HMRC Thursday: Sunset Boulevard, 1958

If you pay attention while driving up Sunset from Main towards Rice Boulevard you’ll notice a spot where the street curves out on both sides to form a pretty good sized oval. I feel almost certain that someone here told me at some point that there used to be trees there, on little islands in the middle of the street. This sounded like a recipe for disaster and apparently it was. I recently found these images in the Houston Post Photo Collection at the HMRC, which I believe memorialize the moment in January of 1958 when people got tired of ramming into them. These aren’t really scans, by the way, but quick and dirty grabs of negatives by means of a device called an Elmo, which is my new best friend.

The Rice campus is on the right side of the street:




Reader Mark Kapalski sends an intriguing email this week:

I have a piece of early Rice history that has been in my possession since 1992. It is the original trolley for the overhead crane in the first power plant. This trolley was manufactured for Rice by the Whiting Crane Corporation in 1910 when the plant was first built. It originally moved back and forth on two box beams that are probably still there. After much research I finally located Whiting and obtained copies of the original fabrication drawings and a letter of authenticity.
I have written to let you know I will soon be putting up this piece of history for sale. I am wondering if any alumni or Rice organizations might be interested in purchasing it?

It struck me that some of you might just be crazy enough to want this. I hope so, at least. If interested, you can reach Mark at

From William Ward Watkin’s Papers, dated February 24, 1910:

Extra Bonus: Campus videographer Brandon Martin snuck up behind me while I was  taking yesterday’s bonus picture.

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9 Responses to HMRC Thursday: Sunset Boulevard, 1958

  1. Galloway Hudson '60 says:

    Those trees were there when I matriculated in 1956. Some time between then and 1958, there was a deadly accident at one of them, leading to their demise. As I recall, the victim was a U.of Houston student.

  2. marmer01 says:

    I can’t find an article about the accident, but Max E. Glover hit a tree heading westbound in April 1956 or 1957 (sources vary) and died about two weeks later. Mr. Glover’s wife, Neva, sued the City over what she called an unsafe situation and was awarded about $80,000 by a jury (later reduced on appeal). This was in the courts until about 1962. I haven’t found anything about the trees and median except that stories about the court case mention that the trees were removed a year later.

  3. marmer01 says:

    I found mention of the trees being removed on Mayor Louis Cutrer’s orders in January, 1958, and the stumps were removed and the islands paved over in February, 1958, which makes it possible to date the second photo to late January. By the way, for those who are curious, there are two very similar surviving street median tree conditions in my hometown of Lake Jackson, where Chinaberry Street and Laurel Street intersect Azalea Street.

  4. Gwen Kunz says:

    I am 78 and I remember those trees well. I would pass by those trees whenever I visited my aunt who lived on Sunset. I was disappointed when they were removed.

  5. loki_the_bubba says:

    There is still at least one surviving tree circle. You can see them through the gates of Shadyside if you look up Remington.,-95.3956431,3a,15y,30.53h,85.68t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sAVwriNH8raHnBXV086-ygA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

  6. Owlcop says:

    There has been some conversation about building traffic circles in that area to protect cyclists and pedestrians. What goes around comes around.

  7. Mark Kapalski says:

    Thanks for the picture Melissa. This gives me even more information on the trolley than I had. I’ll forward it to Whiting for their archives, I hope this historical piece can be saved. Its unique.

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