Houston Stadium?

A loyal reader recently sent me a scan of a Houston street map that was produced by Shell, the kind of map, I think, that you could get at gas stations. I don’t see a date on it anywhere but we can make a pretty good guess. Click on it once and it will get bigger, click again and you can get a really close look:

There’s much of interest here but the campus portion of this map is really quite curious: the new stadium is there, as is the new gym, both finished in 1950. But there’s no Abercrombie, Anderson, or Fondren, all completed in the late 1940s. It also still shows the old stadium in its final form, and that was torn down in 1951. Recently I happened to stumble across this little map of campus that’s perfect to show you what I mean. It was drawn to clarify the location of the proposed new stadium when it was still being debated by the board. Again, it’s undated but clearly done in about 1948:

What aroused my friend’s curiosity, though, was that on the Shell map the new field is called Houston Stadium. That’s what it was generally called at its inception and it’s the name you see if you go back and look at all the local newspaper coverage of the planning and construction. The original idea was that Rice would build a 100,000 seat stadium as part of a municipal project with multiple users. (Dallas was dramatically expanding the Cotton Bowl at this time and, well, you know how that goes.) That was way too ambitious and fell through fairly quickly. Next came a plan for a 50,000 seat dual user facility for Rice and the University of Houston, which also was too complicated to get off the ground. But by 1949 it was clear that our old stadium, much too small at 37,000 seats, was also structurally compromised.  This meant that Rice would go it alone. The first plans called for 50,000 seats but after the spectacular success of the Froggie Williams led 1949 Owls that seemed too small. Some calculations showed that they could add another 20,00 seats for not much more money so 70,00 seats it was. The Rice administration continued to call it Houston Stadium for a while even then, but protests from students and alumni got them to finally change the name to Rice Stadium.

Next up: how to pay for it?

Bonus: Either somebody is messing with me or they’re actually using this for something.

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13 Responses to Houston Stadium?

  1. Bill Cousins says:

    J.Fred once told me that the Stadium was indeed called Houston Stadium at one point, but it was pronounced HOW-stun, as in William Vermillion HOW-stun. I never saw any verification.

  2. Gene Mutschler says:

    I see some nomenclature at the left bottom that seems to indicate the year was 1951.

    • Bob Roosth says:

      Hello Gene. Greetings from LA. Yes, there is text that reads 10-Y-1951-1. Could be a year. Who knew there was once a Main Street Airport?

  3. Houston without Interstate highways. Wow.

  4. Bob Swanson says:

    And the Gulf Freeway is still under construction…

  5. Ann Pound Hopkins says:

    Hi Melissa. I found that map interesting. When I looked up my grandparents address (Autry) the SW Freeway did not appear in her backyard. I know that highways change but it looks like that highway changed drastically over the years comparing it to a current map. Also I found it strange that US Hwys 59 and 69 were the same for many miles. Never know what you find! I need to go through my grandparents things again and send you some more treasures.
    Ann Pound Hopkins

  6. Mike Gladu says:

    The pencil drawing of campus is dated January 1948, and the early design for the stadium is scaled by seating capacity, not feet! The story from the Houston Post hints at the BofG shooting for 100,000, not the eventual 72,000. Also of note is the legend that indicates the sun’s position at sundown during football season, a concept that also explains the stadium rotation off a North/South axis to provide a shade advantage on the West side, that was abandoned in the final design.
    Nowhere in all this is it explained how 100,000 people would arrive or park for a capacity crowd…

  7. Ken Grimsby says:

    This page displays high-resolution images of the Shell street maps from 1951 and 1956, both the front and back sides of each map:


    Click to select a map. Click repeatedly to zoom. Drag to reposition the view.

  8. James McAdams says:

    The “loyal reader’s” scanned map is clearly the 1951 David Drumsey map. Same campus “map” and same population number: 594321. I saw a 1950 census number of 596k. So, maybe a 1951 map with some older information mixed with creative future plans? The 10-Y-1951-1 is probably not a date. To the right you’ll find 10-Y-677-S…(?)

  9. RW says:

    No 610 Loop on this map. Also, the two right angles in San Felipe just west of where the Loop is now have evolved into two curves….

  10. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    I had no idea TSU was once called the Texas State University for Negroes.

  11. Gerald says:

    Houstons census in 1950 596,163

  12. Owlcop says:

    West Loop 610 as Ave. C.
    I grew up between Ave. B and the under construction loop.
    Most people still called it Post Oak

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