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Posts posted by Croberts

  1. Now that I think about it more, I am convinced that these depressions are associated with subsidence. There are two sources for subsidence. The pierce junction feature also marks the location of oil fields, they were drilling there in the 1960s, I do not know when they started. I remember a gas flair on the road that was the southern extension of hillcroft (blue ridge?) below south main.


    There is a small linear feature north of willow water hole right over my neighborhood and street (5807 Arboles) and the effects of subsidence were visible there by the late 1960s, about 10 years after development. At the time this map was drawn, it was probably rice fields or pasture. This map is before drainage and scraping of Braes bayou and Willow water hole.

  2. So there were at least two monorails on S. Main. The Fondren road monorail, just west of Fondren and north of Main. The car road on top of the rail. This is clear on the 1964 aerial photograph.


    Then there was the Arrowhead Park monorail, which hung down from the rail. The two could never have connected, I was wrong about that. they were totally different systems, one part of "Space City" that never got implemented.

  3. I have long thought the same thing...the inward facing tick marks on the circular contours means a depression. But there is no limestone for a long way down, so karst is not the proper term. There is a long history of subsidence in the Westbury area, it was clear when I lived there in the 1960s that the streets did not drain properly because they had sunken in places, and many walls and fouindations were cracked. But the only thing I ever saw that could pass for limestone was in buffalo bayou in Memorial park, right at the water level. 


    The term sinkhole is commonly and mistakenly used to describe areas that were scoured by liquid from pipline or sewer failures. That is the explanation for the almeda road sinkhole described in your article. 


    For sinkholes to develop, there has to be a limestone region in which large solution cavities exist. This is typically caused by uplifting a limestone block, Central Florida, the highest part of Florida is an example. Another is in Burnet, Longhorn cavern sits on an uplifted block of limestone, a horst, and millions of years of water draining through the uplifted block caused the cavern to develope. There is no limestone to speak of on the Gulf Coastal Plain around Houston, the nearest would be the Oakville escarpment near Lagrange.

  4. So there may have been two futurist graphics designers that were influenced by what I call the future in ruins. And probably more. We climbed up the trackway from the ground, on the 1964 aerial photo discussed above, you can see the car parked at the east end at ground level. Then the trackway rises,you can see its shadow cast by the morning sun. It looks today and felt then like it was more than 20 feet high.


    We rode our bikes there, and I remember riding through the grass.It was in 64 or 65, and I was 11 or 12.  And this was after years of passing the long dead end elevated trackway on the way to richmond, always asking my parent about it. I heard the story that some investor went broke trying to convince the city that this was a good idea. What I have learned since about monorails is that the can only carry small numbers of people relative to surface trackways, and yet any transit way will stimulate land use intensification, so they are not cost effective.

  5. The monorail that was just west of Fondren and just south of main had rubber tires, and rode on a central rail. The car sat on top of the rail, with wheels on either side. I remember climbing the long track, hanging precariously onto the I-Beam that was the central rail, There was a car parked at the far elevated end of the trackway, you can see it in that historical photo. The other Houston monorails hung down from the track, this one road on top.

  6. What I remember about them is they were ranchers with board and batten looking siding, and ornamental fake shutters that had jigsawed shapes like hearts in them. In westbury at the time, construction companies would by several lots, and apparently one builder made about half a block of these houses. Pull off the trim and they are the same as the other houses on the street. Everyone called them Gingerbread houses though, because of the extra work on the facade trim.

  7. I remember her as one of the first anchorwomen, and I remember the day she died.


    I would point her out as a Houstonian, like Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite.I would use them as examples of how Houstonians do not necessarily have Texas accents.


    I later went to New Hope, on the Delaware Canal north of Philadelphia and saw how it happened. On the new jersey side of the canal, just blocks from the historic tourist area where there are bars,is a bridge that leads to Pennsylvania. Right before you cross, there is a driveway that drops steeply down (preautomobile) and if you were to turn on it, on a dark night, you would go right down to the canal path and river very quickly. IF you turned into the drive way, you would speed up do the the steep drop, and not be able to stop, In the daytime, it is clear, but at night it is a driveway leading into a black hole. I think it was not paved, just dirt. 

  8. While it was a Houston based chain, they were as far north as Texarkana. They seemed the main chain in the period 50s-70s. The one in Westbury had a hatch on the roof that was unlocked, and I remember people who worked there would leave the A frame ladder under the hatch, so that they could break in at night and steal beer and wine.

  9. Yep, there it is. Thanks. I actually saw that earlier at a much smaller zoom and just thought it was a crease in the original image! Interesting, it's NOT in the 1957 image.

    Just getting back to this forum, after many months absence. Yes, that is it,notice the car sits astride the rail, rather than hangs under. So this could not have been meant to connect to the arrowhead park one, as I supposed earlier. This is the only photo I have seen of it! When I was there, it was in the middle of what appeared to be an abandoned un-mowed prairie. I though it very strange, seeing the future in ruins. The guy that I went there with (5th grade, 1964) became a graphic artist, and some of his best works are images of Houston freeways in ruins, rusting, decayed and covered with vines. I have always wondered if this memory stuck with him as well.

  10. I've seen some research on Trammels Trace. I ran across it doing family history - Nicholas Trammel Jr, who blazed the trace, is my (and a bunch of others of others) g-g-g-grandfather. He was not a very popular guy with some of the early Texas leaders because of his penchant for stirring up trouble. The Trace was a main route into Texas for early settlers, following old Indian paths, etc. Nick Trammel returned to Texas later in life, and died in Gonzales County in the 1850's. His son Nathaniel settled somewhere between Harwood and Luling.

    Another resource for roads is the old census records. The late 1800's forms have some sort of reference to the road people lived on.

    Do you mean the manuscript census? I had not considered that, but if you had property records and suspected that someone lived off a road, that might work. It would be vague about the location of the road, and it would be the name of the road the year of the census.

    In fact, Trammels trace is the main road that connects the national road of the US (Arkansas extension) to the Camino Real. As such it would be the main overland route from anywhere north and east of Louisiana in the late 1830s on.

  11. You know, you might also be able to devine some routes by plats, if they exist, of early land grants. I've seen some old plats that showed adjoining roads and from that you might be able to figure out exact locations. Best guess for that would be county courthouses or the state archives.

    The earliest 15 minute USGS topographic maps may show major survey boundaries, such as section lines. There is a shapefile that can be downloaded from the Texas Land Office that shows the original land grants, where land went from the public domain into private property, for each county. Very often roads are at the boundaries of surveys of properties. For researching the roads around houston I would start with the oldest 15 minute maps which are approximately from the mid 1920s, still early in the period of reengineering the wagon roads to auto roads, considering that the state highway dept was not created until 1918, i think.

  12. I found a early wagon road that was very interesting to me, and may be of interest to some other readers. I was researching a piece of

    property in east Texas that is just down the Sulphur river from Eppersons Ferry on Trammels Trace. The Deed was from The Repulic Of Texas Land Office aorund 1838 for a tract of land that was on the U. S. and Republic Of Texas border, saving a 6 Vara (16.66') strip, along the border, wide enough for two wagons to pass. The old road bed is still visible today.


    I have been wanting to researching Trammels trace from the arkansaw border, where it connnected to the last extension of the National Road, which ran basically from Memphis to Fulton, Austins farm and steamboat landing, near texarkana. From Texarkana south it is mostly along the route of various current highways, I was unaware that sections of the old trace still existed. That trace section should be a candidate for the national register!

  13. There are plenty of others. Richmond, Addicks-Satsuma, Aldine-Westfield, Spring-Stuebner, Hufsmith-Conroe, Decker Prairie-Rosehill, Cypress-Rosehill, Barker-Cypress, Conroe-Porter, Old Houston Rd., Aldine-Bender Rd., Huffman-Cleveland...and oh so many more. What I'm most curious about is how these old routes have been incrementally realigned over the decades and centuries. And why.

    After the creation of the state highway department, highway design was professionalized, with engineers taking over. So the first thing that happened was routes were straightened, ditches developed and deepened, because circa 1918 engineers knew about rr but not automobiles as of yet. The result was narrow roadsides, narrow underpasses, steep ditches, straight roads and long gradients. Cars initially had a top speed of 35, then 50. This drove rethinking the auto road. Bewteen 1920 and 1940 the design community incrementally widened and streamlined rights of way, including ditches and shoulders. Since this all required a large investment of capital, engineered roads occur on publicly owned right of ways, which could be expanded.

    Note that during the New Deal, road construction was a quick way of creating employment everywhere. Gifford Pinchot as governor of Pennsylvania had every road in the state put into the state system and covered with asphalt. Roosevelt saw this and paved the nations blue highways. This means that very often the preengineered road was simply paved, or the rr inspired road was simply paved. In these cases redesign comes later. One can then look at a road and determine whether it is

    a) a paved wagon road

    B) an early rr inspired engineered road

    c) a road designed around the full potential of the automobile (design speed, banked curve, variable median strip, wide right of way, engineered shoulder)

    d) a road designed around some of the elements of automobile design


    This explains some of the oddities that I've encountered driving on county roads, including the senseless 90-degree curves...at least, it sort of does. Was there a method to the madness in the 19th century? It just seems like they should've been aware of the hypotenuse at that time.

    Do you still have all the documentation from your research? I'd really like to see the "spatial logic". I've got a collection of dozens of official state road maps, but they only go back as far as 1938. And obviously, they lack precision.

    The method was that the roads would follow property boundary surveys. So 90 degree turns were common before the engineering of highways, and before the transition from wagon road to automobile road. The transition by the way, occured in two stages. First engineers designed roads like rr. The result was no consideration for the fact that cars could swerve. Examples in the houston area are very narrow rr underpasses, there used to be one on the west side of downtown and others on the old galveston highway. Other examples are extremely deep ditches with no right of way: you are either in the ditch or on the road. The examples I use in my classes of these two are from houston. If you see them, it means the road was engineered between 1918 and about 1930. By the early 1930s, Jac Gubbels wrote a book on road side design and talked about the evolution of the right of way and the streamlining of ditches on either side.

    My research on Burnet resulted in a GIS database that would need to be rebuilt in order to take snapshots of the various route geographies. I will work on doing that and post it but it might take months to do, given my current schedule. The key route geographies were 1)Republic of Texas, 2)Early statehood, 3)Comming of the RR 4)after the new deal road construction

  15. But with precious few exceptions, the precise characteristics and placement of roads, river crossings and ferries receives little discussion. There is no effort made to describe the width or permanency of a path perhaps carved by Indians, improved by settlers, and later parceled off onto private property, subsequently fenced, and left to become overgrown and to all but disappear over time. Nor is there typically any attempt (to my knowledge) to describe with precision where these paths were.

    Does anybody have any resources that discuss this subject matter?

    I have done some research on this but mostly in central texas. All I know about houston roads are that washington and san felipe once were the roads that started to those two places. Most of my work has been in Burnet county. here is what I know.

    County road commissions existed from soon after counties were formed. They subdivided the counties into precincts, and appointed supervisors. Labor was drafted using the corvee system. What this meant was if you were related to a commissioner, you got the supervisor job, and you drafted everyone on the road to work for a few days a year, or they could hire someone to replace you. The supervisors were paid. The county road commissions met monthly to decide what construction needed to be done, but the work was all done by amateurs. The notes detail the pre-engineered wagon roads of the county.

    Wagon roads were narrow, they had a high crown to shed water. If two wagons met, one would pull over. Corners were turned at 90 degrees. Right of ways were barely two wagons wide.

    In 1915 the first Federal Aid to highways was passed. This gave funding for road construction to any state that had highway depts. That meant the northeast got it all. The south resisted. The govenor of alabama stated in 1915 that the states constitution forbade the goverment from participating in any form of public improvement. Texas formed its highway dept in 1918. Sometime after that roads got classified, numbered, and the old routes were obscured by the new engineered road. Long story.

    When I took the current highway map for Burnet county and dated its road segments by various means I discovered that most of the old route geography still existed, but was obscured. For instance, the national road of texas was called various things at various places, ie stagecoach lane, county road xx, state highway xx, US highway 183. The original route had been maintained by different entities. Only in one case was there a road that completely dissapeared, and that was a military road that was only used 5 years.

    More interesting, todays route geography is a composite of all past route geographies. Once I reconstructed the roads around dates or periods, I could understand the spatial logic of the road system: it connected places that were important at that time, but what places were important changed with various factors, such as the coming of the railroad, the paving of the US highway system. These were not small changes: burnet has about 5 named cities in it today, Burnet, marble Falls, Bertram, Briggs, Oakalla, but in 1860 it had nearly 20. When the railroad came the population drifted to the towns that had sidings. When the automobile road came the same thing happened again.

    My advice is to start with a early automobile map or a preautomobile map such as one from before 1920. Then work backwards using historical sources. Even secondary sources such as county histories can be useful for finding out the names of a few roads.

    Two other considerations: before goverments purchased rights of ways roads could shift in location. So the camino real was not a fixed, surveyed route but rather a series of road segments that, depending on the weather, would get you across the countryside. We know that the oregon trail is actually 200 miles wide at its widest point, between the northernmost route, and the southernmost.

    Also, roads often were named from each community. For instance, in Burnet there was the Belton road. As it passed through florence it was called the burnet belton road. In belton it was called the burnet road.

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  16. There are a lot of buildings I don't necessarily know the name of or their history. Most of them went up and were left for dead with much of downtown long before my time (I'm 28 years old). Anyone who knows is welcome to share, if only so I'm a little more informed. People like to claim Houston doesn't have any history. It does, and a good deal of it is still standing, but it's as if people have simply forgot.

    Your right. The national register and many other entities consider history something that begins when an object is over 50. The result is that a lot of deterioration occurs before buildings are given minimal consideration. For instance, all that great new deal ccc architecture in the state parks was left with essentially no maintenance until recently. Now the big issue in Houston are the mods-they are technically historical, but what efforts are being made to preserve them. And Houston has a lot of buildings from the 1880s on, early colonial revivals rotting, older skyscrapers, and a weak local historic preservation board. Not many are preserved by local groups, compared to other places. Yet the history of the city is fascinating. Living in south Florida makes me appreciate it more and more. Very few buildings from before 1920.

  17. This may be the best walking tour photo essay I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot. Photo quality is great, composition is excellent, and you have a way of bringing out the experience of the moment in every shot. Would have liked to see more building names, I remember the republic building by name but not how it looks, sounds like it is a Sullivan style building. You really bring out the sense of place.

  18. once magical place. My love for Architecture began as a young boy, hanging out at Westbury Square.

    (Tom Williams)

    Very well put. I had the same experience, and also it stimulated my interest in architecture. Now I teach an upper division college course on the American Cultural Landscape, with an emphasis on vernacular architecture, and it started with the contrast between tacky ranches (not the tasteful mods) and the european influence square. We have many new urbanist projects that attempt a similar thing here in south Florida, but none of them have the feel, the smell, the magic of that amazing collection of independent craftsmen and shops. I cant imagine how such a collection could have come together.

    And starting wednesday, I teach my first graduate historical preservation course, with field trips to St. Augustine, Savannah and Charleston, and local hoefully, some south florida building documentations for HABS and the national register. I shall start with a discussion of Westbury Square as a "new urbanist, pedestrian oriented development" and go through the decline to the present state. Someone should document the square for the Historic American Buildings Survey. Thats typically where historical tear downs end up as measured drawing and photographs and other details.

  19. We lived on Val Verde, and my aunt and uncle lived on Lampassas, My years were 1953-1957. It was my home when I was born. I remember our first television coming into the house there. My dad grew grapes in the backyard, and I remember the smell of my mother and grandmother making grape jelly.

    I think we were the first owners of the house, likely a GI bill purchase. My mother loved that house, but it was small. When my sister was born we shared a room. I think I remember seeing the weather ball on a building downtown (conaco?) from my bedroom window. I remember wee wild west, and also a hardware-country store nearby, possibly in bellair though.

  20. My grandmother worked in the china department from about 1941 till 1965. She lived on montrose, just north of richmond in an apt building that has since become a minimall. Later, we lived in the southwest, and she would take the bus-we had to drive to bellaire to catch it. My earliest memories of a big city were going on the segregated bus to Foleys with my grandmother.

    I remember Foleys as the central attraction of downtown, and it defined christmas. Wasnt it Foleys that sponsored the Christmas/thanksgiving parade? And we would see Santa at foleys. I remember being impressed by the sparkly sidewalks as we walked around the first floor christmas exhibits. Before the sears catelog took over, our toys came from foleys.

    In the early 1990s I shopped for clothes at the foleys in Austin. I typically bought hawaiian style shirts, though the themes were more sedate. I still have one of them. I really felt like something was lost when Foleys dissapeared.

  21. We made it! I do wish they'd display shots ocasionally that aren't just the standard westside/Allen Pkwy view.

    I remember a discussion in the 1970s about a location out west where all the highrises lined up-downtown, med center, galleria and sharpstown. The idea was you could get a shot that looked like manhattan from new jersey. Does anyone know a location where this could happen?

  22. Littering is more prevalent in Texas but it is also a common element in lesser developed countries, and in areas like Appalachia.

    I teach a cultural landscape course in Florida and when I show students slides of the Texas landscape, there are always comments about the litter. In fact, I now tell them that you can always identify a Texas landscape because roadside beer cans are 30 feet apart.

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