Last Saturday I was perusing, as is my custom, the posts on the Houston’s Aviation History facebook page. (If you’re on facebook this is one of the things that’s actually worth your time.) Much to my delight Story Sloane III had put up a couple of spectacular images of an early Houston area air field. The administrator of the page, Michael Bludworth, immediately identified them as Rice Field. I’ve written about this airfield before, although it took me years to decide that it was a real thing, but I had long since given up hope of finding a photograph of it.
Here’s a view of the hangar and the landing strip looking northeast across the corner of campus:
And here you can see it from the vantage point of the Administration Building over on the other side of the treeline along Harris Gully:
I’ve spent a significant amount of time over the last several days staring at these images. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to both Story, for his efforts to preserve through photographs the history of Houston, and to Michael for making that history accessible. And as I looked at these pictures something began to rattle around in the back of my mind. It took a while but it eventually the memory rattled up to the front.
We have a pretty spectacular aeronautics collection in the Woodson, courtesy of Ben Anderson, which I’ve poked around in for many years. We also have a couple of copies of Charles Lindberg’s 1927 book We, which came out very quickly after his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927:
In one of the early chapters Lindberg relates the story of a barnstorming trip he took during the early spring of 1924. He and a companion left the snowy midwest in a plane called a Canuck, a variant of the Curtiss JN-4, the Flying Jenny. They headed south, hopping from airfield to airfield, constantly worried about a cracked gas tank that had them struggling to rig up ways to carry extra gas. It turns out that one of their stops was right here:
“The field was covered with water…”
Yeah, that’s Rice alright.
Rice fields are always covered with water. They used to be all over the place south of Houston. Mykawa Road, between Loop 610 and Pearland, is named for the rail junction Mykawa which was in turn named for Shinpei Maekawa, the Japanese immigrant rice farmer who introduced rice cultivation to the area around the turn of the century.
Hmmm. I thought the Power House was earlier than 1923, like 1915 or so. Interesting that there are no vehicles present around the Admin Building.
That’s the Chemistry Building going up at the right. Mech Lab and Power House are out of the shot.
And they were original–started in 1911.
Oh, wait, that’s the Chemistry Building of 1925. I should certainly know better. Ten lashes with a wet mortarboard tassel!
And… there’s a train in the middle distance of the first shot.
San Antonio and Aransas Pass, I think.
Great detective work, finding that mention of Rice Field in the book.
The funny thing is I can’t remember my grandchildren’s birthdays but I can’t forget any random detail of Rice history. I don’t want to examine this too closely.
With the earnings from my first job after graduation from Rice in May 1975, I started flying lessons at Lori’s Flight School located in the old Hobby terminal. Still a passion after all of these years, and love to fly into the small airports that are scattered all across the U.S.
i know that this must be something that you have covered in your many posts on Rice over the years, but what were they farming to the right of the main gate in that picture of the Admin building?
I think that’s redistributed dirt, to raise the level to reduce the marsh after a rain.