Monthly Archives: February 2007

Sam Houston Hall & 1928 Democratic National Convention


[U.T. Center for American History]




Before there was a Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, and before there was a Sam Houston Coliseum or Music Hall, there was Sam Houston Hall. Sam Houston Hall stood on the same ground later occupied by the Coliseum, Music Hall, and (now) Hobby Center, but stood for less than a decade. The 20,000-person hall was built in a hurry for the 1928 Democratic National Convention – it took only 64 days to complete. (The Democratic presidential candidate in 1928 was Alfred Smith, who lost to Herbert Hoover.) The “official photograph” of the 1928 Democratic National Convention shows thousands of attendees. At the time, the plot of land on which Sam Houston Hall was built was directly adjacent to Houston’s Fire Station Number 2, as shown in some of the photos above. The hall was razed in 1936.

A marker outside the Hobby Center commemorates the building that once stood there.

Sadly, a lynching occurred in Houston during the convention – an event that TIME Magazine referred to as “Houston’s Shame”.

More information:

TIME Magazine, “To Houston”, Jan. 23, 1928
TIME Magazine, “The Democracy”, July 2, 1928
TIME Magazine, “Conventionale”, July 9, 1928


The “Dry” Heights


In the United States, Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933. [Note: The repeal of Prohibition was not ratified in Texas until 1935.] In the majority of the Houston Heights, it began in 1912 and is still is in effect today. A large section of the Heights was voted dry on September 25, 1912. At the time of the vote, the boundaries of the dry area were described as follows (see map of Houston Heights, above):

From White Oak Bayou and Heights Boulevard to the west line of the Heights plat – north to 16th Street – west to west line of Houston Heights plat – north to center of 26th Street – east down center of 26th Street to center of Yale Street – south on center of Yale Street to center of 22nd Street – east on center of 22nd Street to east end of Heights plat again – then south following east line Heights Addition to White Oak Bayou – following bayou to Heights Boulevard.

Thus, on the small strip of 11th Street between Oxford and Studewood, you’ll find a liquor store and Berryhill. And on the small strip of White Oak between Oxford and Studewood, you’ll find a liquor store and a collection of bars and clubs.

Reportedly, keeping the Houston Heights dry was written in as one of the terms of the 1918 annexation agreement with the City of Houston. A 1937 Texas Supreme Court decision addressed whether a 1919 amendment to the Texas Constitution and/or the repeal of Prohibition (ratified by Texas in 1935) changed the Heights from “dry” to “wet”, concluding that they did not:

As already shown, the City of Houston Heights by vote of its qualified electors was annexed to the wet City of Houston on February 20, 1918. Section 20 of Article XVI of our Constitution as amended in 1919 was adopted in May of such year. It thus appears that at the time the City of Houston Heights was abolished and its area annexed to the City of Houston Section 20 of Article XVI of our Constitution as adopted in 1891 was in effect. It was certainly then the law that the abolition of the corporate existence of the City of Houston Heights and the annexation of its territorial area to the then wet City of Houston did not in any way affect the area originally comprised within the corporate limits of the City of Houston Heights as regards local option. In other words, it was certainly the law at the time the City of Houston Heights voted to dissolve its corporate existence and annex its territory to the wet City of Houston that when an area voted dry it remained dry until it was voted wet at a subsequent election held in and for the same identical area which had theretofore voted dry, and the change, or even abolition, of the political or corporate entity which comprised such area did not alter this fact or rule of law.
We now come to consider whether the territory which once comprised the corporate area of the now defunct City of Houston Heights is dry under the provisions of the amendment of 1935. That amendment is the one now in effect and its provisions, construed in the light of what has gone before, must govern this case. By the terms of this amendment the entire State, as such, is again made wet as to all intoxicating liquors; but with certain exceptions and limitations. In effect, this amendment contains provisions which make any county, justice’s precinct, or city, or town dry which was dry at the time it became effective. It therefore preserved as dry any county, justice’s precinct, or city, or town which was dry when it went into effect. Of course, any such area has the right to become wet by so voting at an election legally ordered and held for that purpose under present local option statutes. In this connection, however, we again note that such election must be held in the same area that originally voted dry. As to the case at bar we hold that while it is true that the City of Houston Heights has long since ceased to exist as a municipal corporation, still it yet exists for the purpose of holding a local option election to vote on the question of making it lawful to sell intoxicating liquors within the area origi-nally voted dry. Ex parte Fields, supra; Griffin v. Tucker, supra. In this connection it will be noted that such vote may be had on the question of making such territory wet as to all intoxicating liquors or only as to wine and beer as defined by statute.

Houchins v. Plainos, 110 S.W.2d 549 (Tex. 1937).

More information:
Sister Mary Agatha, The History of Houston Heights (1956)