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Mystery Rural Houston Area Photograph


torimask

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http://digital.houstonlibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/images/id/2772/rec/117

 

Does anyone recognize this area?

 

Photographer was R.L. Browning. It's in the HMRA collection under "Rural Homes and Businesses" but not much else.

 

The description is "Aerial photograph of a cluster of buildings in a rural areaincluding some homeswarehouses/stores, a gas station, and Mary's Cafe."

 

 

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Okay, tougher than I thought. I have 1942 and 1955 directories and listings for any Mary's Cafes don't match up - so maybe that area was far enough out to not be included back then. Interesting, the main road in the picture dead ends at Mary's. 

 

If anyone can help decipher this close up of another business in the picture, that might help!

 

ruralcloseup.png

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The bottom word on the sign could be courts but the top word appears to have too many letters; perhaps Modern Courts?

 

I think a couple of the cars date from the early 50s, particularly the white car parked beside the long building which I'd guess is an early 50s Chrysler product such as a Dodge or Plymouth and the lighter colored car on the highway. 

 

The service station sign casts an oval shadow, suggesting Humble, but the sign itself appears to be too dark.  The background should be white on a Humble sign, with blue border, red letters.  Maybe Amoco?  Were there any Amoco stations around back then?

 

It's only the service station driveway that ends at Mary's, not the highway.

 

That's a pretty wide roadway, unlike the other road in the top of the picture, suggesting this is a major thoroughfare, not just a country lane.

 

I'm having no luck deciphering the sign in front of the long building, nor the sign on the other side of the highway.

 

What are those mounds out behind the cafe and service station?  Piles of dirt or hay?

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Interesting photo. I couldn't decipher the sign, either. It's too distorted. There are three people, a man looking down the main road, by the courts, a man looking up, behind the white, long industrial bldg. and a lady with a dog behind Mary's, near a clothes line. She's looking at the plane, too. I would guess that's somewhere along I-10, by the shadows, as well. From the 1920's- late 1940's, those motor camps were everywhere, on the outskirts of town. I see them a lot on Sanborn maps. But, that service station looks like it would be an early 50's style, very boxy, sharp corners. 

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Could this be out around far Westheimer?  Like out around Clodine?   Or maybe farther out toward Wharton County.   I'm not completely convinced that there are any post-1948 cars, but I will look more closely at home later.  Could possibly be very early 50s, I guess.  Looks more like forties for most of the ones that aren't thirties, though.   I think the oval sign could be Esso.

 

Maybe "Neptune" Courts?

Edited by marmer
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Could this be out around far Westheimer?  Like out around Clodine?   Or maybe farther out toward Wharton County.   I'm not completely convinced that there are any post-1948 cars, but I will look more closely at home later.  Could possibly be very early 50s, I guess.  Looks more like forties for most of the ones that aren't thirties, though.   I think the oval sign could be Esso.

 

Maybe "Neptune" Courts?

 

Westheimer is a good guess.  As IronTiger points out Katy Road would show the tracks.

 

If you zoom in you can see that the first car on the highway and the white car parked by the long white building both appear to have faired-in front fenders but articulated rear fenders.  This would put them in either GM's or Chrysler's 1949 generations.

 

 

Trying to figure out what is stacked up along the fence.  Pipes?  Telephone poles?

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I'm saying the white car by the long building was a Chrysler product partly because of the windshield visor, which was very common on Chrysler cars in the 40s and early 50s.  Dodge and Plymouth adopted that boxier style body in 1949 but the rear window spanning the width of the car suggests a later date.  Chryslers and Desotos would have had longer hoods and trunks.  I'm by no means 100% convinced, though. 

 

And the lighter car on the highway is really puzzling.  Studebaker?  The rear fender should help identify it but I can't place it.

 

I agree with NenaE on the service station.  I don't know when Humble dropped that name and took on Esso around here but that and Enco all had the same color scheme on the signs.  FWIW, as best I can remember, the pumps at Humble/Esso/Enco stations were always red; there's a silver (?) pump at that station.  Also I think Humble, et. al., had their own brand of tires, Atlas???, so there wouldn't have been a Goodyear sign.  Amoco was also branded as Standard in that era but both signs should have had a torch on the top so that may rule that out.

 

Depending on the time of year, the shadows do not necessarily indicate a due east/west orientation.  Current 90 E goes up McCarty; was that the pre-I-10 route?

 

Could be portions of 225 or 90-A on the southwest side.  If the latter, the railroad must be just out of view at the bottom of the picture.

 

How about Market St., or Clinton Drive?

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I considered OST, but in the 1950s, OST was getting to be developed and not rural like this picture depicts.

Westheimer too--in the 1950s, it's either rural or its urban, with the dividing long roughly along modern-day Vossdale. Either way, the bottom road is way too wide to be 1950s FM 1093.

If there is a railroad hiding out in the shot, which some have speculated on, it's too far away from the highway. All the railroads that ran parallel to highways in Houston: Hempstead, Katy, US90A...they all aren't very far from it, and this seems to have very wide ROW between the road and the railroad (if it exists)

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I'm saying the white car by the long building was a Chrysler product partly because of the windshield visor, which was very common on Chrysler cars in the 40s and early 50s.  Dodge and Plymouth adopted that boxier style body in 1949 but the rear window spanning the width of the car suggests a later date.  Chryslers and Desotos would have had longer hoods and trunks.  I'm by no means 100% convinced, though. 

 

And the lighter car on the highway is really puzzling.  Studebaker?  The rear fender should help identify it but I can't place it.

 

 

 

 

OK, you've got me curious.  I'll figure them out but my reference works are at home and I won't have time to check it out until tomorrow.

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Oh, I forgot about the RR tracks. That industrial bldg. reminded me of the tower design of the way out S. Main airport. I'm just suggesting maybe around the same time period, they were both built. Yeah, Westheimer is a good guess. Clinton Dr. crossed my mind, as well. That land was rural farmland mixed w/ industry.

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Hah! Studebakers weren't very common around Lake Jackson.  The rear sure looked Studebakerish to me but I couldn't place the grill.

 

Re:  the railroad - none of the roads being mentioned were as wide back then as now -- the rr's wouldn't have been so close.

 

If that's Westheimer/1093, nothing remains of any of those structures I'd say.

 

The span of the rear window on the white car is very unusual for a 1940s auto but I have found several that come close - the 49 Merc, Olds, Buick and Pontiac.  Windshield visors weren't unheard of on any of them.

 

Another possible location - FM 529/Spencer Rd on the NW side, still has some light industrial along it like that.

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This is obsessing me.  It is the most fun since Brunsville.

 

So here's what we know:

It's around 1950.

There is a motor court and a cafe, so the lower road is somewhat of a major route (for the time).

The main road likely runs east-west, with some allowance for error because of the angle of the sun throughout the year.

There is no adjacent railroad, which probably rules out Katy Road, Market Street on the east side, and South Main.

There is a smaller parallel road, and on the upper left another road that intersects at a right angle.  

 

So looking at a 1956 map online, I'm going to hazard a guess, although with very little confidence.  I wish I could post the map to explain this but here is the link to it:

http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/p15195coll35/item/14/show/13

 

This is the only place on the map I could find that appears to agree with the points above.

 

At that time Richmond Road, most of which is now Bissonnet, was a primary southwest route.  Richmond Road runs southwest until around Roark, where it heads straight west.  A little beyond that is Boone Road, where a street runs parallel for a short bit a little north of Richmond Road.  This is Boone Loop Road.  So perhaps the main road in the photo is Richmond Road, and Boone Road and Old Boone Loop are in the background.

 

I have to caveat this by pointing out that the map is at a high level and doesn't show every street, but since this was out in the Boonies, as it were, there might not be all that much missing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hah! Studebakers weren't very common around Lake Jackson.  The rear sure looked Studebakerish to me but I couldn't place the grill.

 

Re:  the railroad - none of the roads being mentioned were as wide back then as now -- the rr's wouldn't have been so close.

Eh. I wouldn't be so sure. Now, I haven't been around for the whole time of, say, Hempstead Highway's existence (Katy Freeway was already a divided highway by this time, and the road is clearly two way traffic) but the road hasn't really widened that much since the pre-freeway days (except for the area that was replaced by the freeway, but that's a different thing).

 

Hempstead Road as it stands today has a ROW where you could, in theory, squeeze in another road between Hempstead Road and the railroad. According to Google Earth, Hempstead Road has a ROW of about 45' (that's pretty rough calculations, don't quote me on that), and between the road and the railroad bed, about another 55'. So that's a full road length running beside it to get to the railroad, and you could easily see twice the distance, so at the very least, you should've seen the railroad bed in that shot.

 

Problem is, Hempstead Road ALWAYS had the same distance of the road and the railroad--in the olden days, that was a shoulder mostly used for local business access. Even checking Google Earth back to '44, you could see Hempstead Road's width in relation to the railroad. Didn't change.

 

90A has about 50' between the curb of its four-laned westbound section to the railroad bed. But if you look and compare images on Google Earth, prior to being rebuilt circa 2007, US-90A is actually FARTHER AWAY from the tracks overall than before. By taking advantage of the wide median and ROW to the south of the road, they were able to completely remove one lane entirely (a shoulder) that was closest to the railroad.

 

With this, and the "south side driveway" mentioned, that eliminates railroads, which would put Hempstead Road out of the running as a candidate.

 

 

 

 

 

That said, I don't think Westheimer is the one either. While the top road is obviously a smaller street, the main road is clearly a highway or a major road of some sort. Back in those days, you didn't have roads with that width unless they were highways or city roads. Based on the general rural feel, I think it is a highway (FMs just didn't have that width and pavement like highways/city roads did). Now that we've also kept in mind that the road didn't abruptly end at Mary's, what were the addresses actually listed?

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This is obsessing me.  It is the most fun since Brunsville.

 

So here's what we know:

It's around 1950.

There is a motor court and a cafe, so the lower road is somewhat of a major route (for the time).

The main road likely runs east-west, with some allowance for error because of the angle of the sun throughout the year.

There is no adjacent railroad, which probably rules out Katy Road, Market Street on the east side, and South Main.

There is a smaller parallel road, and on the upper left another road that intersects at a right angle.  

 

So looking at a 1956 map online, I'm going to hazard a guess, although with very little confidence.  I wish I could post the map to explain this but here is the link to it:

http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/p15195coll35/item/14/show/13

 

This is the only place on the map I could find that appears to agree with the points above.

 

At that time Richmond Road, most of which is now Bissonnet, was a primary southwest route.  Richmond Road runs southwest until around Roark, where it heads straight west.  A little beyond that is Boone Road, where a street runs parallel for a short bit a little north of Richmond Road.  This is Boone Loop Road.  So perhaps the main road in the photo is Richmond Road, and Boone Road and Old Boone Loop are in the background.

 

I have to caveat this by pointing out that the map is at a high level and doesn't show every street, but since this was out in the Boonies, as it were, there might not be all that much missing.

 

Interesting speculation, to say the least.  I've driven Boone Loop Road a few times, the L-shaped portion, to avoid a traffic tie-up at Wilcrest and Bissonnet which also was heavily infested with panhandlers for a long time.  I braved Friday afternoon drive-time traffic (and the sun directly in my face) to take a fresh look and drive the other portion of the Loop.  Nothing identifiable remains along Bissonnet, it's all very much more recent construction, strips centers and, of course, a CVS.

 

Boone Loop Road is a narrow, two lane road.  On the map it looks as though the distance between the two parallel roads is too great but in person, it's probably just about right.  If there is a problem, it's with the east-west length of the Loop Road;  It seems to me, after driving it just once, that we should be seeing some of the L-leg of the loop in the archive picture.

 

I will try to make it back over the weekend with a camera.  There is one house on the secondary road, back behind a tall fence, that I want to get a better look at.  I don't think it's one of the houses in the archive picture but it's worth a closer look.

 

If not, then it would probably be accurate to say that absolutely none of the structures in the archive picture has survived 60 or so years, and that makes me wonder.

 

Present day Wilcrest would probably run right between the gas station and the long white building or maybe right where the gas station sat.

 

I spent some time this afternoon browsing the R.L. Browning collection online, 117 pictures and I believe I looked at them all, hoping for some companion shots that might show us another angle or wide view, to no avail.  I wasn't making a list but some general observations:

 

He took multiple shots of all his subjects.  This picture may be the only one in the collection that stands by itself.  All the photos I looked at were aerial shots.

 

He took many photos of downtown Houston, Rice and Rice Field, as he called it, and a few of West University.  He took many shots of industrial installations, perhaps more than all others combined, and I think it's fair to say they were all identified as being in the ship channel area; certainly the majority of them were.  If this picture is in far SW rural Houston, it's unique.

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Eh. I wouldn't be so sure. Now, I haven't been around for the whole time of, say, Hempstead Highway's existence (Katy Freeway was already a divided highway by this time, and the road is clearly two way traffic) but the road hasn't really widened that much since the pre-freeway days (except for the area that was replaced by the freeway, but that's a different thing).

 

Hempstead Road as it stands today has a ROW where you could, in theory, squeeze in another road between Hempstead Road and the railroad. According to Google Earth, Hempstead Road has a ROW of about 45' (that's pretty rough calculations, don't quote me on that), and between the road and the railroad bed, about another 55'. So that's a full road length running beside it to get to the railroad, and you could easily see twice the distance, so at the very least, you should've seen the railroad bed in that shot.

 

Problem is, Hempstead Road ALWAYS had the same distance of the road and the railroad--in the olden days, that was a shoulder mostly used for local business access. Even checking Google Earth back to '44, you could see Hempstead Road's width in relation to the railroad. Didn't change.

 

90A has about 50' between the curb of its four-laned westbound section to the railroad bed. But if you look and compare images on Google Earth, prior to being rebuilt circa 2007, US-90A is actually FARTHER AWAY from the tracks overall than before. By taking advantage of the wide median and ROW to the south of the road, they were able to completely remove one lane entirely (a shoulder) that was closest to the railroad.

 

With this, and the "south side driveway" mentioned, that eliminates railroads, which would put Hempstead Road out of the running as a candidate.

 

 

 

 

 

That said, I don't think Westheimer is the one either. While the top road is obviously a smaller street, the main road is clearly a highway or a major road of some sort. Back in those days, you didn't have roads with that width unless they were highways or city roads. Based on the general rural feel, I think it is a highway (FMs just didn't have that width and pavement like highways/city roads did). Now that we've also kept in mind that the road didn't abruptly end at Mary's, what were the addresses actually listed?

When I posted that comment I had been staring at a closeup of the culvert across the road for a long time, trying to see what I could make of it.  If I had pulled back and looked at the whole archive picture, I would have seen the comment was irrelevant to this particular locale, whether or not it's true of any of the roads being considered. 

 

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Marmer is correct - the gray car on the road is a '47 - '49 Studebaker.  '46 was the pre war design carried over, and the bullet nose made its appearance in '50.  I don't know of anything else that had that sort of wrap around back window.

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Just to reiterate:  there is a lot of 1944 and 1953 aerial imagery on the Google Earth desktop application.   In looking at the Boone Loop area posited by Subdude, I see a tantalizing long building in a group of smaller buildings in the 1953 image.   I actually _don't_ think that's it, but it is close.  Perhaps further perusal of the Google Earth stuff may help.  I will do some later, but I just wanted to mention it in case someone else really wants to look around.  ;-)

 

I'm reasonably willing (80% certainty) that the white car is a '51 or '52 Oldsmobile.  Backlight, hood ornament, and circle on trunk look plausible, and I've seen several with the windshield shade, although those were found on many cars.   Might also be another GM or Mopar, it's almost certainly not a Ford product.

Edited by marmer
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How ironic.  My dad owned a '49 Rocket 88.  He loved that car so much and bragged on it so much, our neighbor, who'd always driven Fords, bought a '51 98, and loved it, kept it until he died and took immaculate care of it.  But it never occurred to me that was an Olds, possibly because I don't think I ever saw an Olds with the visor - lots of Chrysler products and lots of Chevys, but never an Olds that I can remember.  Now that you point it out, I see it; the side windows are also telling to me.  Thanks, for that and the Studebaker.

 

I don't have Google Earth Desktop but I looked at Historic Aerials.  I see nothing there at all in 53 or 57, just empty fields.  I've also come to wonder if Bissonnet would have been anything more than a narrow, two-lane blacktop like Boone Loop is now that far out in the early 50s.  90-A would have been the main highway to towns in Fort Bend.

 

And now I have to take something back.  Linky

 

If I ever saw one of those before, I've completely forgotten it.  I also spent some time looking at gas station signage in that era and the only brands I can find that used an oval shape were Humble/Esso/Enco and Amoco/Standard and the latter would have had a torch through the middle protruding up above.  So, I guess that's a Humble station after all.

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How ironic.  My dad owned a '49 Rocket 88.  He loved that car so much and bragged on it so much, our neighbor, who'd always driven Fords, bought a '51 98, and loved it, kept it until he died and took immaculate care of it.  But it never occurred to me that was an Olds, possibly because I don't think I ever saw an Olds with the visor - lots of Chrysler products and lots of Chevys, but never an Olds that I can remember.  Now that you point it out, I see it; the side windows are also telling to me.  Thanks, for that and the Studebaker.

 

I don't have Google Earth Desktop but I looked at Historic Aerials.  I see nothing there at all in 53 or 57, just empty fields.  I've also come to wonder if Bissonnet would have been anything more than a narrow, two-lane blacktop like Boone Loop is now that far out in the early 50s.  90-A would have been the main highway to towns in Fort Bend.

 

And now I have to take something back.  Linky

 

If I ever saw one of those before, I've completely forgotten it.  I also spent some time looking at gas station signage in that era and the only brands I can find that used an oval shape were Humble/Esso/Enco and Amoco/Standard and the latter would have had a torch through the middle protruding up above.  So, I guess that's a Humble station after all.

 

Yeah, I found a couple Olds'es with the visor.  I really think it has nothing to do with the brand, they were found on many cars.   You really should download Google Earth for this task.  There is much more there than there is on Historic Aerials.

 

http://www.google.com/earth/download/ge/agree.html

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Looks like they were burying something maybe water or sewer lines. Its on both sides of the hwy. Something they would do before the tore up the old road and laid new one. There looks like a construction warning sign on the roadway. How would u get the public works master plans for the sewer. It should of been planned when the city did the original road and hwy plan in the 50's.

Also if this was one shot only then maybe another survey company took over or the project was halted due to funds or community objections. There's existing water lines coming in prior. There's no ponds and I don't see a well house for the company.

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Just to reiterate:  there is a lot of 1944 and 1953 aerial imagery on the Google Earth desktop application.   In looking at the Boone Loop area posited by Subdude, I see a tantalizing long building in a group of smaller buildings in the 1953 image.   I actually _don't_ think that's it, but it is close.  Perhaps further perusal of the Google Earth stuff may help.  I will do some later, but I just wanted to mention it in case someone else really wants to look around.  ;-)

 

I'm reasonably willing (80% certainty) that the white car is a '51 or '52 Oldsmobile.  Backlight, hood ornament, and circle on trunk look plausible, and I've seen several with the windshield shade, although those were found on many cars.   Might also be another GM or Mopar, it's almost certainly not a Ford product.

 

I looked on Historic Aerials for 1953 and I don't think the Boone Loop is correct.  Looking around other parts of the city though nothing else seems a good match. 

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Just to reiterate:  there is a lot of 1944 and 1953 aerial imagery on the Google Earth desktop application.   In looking at the Boone Loop area posited by Subdude, I see a tantalizing long building in a group of smaller buildings in the 1953 image.   I actually _don't_ think that's it, but it is close.  Perhaps further perusal of the Google Earth stuff may help.  I will do some later, but I just wanted to mention it in case someone else really wants to look around.  ;-)

 

I'm reasonably willing (80% certainty) that the white car is a '51 or '52 Oldsmobile.  Backlight, hood ornament, and circle on trunk look plausible, and I've seen several with the windshield shade, although those were found on many cars.   Might also be another GM or Mopar, it's almost certainly not a Ford product.

 

Google Earth, not Historic Aerials, was the first place I looked. I still use HA occasionally just because there's some stuff that's not on GE, but overall, with its better interface and less watermarks, I prefer GE overall.

 

I looked at Boone Loop, and I don't even see the parallel road.

 

I might venture a guess that it's not that "rural", just on the edge of town. A truly "rural" area wouldn't have all that clustered together unless it was an established community of some sort, and that would be easier to find.

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I'm thinking that the company to the left of the service station is some sort of well works or perhaps well service supplier.  There is a lot of drill pipe, along with various mechanical looking things.  I don't have the expertise to give a guess whether it's oil, water, or something else.  Sure would be nice if it had a legible sign out front.

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Could it be Jensen Dr back when it was still US59?

^this. First thing that popped into my mind was Old Humble Road after some study of the pic, but then the east-west configuration was mentioned, which of course takes OHR/Jensen out of the running.

I believe we can rule out Hwy. 529, it was two lanes as recently as 30 years ago.

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Since the shadows are parallel to the road I can't see how the alignment would be north-south like Jensen. Another indication is that the secondary street in back runs parallel.  Looking at Historic Aerials over the weekend, I noticed that even when a main road ran at an angle (eg Richmond Road), secondary streets were overwhelmingly built on the grid. 

 

I was also thinking Reed Road but couldn't match the structures.

 

 

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Someone mentioned that the service station sign could be Humble except that they were white with red letters. Some were in fact red with white letters and I believe that service station sign could very well be a Humble station.

 

The shadow indicates that the service station sign is a circle, not an ellipse.  It could be a Gulf station or a Texaco Station, as these companies used circular signage during this era.

 

Another thing I noticed - the secondary road in the background is not exactly parallel with the main road in the foreground; it looks like they get closer together as one approaches the left of the photo.  It also appears that there is an intersecting road at the left side of the photo.

 

This is a fun puzzle.  I spent quite a bit of time today on Google Earth looking for this condition in the 1944 and 1953 images, but can't seem to find a location that meets all of the critera... 

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This is a long-shot, but since it's an aerial photo, can it be linked to other aerial photos in the collection and, with a little knowledge of airports of that era, maybe a possible flight path be determined?  Could be that the shot is actually someplace on the edges of the Houston MSA given how fast and far an airplane can fly in a short time.

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The shadow indicates that the service station sign is a circle, not an ellipse.  It could be a Gulf station or a Texaco Station, as these companies used circular signage during this era.

 

Another thing I noticed - the secondary road in the background is not exactly parallel with the main road in the foreground; it looks like they get closer together as one approaches the left of the photo.  It also appears that there is an intersecting road at the left side of the photo.

 

This is a fun puzzle.  I spent quite a bit of time today on Google Earth looking for this condition in the 1944 and 1953 images, but can't seem to find a location that meets all of the critera... 

 

If you look very close at the sign and not the shadow, you can see it is a long word that is written on it. Also you can see it is oval and not round. Even looking at the shadow you can see it is oval.

 

post-11998-0-34944700-1414011648_thumb.j

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Someone mentioned that the service station sign could be Humble except that they were white with red letters. Some were in fact red with white letters and I believe that service station sign could very well be a Humble station.

 

Yes, I posted a link to a color photo of one of those Humble signs with red background above.  I had also mentioned that Humble stations sold Atlas tires and your photo shows that, which makes me wonder even more why there appears to be a Goodyear sign, as someone else suggested.

 

I'm satisfied it's a Humble station but unfortunately that doesn't help at all to locate it.

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This is a long-shot, but since it's an aerial photo, can it be linked to other aerial photos in the collection and, with a little knowledge of airports of that era, maybe a possible flight path be determined?  Could be that the shot is actually someplace on the edges of the Houston MSA given how fast and far an airplane can fly in a short time.

 

I mentioned above that I scrolled through the collection at HPL; as far as I saw, this shot of this site stood alone.  A few pictures have dates on them but many do not.  I have no idea what airport he was using. 

 

One thing I forgot to mention before, besides the shots of downtown, Rice and West U and all the industrial aerial shots, there were several pictures of the San Jacinto Monument and the surrounding area and some long shots showed the monument in the background.  Overwhelmingly, when this guy was taking shots of industrial installations, he was in the ship channel area.

 

It might be possible to examine some of those long shots and spot this site, if anybody else wants to take a shot at it.  I think this was photo # 94 out of 117? but I'm not sure they're in any sort of chronological order.

 

Edited by brucesw
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I mentioned above that I scrolled through the collection at HPL; as far as I saw, this shot of this site stood alone.  A few pictures have dates on them but many do not.  I have no idea what airport he was using. 

 

One thing I forgot to mention before, besides the shots of downtown, Rice and West U and all the industrial aerial shots, there were several pictures of the San Jacinto Monument and the surrounding area and some long shots showed the monument in the background.  Overwhelmingly, when this guy was taking shots of industrial installations, he was in the ship channel area.

 

It might be possible to examine some of those long shots and spot this site, if anybody else wants to take a shot at it.  I think this was photo # 94 out of 117? but I'm not sure they're in any sort of chronological order.

 

 

I scrolled through the shots too and couldn't match it up either.  Been a fun time-waster so far, though.  With the talk of shadows here, maybe someone can make a connection based on the length of the shadows and their direction to determine time of day and approximate time of year and group the shots that way.

 

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I tried and probably wasted time...  I thought perhaps an archive news search of "Mary's Cafe" would help and the best I could find was a Mary's Cafe that existed in Bloomington, TX.  The owner, Mary RItchey, retired in 1972 after being open for ~20 years.  The article below also mentions it was "next to the service station"

 

Article

 

So right timeline and next to a service station, but it's perhaps a bit far from Houston and unfortunately I couldn't find any historic imagery.  Plus 404 runs NW/SE so that wouldn't seem to fit with the whole shadow thing

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I wouldn't get too locked into the idea that the road runs straight east and west.  Remember, the apparent location of the sun changes through the year, so it could actually be coming from different points on an arc.  Which is a long way of saying, perhaps some part of 146 might be in play?  Galveston Road (Hwy 3) wouldn't be it, because of the adjacent tracks pretty much along its entire length.

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Well there are worse ways to waste time.  I accessed the collection again through a different link and this time saw a number of photographs I'm sure I never saw before, specifically, color pictures of the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship Texas and many shots of aircraft and ground operations at Hobby, both commercial and private, at the end.  Parenthetically I also spotted a couple of aerial shots of the old San Jacinto Inn which I had either missed or not snapped to before.

 

Most importantly in this browse thru, I realized the OP photo came at the end of a series of shots identified as being along Market Street and 'our' main road looks a lot like the other shots of Market Street in those photos.  So I took to Historic Aerials and thought I found something very promising where Normandy intersects Market, on the south side of the street.  Unfortunately the watermark obscures the area and the Google Earth image is badly overexposed and undecipherable and besides that, Sheffield cuts through on a diagonal and would be visible behind Mary's and I realized from subsequent year images that the secondary road is actually a railroad.

 

So right now I'm stumped but I think more looks along Market Street are warranted.  Also, I only went as far east as where Market intersected Texas 73, which was the route I-10 East took over ca. 1961, and I think Market extends beyond that on the other side.

 

Also, I think we need to consider that the labels and groupings were probably selected by the archivist and not Browning and the designation 'rural' may be misleading.  That gas station appears to have 4 pumps; most very small town/wide spot in the road/rural gas stations in that era as best I remember would have only 2 pumps.

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I tried and probably wasted time...  I thought perhaps an archive news search of "Mary's Cafe" would help and the best I could find was a Mary's Cafe that existed in Bloomington, TX.  The owner, Mary RItchey, retired in 1972 after being open for ~20 years.  The article below also mentions it was "next to the service station"

 

Article

 

So right timeline and next to a service station, but it's perhaps a bit far from Houston and unfortunately I couldn't find any historic imagery.  Plus 404 runs NW/SE so that wouldn't seem to fit with the whole shadow thing

I had my doubts that the photo was actually in Houston...it's possible that another photo just got jumbled in there.

However, Bloomington seems dubious because of heavily reliance on the grid, and I didn't see any cross-streets or other development.

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I just went through all the photos in the industrial set and you see buildings from other photos in various images.  I was able to piece together the photos 04,02,08, and 05.

So anyway, I located the Market St. Drive-In theater and found it in historic aerials and it is indeed on Market St.  (duh?!)

But I zoomed in after figuring out it was Market St. and looked at the shadows.  The shadows go North-South (winter, i guess) and thus the road where Mary's Cafe is on is a North-South thoroughfare.  I located McCarty Road in one of the other photos (York Oilfield Supply) .  I also located the Rural Industrial Facility (photo 07) at Wallisville Road just west of McCarty.

 

I looked around in that general area but the images are really bad  and between 1944 and the 50's that area seems to be changing FAST.

I am going to throwout a guess that the road in front of Mary's Cafe is McCarty between Lyons and Market.  And the secondary road is Pearl.

On Google Earth 1944, There are some buildings and houses that seem to be in the approximate places they should be, but all the buildings are not there and the resolution is terrible.  On all the images available on Google and Historic Aerials in the 50's that area had become super industrialized and hard to make out anything.

 

EDIT:  Actually I just looked at the Historic Aerials website again.  Looking more closely at the 1953 image of McCarty near the (new) road called Amarillo.  I think Amarillo was pushed through to the north of the gas station where there seems to be some sort of easement in the photo.

The shapes of the roofs of the gas station and Mary's seems to match and the long industrial building too.  I am confident now that this is where the picture was taken.

Edited by gnu
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  • The title was changed to Mystery Rural Houston Area Photograph

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