Monthly Archives: January 2007

Frankel’s Costume

[Morty’s Magic Mart – Frankel’s Costume]

[Frankel’s Costume]

Frankel’s Costume Company, now at 2801 Polk Street, began in 1950 as Morty’s Magic Mart, a magic store located at 808 Texas Ave., in downtown Houston. Owner Morty Frankel’s wife, Leola, started making costumes for the shop’s customers, and soon the costume business required its own location. A third generation of Frankels runs the costume store these days, and the store’s Polk Street location – where the business relocated in 2000 – occupies an entire city block in the warehouse district east of downtown. The store still sells magic tricks, too.

More information: – “About Us”


Washington Cemetery

[Posted by isuredid on HAIF]

Washington Cemetery is located adjacent to Glenwood Cemetery, between Washington Ave. and Memorial Dr. It originally encompassed 27 acres, but now conists of 21.3 acres. A large aparment complex was recently built along its western perimeter. The land was purchased in 1887, by the Deutsche Gesellschaft von Houston, a group of local German businessmen. The cemetery was known as the “German Cemetery” (per a 1913 map) or “German Society Cemetery”, as its purpose was to serve as a cemetery for Houston’s German population. It was renamed “Washingon Cemetery” in 1918, due to increasing anti-German sentiment at the time of World War I.

There are nearly 7000 graves in the cemetery, including those of more than 100 Confederate soldiers, and a few Union soldiers (e.g., Emma Seelye). Two graves marked with dates earlier than 1887 appear to be mistakes. The cemetery was financially abandoned in the mid-20th century, but the widow of the caretaker attempted to keep it up. After she died, the graveyard was severely neglected. In 1977, after the murder of a (possibly former) caretaker who lived on the property, a group of Houstonians collected money and were able to significantly aid the cemetery (they hauled away trash, cleared brush, repaved roads, ran waterlines to the property, stabilized headstones, added front gates and security lights, researched the lives of the people buried there and published a history of them, microfilmed burial records, and located and marked previously unmarked graves of about 600 people). The Concerned Citizens for Washington Cemetery Care have since continued to make considerable contributions to the upkeep of the cemetery.

The caretaker murdered in July 1977 was named Leona Tonn. She appears to have been born in Round Top, Texas, on October 15, 1905. She lived in a house located on cemetery property, and was found dead by her brother, Gus. Tonn had suffocated, and a pillowcase was found tied over her head. The murder is unsolved.

The cemetery supposedly appears in a scene in the movie “Student Bodies”.

More information:
Willie Lee Noland (former superintendant of Washington Cemetery) geneology page

Emma Seelye, Union Soldier

[Emma Seelya as Pvt. Franklin Thompson –]

Emma Seelya was born Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmundson, in Canada, in 1841. She ran away from home at the age of 17, to avoid an unwanted marriage. She disguised herself as a boy and, in 1861, enlisted in the Union Army in the United States as “Franklin Thompson”. She served in the Union Army for nearly two years, undetected, and carried out special assignments that included penetrating Confederate lines disguised as a woman. Seelya later married and moved with her family to La Porte, Texas, where she was made a member of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic (a large Civil War veterans’ group, of which she was the only female member). In 1898, three years after her death, her remains were transferred to the GAR plot in Houston’s German Cemetery (or German Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft) Cemetery). German Cemetery, which was renamed Washington Cemetery in 1918, due to anti-German sentiment related to World War I, is adjacent to Glenwood Cemetery, between Washington Ave. and Memorial Dr.

More information:
The Handbook of Texas Online, “Sarah Emma Evelyn Edmundson Seelye (1841-1898)“. biography of Emma Seelye

Early Houston Baseball Teams


[1888 Houston Babies –]


[1889 Houston Babies –]

Houston had a baseball team as early as 1861. That first team was known as the Houston Base Ball Club. There were many name changes to follow.

The Houston Post reported that, on San Jacinto Day (April 21) in 1868, the Houston Stonewalls played a game at the San Jacinto Battleground against the Galveston Robert E. Lees, and beat the Galveston team 35-2, before a crowd of about 1,000. The game was billed as the “state championship game.” The Galveston paper’s Houston correspondent reported the score as 33-6, stating:

In the meantime, the Houston Stonewalls and Galveston Lees were contending for the championship of the State. The game lasted over four hours, and resulted in an easy victory for the Houston Stonewalls over the Galveston Lees. In seven matches the former were scored thirty-three, the latter only six. Try it again boys; but our Houston athletes are hard to beat.

When the venerable Texas League was founded in 1884, Houston’s club was supposedly called the Red Stockings or Lambs – a newspaper article from that year refers to the Houston team As the Nationals. In 1887, after some period of dormancy, the Texas League featured a Houston team named the Crescents. There was also apparently a Houston Heralds club at the same time, as the Crescents played a game against the Heralds in July 1887 at “the Herald Base-ball park at the head of Travis street.” (An 1896 article refers to a Houston-Chicago game being played at the “new baseball park at the end of Travis street.”)

By 1888, the team was called the Houston Babies. The Babies were the Texas League champions in 1889. In 1903, the team was renamed the Houston Wanderers.

More information:
Lone Star Junction article on early Texas baseball article on early Houston baseball
Aulbach, L.F., “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2006).

Buffalo Stadium

[1928 – Front gate of Buff Stadium –]

[U.T. Center for American History]

[U.T. Center for American History]

[U.T. Center for American History]

[U.T. Center for American History]

[U.T. Center for American History]

The Houston Buffaloes (often called the Buffs) were a minor league baseball team that played in the Texas League from 1907 to 1958, and in the American Association from 1959 to 1961. Most of that time, the Buffaloes were a farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals. They played their first 20 years in West End Park, which one source says was located at the end of the San Felipe streetcar line, near what is now the downtown YMCA, and which is likely the “ball park” shown on the 1913 Houston map. (The location of the “ball park” is also discussed here.) The Buffs played their later years at Buffalo Stadium (1928-1963) (known in its last few years as “Busch Stadium”). Buffalo Stadium was located on the site of the Finger Furniture building on the Gulf Freeway, which has a plaque in its floor marking where home base used to be and a sports memorabilia display dubbed the Houston Sports Museum.

More information:
Minor League Baseball article on 1931 Houston Buffaloes

Market Square Clock


The Market Square Clock stands in Market Square, at the corner of Travis and Congress. It incorporates the very same clock faces that looked out over the city, from 1904 to 1960, from the top of the fourth (and last) building in Market Square to have served as Houston’s city hall. After the building was destroyed, the clock was placed in storage, and ultimately ended up in a junkyard. The man who purchased the clock from the junkyard displayed it in an historical park in Woodville, Texas, but later returned it to Houston. In 1996, the clock was again displayed in Market Square, in a new modern clock tower. The clock must be wound every eight days. Each of its faces is seven and a half feet across. The new clock tower also houses a 2800-pound fire bell that survived the 1903 fire that destroyed the third city hall building in Market Square.

More information:

Old Courthouse Oak Tree

[Houston Chronicle]

[Yan Lee pen and ink portrait – limited prints for sale]

If you look at the footprint of downtown’s Bayou Place from above, it features a noticeable zig-zag in its northwest end. The zig-zag accommodates the Old Courthouse Oak Tree, which majestically occupies the corner of Bagby and Capitol. The oak tree stood next to an early county courthouse, and is estimated to be 400 years old – possibly the oldest tree in Harris County. When the Albert Thomas Convention Center (which previously occupied the building now known as Bayou Place) was constructed in 1966, it was built around the oak tree, as shown below.

[Houston Chronicle]

Lankford Grocery



Lankford Grocery first started selling groceries from its building at 88 Dennis in 1939. It stopped selling groceries in 1977, but continued serving food. Famous for its large and delicious hamburgers, chilaquiles, and slanted floor, Lankford Grocery stands as a bulwark against the complete homogenization of “Midtown”.

More information:
Texasburgerguy review of Lankford Grocery’s hamburgers
Houston Press review of Lankford Grocery review of Lankford Grocery
Splendid Table podcast review of Lankford Grocery

Shudde Bros. Store and Hat Factory

[Shudde Bros]

[Shudde Bros]

[Shudde Bros]

Shudde Bros. is one of Houston’s oldest businesses. The Shudde family moved to Houston in 1901 from Carmine (pronounced “Karmeen”), Texas. Al Shudde founded the store as a teenager, in 1907, as the “Shudde Southern Hat Company”. Al’s brothers Ben, Walter, John, and Herbert were ultimately also involved in the business. The company was passed on to Al’s son, Weldon, and to Weldon’s son, Neal, who runs the business today. Customers of Shudde Bros have included John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tom Mix, Ernest Tubb, and Dr. “Red” Duke.

[1936 – U.T. Center for American History]

[Shudde Bros]

While Shudde Bros. once had a large shop on Main Street (in can be seen on the far left of the above postcard), they are now located on Trinity Street, in the historic part of the Sixth Ward known as the “Old Sixth Ward”. In 1914, the brothers built a factory building next door to the original Shudde homestead on Trinity. Since then, the factory has been in continuous operation at that location. The homestead is now part of the store and factory.

More information:
Shudde Bros. website
Kaplan, D., “Businesses keep success in hand by keeping them in the family,” Houston Chronicle, Jan. 6, 2002.

[Original on file]

Update: From the sign they have posted on their store, it looks like Shudde Bros. may be leaving town.