Monthly Archives: December 2006

Old City Cemetery

The five-acre city cemetery known as Old City Cemetery was actually the second official cemetery. It was founded, in 1840, when the original City Cemetery, now known as Founders Memorial Cemetery, was becoming near full. At the time, the new site was about a mile north of town. Many of those buried in the cemetery were victims of yellow fever and cholera epidemics, and many were Civil War veterans. It is believed that as many as 10,000 people were buried on the site.

Burials continued until 1904, when the city de-designated the cemetery (though perhaps illegally). The city had grown significantly by then and, despite opposition from groups such as the Daughters of the Confederacy, it wished to make the land available for city use and industrial development. Some small portion of the graves were moved to other sites, but most remained.

In the 1920’s, the city of Houston and Harris County built the original Jefferson Davis Hospital directly on top of one portion of the cemetery. The hospital was elevated, likely so as to disturb as few graves as possible. Nevertheless, many graves were disturbed during the hospital’s construction, and it is unknown whether the remains of those exhumed were reburied elsewhere.

Bones were again uncovered in 1968, when the city built Fire Department maintenance facilities at 1010 Girard, on part of the cemetery. Those exhumed were reportedly reburied in Magnolia Cemetery. Another 25-30 graves were exposed in 1986, during construction at the Fire Department facility. A number of the graves were desecrated by souvenir-seekers before the city hired a local anthropologist to supervise the handling of the remains. The bones were reburied in a set-aside area on the Fire Department facility’s grounds, amidst original graves, but not until 2006. The area is only accessible by special permission.

More information:
Grant, A., “Human remains finally reburied,” Houston Chronicle, Aug. 4, 2006.
Stinebaker, J., “Awaiting prognosis,” Houston Chronicle, Nov. 30, 1998.
Tutt, B., “City Cemetery holds untold secrets,” Houston Chronicle, Sept. 28, 1986.

Founders Memorial Cemetery

johnkirbyallen.jpg
[houstonhistory.com]

The two-acre Founders Memorial Cemetery is located at 1217 West Dallas (at Valentine Street). It was founded in 1836, and was then known as the City Cemetery. West Dallas was then called the San Felipe Road. John Kirby Allen, who founded Houston with his brother Augustus, is buried in the cemetery. Also buried there are veterans of the Texas Revolution, the Battle of San Jacinto, and the Civil War. The cemetery has suffered periods of neglect, but is now well-maintained.

More information:
City of Houston, “Founders Memorial Cemetery

American Brewing Association


[1910’s – American Brewing Association building – Houston History]

Adolphus Busch founded a brewery in Houston in 1893, as part of his American Brewing Association business. (The American Brewing Association is sometimes reported to be connected with, and sometimes reported to be independent of, the Anheuser-Busch Companies – however, an October 28, 1892 article in the Houston Daily Post refers to the planned brewery as the “Anheuser-Busch brewery”.) In 1894, the brewery held an opening ceremony at the brewery, to introduce its product to the public, and 10,000 people reportedly attended. The brewery covered an entire city block at Railroad and 2nd Streets, and remnants of the brewery and a related building have been uncovered during construction at the University of Houston’s downtown campus. Also discovered was a tunnel leading from the site to Buffalo Bayou.

An 1897 American Brewing Association advertisement featured two brands of beer – “Dixie Pale” and “Hackerbrau”. The cost – $1.00 for 12 pint bottles, $1.50 for 12 quart bottles – included delivery “at your residence.” The ad also listed the brewery’s “Houston ‘Phone” number… 73.

More Information:
Gorski, L.C. and Aulbach, L.F., “Oktoberfest in Houston? Breweries on the Bayou,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2003).

Juneteenth

juneteenth.jpg
[Juneteenth celebration in Eastwoods Park, Austin, 1900 (Austin History Center)]

While there are now Juneteenth celebrations nationwide, the event originated in Texas and has been celebrated in Houston since the 1860’s. It commemorates a Union officer’s official announcement – in Galveston, on June 19, 1865 – that the Civil War was over and all slaves were free. The declaration was made two months after the war ended, and two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. There were approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas at the time. State Representative Al Edwards, from Houston, sponsored the bill in 1979 that made Juneteenth an official state holiday.

Juneteenth became so significant in black communities in Texas that it inspired many to purchase and reserve a plot of land as a public park and celebration grounds. Often such parks were named Emancipation Park. In Houston, in 1872, Rev. Jack Yates organized a group that raised $1000 to purchase a ten-acre site in the city’s Third Ward. Houston’s Emancipation Park survives to this day. Historically, Juneteenth festivals have featured barbecue and strawberry soda.

More information:
Handbook of Texas Online, “Juneteenth
AFRO-American Alamanac, “The History of Juneteenth

Elysian Viaduct

viaduct2.jpg
[David Bush, Greater Houston Preservation Alliance]

elysianviaduct.JPG
[Houston Chronicle]

The elegant-sounding Elysian Viaduct is actually just a 1.5-mile-long overpass connecting downtown Houston with the Near Northside. The downtown-side entrance to the overpass is just north of Minute Maid Park. The overpass was built in 1955, over what had been Elysian Street, without taking any adjacent properties. As shown in the photos above, the overpass was thus built almost on top of homes in the historic neighborhoods it crossed, contributing to the decline of those neighborhoods. A proposed expansion and extension of the viaduct poses a new threat to the Near Northside, which features one of the city’s largest concentrations of late Victorian architecture.

More information:
Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, “Elysian Viaduct Update
Davis, R. and Walton, R., Editorial, “Let’s not remake the same mistake with Elysian Viaduct,” Houston Chronicle, Dec. 6, 2004.
Houston Architecture Info Forum, Elysian Street Viaduct discussion

Frantz Brogniez, Brewmaster

brogniez.JPG
[Frantz Brogniez – Houston’s Premier Brewmaster]

Frantz Brogniez was the Belgian-born brewmaster who turned the Houston Ice and Brewing Company into the largest brewing company south of Milwaukee, and later operated Howard Hughes’ Houston-based Gulf Brewing Company. In 1913, while he was serving as brewmaster at Houston Ice and Brewing, Brogniez beat out 4,096 other brewers around the world to win the Grand Prize at the International Congress ofBrewers. The beer for which was honored was Houston Ice and Brewing’s most popular, Southern Select. During Prohibition, Brogniez moved to El Paso and worked with brewing interests in Juarez. At the end of Prohibition, Hughes coaxed Brogniez back to Houston to oversee the operations of Hughes’ Gulf Brewing Company, which produced Grand Prize beer. Brogniez’ son, Frank, operated the brewery after his father’s death.

More information:
Magnolia Ballroom Showcases Brewery Museum,” fohbc.com

Kirby House

kirbymansion.jpg

Gulf Brewing Company

grandprize.jpg
[www.brauwesen-historisch.de]

grandprize2.jpg

grandprize10.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize5.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize4.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize2.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

grandprize1.jpg
[U.T. Center for American History]

Howard Hughes’ connection with the Houston-based Hughes Tool Company is fairly well-known. It is less well-known that Hughes started a brewery in Houston, on the grounds of the Hughes Tool Company, called Gulf Brewing Company. Hughes opened the brewery at the end of Prohibition, and its profits helped the tool company survive the Depression.

Gulf Brewing Company produced Grand Prize beer, which for a time was the best-selling beer in Texas. It has been reported that a beer called Grand Prize beer was also produced prior to Prohibition, by the Houston Ice and Brewing Company. While that may be accurate, any confusion is likely connected to the fact that Hughes’ Grand Prize brewery was operated by the man who served as brewmaster at Houston Ice and Brewing before Prohibition. In 1913, while he was brewmaster at the Houston Ice and Brewing Company, Belgian-Houstonian Frantz Brogniez was awarded Grand Prize at the last International Conference of Breweries for his Southern Select beer – beating out 4,096 competing brewers. Brogniez left Houston during Prohibition, but Hughes convinced him to return to serve as brewmaster for the Gulf Brewing Company. Brogniez’ son operated the brewery after his father’s death.

More information:
Barlett, Donald L., and Steele, James B., Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness
Magnolia Ballroom Showcases Brewery Museum,” fohbc.com

charro.jpg

charro2.jpg

Update: The above are photos of a can of Charro Beer, which appears also to have been a Gulf Brewing product.

Houston Ice & Brewing Co.

houstoniceandbrewing.jpg
[Houston Ice and Brewing Company’s Magnolia Brewery and (on right) its executive offices (now the Magnolia Ballroom) – magnoliaballroom.com]

brewingmagnolia.jpg
[Brewing Magnolia Beer – magnoliaballroom.com]

magnolia.JPG
[Magnolia Beer sign – Center for American History]

deleterich.jpg
[1909 newspaper advertisement]

While some of the historical facts appear to be in dispute, the story goes something like this…

The Magnolia Ballroom building on the Franklin Street side of Market Square (715 Franklin) was built in 1912, on the foundation of an older building (the Franklin Building), and once housed the taproom and executive offices for the Houston Ice and Brewing Co.’s Magnolia Brewery. The building was the first in Houston to have refrigerator-style air conditioning. In 2006, it became the first commercial building in Houston to receive the Houston Protected Landmark designation.

By 1915, the Houston Ice and Brewing Company encompassed more than 10 buildings on more than 20 acres located on both sides of Buffalo Bayou. In fact, the brewery even spanned the bayou for some period of time – the Louisiana Street bridge now crosses the bayou at the same location. To provide easier access across the bayou, the brewery built a 250-foot wood and concrete bridge stretching from the Franklin Street bridge toward the Milam Street bridge.

The Magnolia Brewery produced a number of signature brands of beer, including (it is reported) Magnolia, Richelieu, Hiawatha, Grand Prize, and Southern Select (the latter being the most famous). In 1913, brewmaster Frantz Brogniez was awarded Grand Prize at the last International Conference of Breweries for his Southern Select beer – beating out 4,096 competing brewers from around the world. In 1919, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the labeling on one of the Houston Ice and Brewing Company’s brands did not infringe upon a Schlitz trademark. (Having noted that the similarities in the two bottles were limited to their content and brown labels, the Court stated: “If there were deception it seems to us that it would arise from beer and brown color and that it could not be said that the configuration appreciably helped.”)

The company’s decline began during Prohibition, when the Houston Ice and Brewing Company was forced to rely solely on its ice sales. Many of the brewery’s structures were then destroyed in the historic 1935 flood, which was later blamed on the Magnolia Brewery bridge. The brewery struggled to survive, but closed in 1950.

The Magnolia Ballroom is just one of two Houston Ice and Brewing Company buildings that remains standing. In 1969, a high-end restaurant called the Bismark was located on the second floor, and the Buffalo Bayou Flea Market operated out of the basement. The basement has since housed a variety of bars and clubs. The upstairs floors are currently used for special events – much of the ornate interior of the building has been preserved, and it is decorated with historic photos.

More information:
Allan Turner, “Magnolia Ballroom becomes Houston’s first protected landmark,” Houston Chronicle, Oct. 10, 2006
Magnolia Brewery Building,” magnoliaballroom.com (citing additional sources)
Jospeh Schlitz Brewing Co. v. Houston Ice & Brewing Co., 250 U.S. 28 (1919)
Magnolia Ballroom Showcases Brewery Museum,” fohbc.com
Gorski, L.C. and Aulbach, L.F., “Oktoberfest in Houston? Breweries on the Bayou,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2003).

wamba.jpg
[Wamba Coffee – see comments below]

peerless.jpg
[Peerless Beer – see comments below]

Frostown

frosttownbirdseyesm.jpg
[frosttownhistoricsite.org]

frost.jpg
[City of Houston map of Frostown superimposed on current map]

Frostown (also seen as “Frost Town”, “Frosttown”, and “Frost-Town”) was located within the large square-shaped bend that Buffalo Bayou makes not too far from Allen’s Landing – Crawford Street once dead-ended at Frost Town. It stands out on early maps of Houston, such as this 1891 map, because its streets are oriented at a different angle than other streets on the downtown side of the bayou. Street names included Spruce, Arch, Race, and Bramble Streets. Some current electronic maps of Houston will still locate Race Street running a very short distance off of McKee Street.

The Frostown area was settled in 1822, years before the Allen brothers purchased the land that was to become Houston. However, it got its name from a family that bought land in the area from the Allen brothers in the late 1830’s. Before that, it was known as Germantown, because of the large number of German settlers (who started arriving in the late 1820’s), and both names may have been used interchangeably for some time thereafter.

Frostown had its own post office, school, churches, and cemetery, and was home to a variety of thriving businesses. Notably, Houston’s first brewery was located in Frostown – it was started by Michael and Peter Floecke in the 1850’s, and appears on some Frostown maps. In 1865, though, a Galveston and Houston Junction Railroad track sliced the community in two. The small town suffered from the loss of its post office in the 1880’s, and the cemetery (the site of which has since disappeared into Buffalo Bayou) stopped being used about the same time.

While many Frostown structures survived well into the next century, it had become a slum by the late 1930’s. The Elysian Viaduct was built through the area in 1952 and, later, Highway 59 was also run through the once-vibrant community. A number of pre-1900 gable-roofed cottages were destroyed in the process. Despite the efforts of preservationists, the last remnants of Frostown disappeared in 1992, the victim of a freeway expansion project. The structures removed included a house that may have dated to the 1800’s.

At the feet of Highway 59, James Bute Park now encompasses parts of the Frostown site. The non-profit organization Art and Environmental Architecture is working to acquire and preserve as much of the surrounding property as possible, so as to expand the park as an historical site.

More information:
Historic Frost Town,” frosttownhistoricsite.org
Aulbach, L.F., “Before there was Houston, there was Frostown,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2001).
Schafer, D., “The truth of a frosty town legacy,” City Savvy (Online Ed. 2005).
Gorski, L.C. and Aulbach, L.F., “Oktoberfest in Houston? Breweries on the Bayou,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2003).
Frost-Town Cemetery,” cemeteries-of-tx.com