“Rice Loses Marsh,” 1939

I’ve used this photo once or twice here before. (Check out this one, about the path through the empty lot across Rice Boulevard from the Mech Lab.) It came out of some papers from Jim Sims ’41 and it’s a nice, clear image of the campus–but it was undated. The best approximation I could come up with was circa late 1930s. It’s a useful image with one interesting puzzle–all that disturbed ground over on the far north side along Sunset. Probably, I thought, one of those things that’s just lost to time.

It turns out that I was right about the dating but wrong about the insolubility of the puzzle. Reading through the 1939 volume of the Thresher yesterday I came across this little tidbit:

Well, this is just delightful, isn’t it? 10,00 truckloads of dirt, from the construction of the midtown Sears building, the future home of the Rice innovation district’s Ion.

Here’s Lake Lovett sometime in the ’20s:

And of course the problem wasn’t actually solved by the fill dirt, although it did help quite a bit. The joke didn’t disappear either.

Bonus: I recently saw the second snake I’ve ever encountered on campus, roughly in the same place I saw the first.


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11 Responses to “Rice Loses Marsh,” 1939

  1. grungy1973 says:

    Excellent detective work!
    Sears had a big basement.
    We’ve seen other images with regular mounds of dirt.
    I think they were in the prairie – toward the edge of the stadium parking lot.
    Where might that dirt have come from?

  2. Jeff Ross says:

    I have heard that the excavation material from Rice Stadium was used to build the hill at Miller Outdoor Theater. Any proof to that rumor-for or against?

  3. Richard Schafer says:

    An actual lake on campus would have been a nice thing.

  4. Carolyn Brewer says:

    Thanks for this post. Lots of history here. Was Houston’s first escalator in the Sears Building? Do not know why that comes to mind. Keep up the fun postings. We appreciate you !!

  5. Bill Johnson '57 - '58. says:

    There is something wrong with the news clipping. 30,000 cubic yards of dirt spread on 7 acres would be 2.6 feet deep not one foot.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Must have been written by an English major.

    • Ken Grimsby says:

      Indeed, you are correct.

      (30,000 yd^3 / 7 acre) * (3 ft / 1 yd) ^ 3 * (1 acre / 43,560 ft^2) = 2.66 ft

      Using 6 acres instead of 7 acres (“six or seven acres”), we get 3.10 ft.

      The author may simply have been relying on Dr. Watkin’s observation that the dirt was “spread about a foot deep,” which states the depth correctly within an order of magnitude, which is all I would require when someone uses the qualifier “about.”

      Another possibility is that the lower two feet of dirt absorbed the water in the “lake,” leaving initially only a single foot of dry dirt above the mud.

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