Several weeks ago I began work on a major collaborative project with the Houston Metropolitan Research Center in the Julia Ideson Building downtown. (The HMRC is the archival branch of the Houston Public Library and its website is here. Take look if you’re not familiar with it or even if you are. If you have any interest in the history of Houston, this is the place for you.) It is truly a privilege to work with this magnificent collection and it’s also delightful to work alongside such a devoted and friendly staff. I will be occupied with this project for quite some time (and I’ll have more to say about it later) but I will remain faithfully at my post in Fondren on the usual irregular basis.
What I’m working on isn’t focused specifically on Rice but I’ve already come across more images of campus than I can easily handle. Many of these images are exactly the views that are most interesting to me at this point–pictures of something else that incidentally capture the edges of the university. What I’m going to show you today came out of an envelope in the Houston Post Photographic collection. This collection was painstakingly inventoried over a number of years by a volunteer who name I don’t know but this particular envelope was labeled only with the date (1957) and “unidentified intersection, football stadium.” I, of course, couldn’t stop myself from looking at this.
The first picture looks almost familiar:
It was the second one that let me place it. That’s Emanu El peeking out at lower right, so this is the wonky intersection of Rice Boulevard and Sunset and Mandell:
Which means that’s Rice at the bottom of this one:
But what ho! This next one is absolutely delicious–it’s the back side of everything! Swooning, I am.
Zoom in on them. There’s more here than I can discuss right now but feel free to have at it if you’d like. But why were they even taken? I’m not sure but I suspect it was the groundbreaking for the First Christian Church that now sits on that site.
Well, there is one thing I can’t resist mentioning. See the path that cuts straight across the middle of the church property? We’ve talked about that before!
Well, also at the front of my mind recently has been the radio antenna by Abercrombie. Interestingly, it’s not here even though the first pictures I’ve seen from on top of it also were taken in 1957.
Ok, that’s it. For now.
I have to go up to College Station tomorrow so I’ll be back here Monday.
Bonus: That intersection has been weird from the beginning. Here’s a map of all the real estate swaps that had to take place way back in 1923 to get it in place. Note the “Chas Weber” parcel at top left. We’ve talked about him before too.
Extra Bonus: You didn’t think I forgot about the football stadium, did you?
It’s funny how similar “archival” and “archrival” are. Remember where your heart lies! If you run across Sam the architectural archivist, tell her hi from me!
I have met Sam the architectural archivist! She’s fantastic–and she’s already told me something really interesting to dig around for.
Melissa, can you pick a good aerial of the campus from the late 70’s and put a link on your page? I am looking at the old 1957 photo and Google’s satellite view of the campus today. The current view is so changed from my time at Rice that I find it hard to tell where I am. I was at Rice during the Norman Hackerman era when there was almost no construction of new buildings at Rice.
Like I can’t remember what used to be behind Abercrombie. In your old photo there looks like there is a grassy field with lots of standing water. I think there was a parking lot back there in the 1970’s, but I can’t remember for sure.
Bonner, a parking lot, and tennis courts.
That’s a nice view of Abercrombie before its open spaces were filled in. It used to be s comprehensible building!
I was on campus in 1957, and Abercrombie was fairly new. What do you mean by “comprehensible building”?
In the photo showing the backside of the RIce campus, what is the building at the far left? Looks like a gigantic chicken roost!
I think it is the ‘new’ Jones south still under construction
That’s Jones College under construction.
Groundbreaking for First Christian Church was on Sunday, February 24, 1957, and they held a ceremony at Temple Emanu El before heading out to the site with their shovels. That is almost certainly what we are looking at here. historicimages.com sells original newspaper photo morgue images and it’s worth looking at. Here’s one you might dig. https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:BF6xnBygt74J:https://www.historicimages.com/1958-press-photo-annunelation-greek-orthodox-church-houston-texas-hca01543+&cd=15&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari
Also, isn’t the chicken roost perhaps Jones College in an early stage of construction?
Also this: https://www.historicimages.com/search?q=Houston
Looking at the 3rd and 4th photos, I’m curious about what appears to be a round pool or tank on Sunset between Mandell and Cherokee. Per HCAD, the house currently at that location, 5330 Mandell, was built in 1956, but the building we seen in these photos is definitely not the house currently at that spot. HCAD’s data is probably off by a year or two.
Yes, I noticed that too. I think it is a derelict or near-derelict 1920s or 30s house with a primitive swimming pool in the back. Or some eccentric had some kind of pet seal or something.
OK, this may have been the strangest thing I have ever heard of in Rice History, and that is saying something. From the Houston Chronicle, Tuesday, July 29, 1958. Column by the celebrated Sigman Byrd. It explains the pool, but creates more questions. Many, many more questions. Melissa! Come look! Help!
That first link is behind some sort of login. Help us outsiders out! What is it?
You mean the infoweb? Try this: https://www.dropbox.com/s/nqoalmmr70x9iez/News_Article__Houston_Chronicle_published_as_THE_HOUSTON_CHRONICLE___July_29_1958__p23.pdf?dl=0
Okay, that’s some kind of weird. I’ve walked past the current house many times and had no idea about the history of that property.
Very sad to read of the hurricane drenching the illuminated manuscripts. Hopefully those made it into Fondren and were saved.
The first and second photos show the front of the ghost castle.
I’m on it! First I’ve ever heard of this.
Mardon was… something. Apparently he had some money on his own. He wrote a book. https://books.google.com/books?id=vRfiAwAAQBAJ&pg=PT5&lpg=PT5&dq=Austin+Mardon+Rice&source=bl&ots=PqftD44VCz&sig=hfc86eTYm1fmqNSsnrtmIUJYhhw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiVq7XyjtjfAhUNQ6wKHRAJCD0Q6AEwCXoECAQQAQ#v=onepage&q=Austin%20Mardon%20Rice&f=false
He had nine children and moved to Adross Castle in Ross-shire, Scotland, sometime after 1932. There were several mentions in newspapers of a jewel theft in 1932 at the Mandell house foiled by secret compartments in a jewel case (yeah, tell everyone all about that) saving thousands of dollars in jewels (in the depths of the depression.). In 1964 the widowed Mrs. Mardon made news by selling a Gauguin painting. Mardon’s grandson, Austin Mardon, is a respected Canadian disability advocate and researcher. The home that replaced the Ghost Castle is by architect Lucian Hood and is one of his most spectacular.
Heaven only knows what’s in our archives. I can hardly wait for Monday.
I suspect that it can be seen in other aerials, now that we know to look.
Very blurry view here, but you can make out the penthouse near the upper right corner of the photo if you zoom in.
How did you post that? I didn’t think you could post pics in comments.
I didn’t either. I copied and pasted the address and the photo appeared in the comment. Must be a new feature.
Also, the best thing about the HMRC is the Julia Ideson Building itself.
Glorious Vintage Photos.