t know that we ever built ships in Houston! The bottom photo is of a flight above the ship channel – that’s the original turning basin!

  2. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    For me, the most interesting photo is the third one. So many aircraft! The one in white with a cross on it, could this be the first air ambulance?

    • Indeed it was. Ellington was the home of the first experiments to create an air ambulance due to the number of training accidents. Early aircraft were none too reliable and pilots were often forced to land (or crash) far from their home airfield. The idea of an aerial ambulance was to move them quickly to medical care.

  3. Nora Segura says:

    Wonderful pictures today. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Kathy Amen '71 says:

    I was also impressed by the number of planes lined up. I would have guessed that the US didn’t have that many in the whole of WWI!

  5. effegee says:

    Turning Basin (or what would evolve into the Turning Basin) in the last photo?

  6. effegee says:

    Definitely the Turning Basin. The view is slightly west of north.

    The straight road running on the north side of the basin is Clinton Drive. Thanks to Charles Morgan who built the town of Clinton on the north bank upstream of Harrisburg.

    Buffalo Bayou enters the basin from the “southwest”.

    The parallel streets just west of the basin that stop just before the bayou are East Hedrick and West Hedrick. The railroad right of way between them is today known as “Harrisburg and Sunset Rail Trails”.

    The E-W street that runs from border to border below the bayou to just below the basin is Navigation Blvd.

    The major N-S streets to the west of West Hedrick on Navigation Blvd. (from east to west) are N 71th, N 70th, the street now known as SSGT Macario Garcia Dr. (N 69th?), N Wayside, and N 67th. Canal St. is at the end of the diagonal street (Maltby) that begins at Navigation.

  7. effegee says:

    The island in the shipbuilding photo looks remarkably like a feature on 1915 and 1922 topo maps that lies downstream of the Turning Basin and upstream of Brady’s Island (mouth of Brays Bayou). The feature is labelled “I and GN Island” (possibly due to the adjacent rail yard?). The view in the photo conforms nicely with the topography of bayou/channel and island if viewpoint of the photo is more or less toward the south.

    If found topo maps on historicaerials.com/viewer, put in ZIP code 77001 and worked downstream on Buffalo Bayou. Unfortunately, the map stops before Galveston Bay.

  8. Melissa Kean says:

    Thanks so much, guys. This is extremely helpful for a large project we’re working on. Will explain later!

  9. The photos are interesting as well because they show some of the changes that were taking place in military aviation at the time. The second and third photos show the change in markings that took place in mid 1919. During World War I, American aircraft were marked with a roundel with the colors, red, blue and white (outside to inside) in order to match up with our allies. In 1919, the insignia changed to a white star on a blue circle with a red circle in the center of the star. In the second picture, aircraft 38530 is painted with the old insignia on the tops of the wings, while 38509 carries the post August 1919 insignia. It’s hard to tell if any of the aircraft in photo #3 are wearing the post August 1919 star but my guess would be that it’s an earlier photo than #2.

    Also interesting to note is that the two aircraft in the foreground of photo #3 are DeHavilland DH.4s, while all the rest are Curtiss JN-4 Jennys. The DH-4 was used for bomber training at Ellington, and the Army maintained a bombing range in San Leon, just down the coast.

  10. I meant to tell you, Melissa, that there are no geeks like aviation and map geeks. 🙂

  11. Guy Rollins says:

    Franklin Elementary School with Buffalo Bayou above.

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