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Kennedy Visit 1962 - Motorcade Route


C2Ag93

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Hello all -

This may not be completely architectural related, but I am somewhat of a pass-time historian about NASA's early years in Houston.

I am trying to find out the actual route of the motorcade route for John Kennedy’s visit to Houston in 1962.  He had two visits, one in 1962 (to visit NASA and delivered his famous speech at Rice University) and one in 1963 (just before he was shot in Dallas).  Obviously, I am interested in 1962.

Surprisingly, I have tried more obvious avenues of finding this (internet searches, postings on social media groups, contacting the JFK library, etc.) to no avail.  I have an email into what I believe is HPDs history department.  

I know that he stayed at the Rice Hotel, and through pictures and common sense, it seems to get from his hotel to Rice University, he went down Main to the Med Center.  It would be great to verify.  But what’s really hard to find and what I am more interested in is the route he took to go from Rice University to the NASA location then known as the Rich Building, which is today Ambox (6040 Telephone Rd, Houston, TX 77087).  NASA was in temporary locations before the JSC was opened in 1964.  I know through a detail itinerary found online he went straight from Rice University to the Rich Building, then from there to what is today Hobby Airport. 

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated! 

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I have no idea but my guess is that the most direct route from Rice University to the Ambox building would be down Holcombe to OST to Telephone Road. From Ambox to Hobby I cannot think of any route other than Telephone to Airport Blvd. that would make any sense. I too am hoping someone can answer this seemingly trivial mystery. The route may not be significant (or maybe it was) but the president's visit to Houston in 1962 was very important for NASA and what that meant to the city overall.

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I have seen either film or still photos of people standing along the motorcade route on the way to the NASA building.  If you haven't already tried it, you might look on the JFK library website for film shot by White House photographers on that day. 

Let me also suggest you consult with two people. 

J.R Gonzalez blogs about Houston history for the Houston Chronicle, and he has access to the Chronicle's photo archive.  He may know the answer to your questions, or he may be interested in doing some research that he can use in his blog.  

Another possible resource is a man named Bob Gomel.  He's a former Life magazine photographer who now lives in Houston.  He covered Kennedy's speech at Rice and he appears in some photos that were taken that day.  I suspect he accompanied JFK's motorcade that day.  His email address is gomelbob@gmail.com.  Feel free to tell him I referred you to him.

Good luck.

Doug Miller

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Okay all, I have an answer!  

 

JFK Visit – September 11-12, 1962: 

  1. Arrived Houston International Airport (now Hobby) at 6:15 PM 

  2. Stayed evening at Rice Hotel 909 Texas Ave, Houston, TX 77002 (Sept 11, 1962) 

  3. September 12: 

    • Left Rice Hotel 9:34 AM 

    • Motorcade travelled down Main St to University Dr, to Rice Stadium at 9:58 AM (route per El Paso news article, pasted below, and video shows the motorcade arriving off University) 

    • Presidential address at Rice Stadium 10:15 AM to 10:30 AM 

  4. Travelled to the Rich Building, arriving 11:10 AM: 
    • University to Main (per video and El Paso news article) 
    • Main to Hermann Dr to San Jacinto to Highway 59 (Main per El Paso news article and video showing them headed toward downtown, educated guess on turning on San Jacinto)  (Unsure if there was a way to enter 59 directly from Main, today you need to go San Jacinto to 59 feeder to get on 59 easily, but the elevated portion of 59 today was likely how it was in 1962 – it's been that way since as long as I can remember) 
    • Highway 59 to Gulf Freeway (Gulf Freeway per El Paso news article) 
    • Gulf Freeway to Reveille St / Route 35 (Gulf Freeway per El Paso news article, Reveille/35 is listed as a main route on the MSC map) 
    • Reveille to Westover (educated guess, but Roundup notes they turned into the Westover entrance, and video clearly shows them arriving on Westover) 
    • (Futher evidence the route information above is correct:  The El Paso news article details as to time of arrivals and departures match extremely closely with the official JFK Visit minutes AND the article notes a "10 mile drive" from the stadium to the Rich Building – the route described above is exactly 10.7 per google maps, the author back then would have rounded and been just slightly less precise.  Also, the article notes the speed of the motorcade would be judged by the crowds.  If they took only streets, such as OST to Telephone, it would have taken a lot longer than 40 minutes to get to the Rich Building – Google maps says it's only 18 minutes by the route above on today's roads, but it makes sense they would have taken time going up Main to 59, and time on Reveille and Westover near the Rich Building.  Even today, it is likely more like 25-30 minutes with some traffic to take the above route.).  
  • Departed Rich Building for Houston International Airport 12:39 PM 

  • image.thumb.png.68d05dd291780d3f9ebd06882b50e874.png

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Thanks for sharing C2Ag93. That is interesting to know. I lived in the Park Place neighborhood from 1989 to 1993 and Garden Villas from 1993 to 2000. I know the area and the route well but I imagine there were some differences in what was along the route in 1962. I also lived in West U from 2016 until earlier this year but who doesn't know where Rice Stadium is. 🙂

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One caveat to note from my post above.  On another forum, someone posted a reply regarding the leg of the route - turning off Main and getting on 59 to connect to 45.  I have a message out to the Secret Service history office, perhaps they will confirm that leg of the route.  But the poster suggested that the elevated part of 59 (or perhaps 59 completely) didn't exist at the time of Kennedy's visit.  If true, for that leg, he perhaps stayed on Main to Pierce and Pierce to the 45 feeder street.  

All other portions I am quite confident in.  

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57 minutes ago, C2Ag93 said:

 he perhaps stayed on Main to Pierce and Pierce to the 45 feeder street.  

All other portions I am quite confident in.  

I had a similar thought. My mother lived in the Aldine area in the 1960s and worked at what was then called the Hermann Professional Building on Fannin (directly across from Hermann Hospital). Interstate 45 (U.S. 75) stopped at Pierce so she would take Pierce to Fannin then head toward the medical center. It may be that the part of U.S. 59 that we know today - elevated over San Jacinto, etc. - may not have existed as such in 1962. Can any "older-than-me-timers" weigh in on the freeway configurations at that time.

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6 hours ago, Specwriter said:

I had a similar thought. My mother lived in the Aldine area in the 1960s and worked at what was then called the Hermann Professional Building on Fannin (directly across from Hermann Hospital). Interstate 45 (U.S. 75) stopped at Pierce so she would take Pierce to Fannin then head toward the medical center. It may be that the part of U.S. 59 that we know today - elevated over San Jacinto, etc. - may not have existed as such in 1962. Can any "older-than-me-timers" weigh in on the freeway configurations at that time.

I'm not an old timer, but the elevated 59 we know today didn't exist in 1962. In 1962, US 59 followed what's now Spur 527 and ran on Travis and Milam and picked up some east-west streets to connect to the Eastex portion of US 59. I think the routing was Jefferson and Pease to La Branch and Crawford to Franklin and Preston to the Eastex. The elevated part and the connection to the Eastex through downtown didn't open until 1974. 

Here's a 1962 street map of Houston. You can see how 59 followed street routes downtown to connect the Southwest Freeway with the Eastex.

https://www.texasfreeway.com/Houston/historic/road_maps/images/1962_houston_american_highres.jpg

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Wow, thanks JLWM, fantastic find. Now I'm convinced that the route was:

1 - University to Main (videos show the motorcade leaving Rice Stadium on the University side, the news article clearly says they took Main to go to Rich Building, and the videos show them heading toward downtown)

2 - Main to Pierce (as was suggested, and your map clearly shows there was no way to jump on today's 59)

3 - Pierce along 45 feeder and on to 45 (the news article clearly says they took the Gulf Freeway)

4 - Reveille / 35 to Westover (your map shows the importance of 35 as a thoroughfare, and the video shows them arriving to the Rich Building on Westover)

Since the news article didn't name 35 as being on the route, I was thinking it was supposition as well.  But I just don't think by looking at your map they would have exited the Gulf Freeway anytime before 35 and I see no reason they wouldn't have taken 35 on the last leg, especially since they arrived on Westover.  

Good sleuthing, but I am 100% convinced now.  I'll drop in if I ever hear form the Secret Service history department, but not holding my breath. 

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