Category Archives: Transportation

100 Years Ago – February 18, 1909

Denton, Tex., Feb. 18, 1909: The Denton Record and Chronicle noted that the Houston Chronicle had featured a Texas Railroad Commission report showing that damages paid by railroads in lawsuits had risen between 1891 and 1908 from $223,749 to nearly $2 million. The Denton paper commented, in an article titled “Damage Suit Industry”:

Although Texas has a barratry law the damage suit lawyer is still able to make trouble and especially have the railroads suffered from the activities of the ambulance chaser. . . . As the Commission points out, all this is figured in when it comes to making the rates, so after all, the people who patronize the railroads in Texas – and who does not in one way or another? – pay indirectly for the damages paid out. No defense of railroads particularly is intended in this. They themselves, by their dilatoriness and refusals to pay just claims, are to no small extent responsible for the disrepute in which they are held and which aids in the assessment of large verdicts, but when the people discovery that they themselves are paying these damages indirectly, they are going to see things differently.

The Denton Record and Chronicle was formed when William C. Edwards merged two competing Denton papers. His brother, Robert John Edwards, became co-owner and editor in 1906. The Handbook of Texas Online states that the Edwards brothers were “active in state politics,” and that the newspaper, “reflecting the concerns of its owners, consistently supported Democratic candidates and policies.”


Shepherd’s Dam

[1913 Map of Houston]

[Shepherd’s Dam –]

A 1913 Houston street map famously labeled Shepherd as “Shepherds Damn Road”, with the “n” crossed out (see photo excerpt above). While the “n” may have been an error, Shepherd was indeed known as Shepherd’s Dam Road for some period of time in reference to a dam once located on Buffalo Bayou just east of the current Shepherd Drive bridge.

The area around the bridge was once owned by Daniel Shepherd, the superintendent of the Southwest Telegraph Company. In the 1880’s, Shepherd apparently intended to build a sawmill and flour mill at the location, and built the dam to accommodate those plans. However, the plans were also contingent on state approval to divert water from the Brazos River into Buffalo Bayou, and Shepherd never received the required permission.

While the mills were never built, the dam did for a time create a stretch of deep water on the bayou that was used as a swimming hole as late as the 1920’s – even though the remains of the dam were likely washed away by floods before then.

Whether the modern-day Shepherd Drive is named for Daniel Shepherd is an interesting question. In his book Historic Houston Streets: The Stories Behind the Names, Marks Hinton attributes the street name to Benjamin Shepherd, an early Houston banker who gave the city the land for Shepherd Drive, and gave Rice University the money to start the Shepherd School of Music. Marguerite Johnston’s Houston: The Unknown City, 1836-1946 makes the same attribution. However, a lengthy November 5, 1922 article in the Galveston Daily News about the road’s name being changed from “Shepherd’s Dam Road” to “Shepherd Drive” at the request of residents of “Brunner (now called west end)” discusses Daniel Shepherd at length, and never mentions Benjamin Shepherd. (Brunner – which was annexed in 1915 – is defined in the article as the area north of Buffalo Bayou, south of White Oak Bayou, west of Patterson Street, and east of Reinemann Street.)

More information:
Aulbach, L.F., “Shepherd’s Damn Road”, Buffalo Bayou – An Echo of Houston’s Wilderness Beginnings (2003)

Elysian Viaduct

[David Bush, Greater Houston Preservation Alliance]

[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

Houston Municipal Airport

[Postcard from 1940 Air Terminal Museum]

[1940 Air Terminal Museum]

Construction on the art-deco Houston Municipal Airport terminal building was completed in 1940. The building was designed by Joseph Finger, who also designed Houston’s City Hall. It served as the primary terminal building into the 1950’s, when a more modern terminal was constructed. The airport itself was known as Houston Municipal Airport until 1954, when it was renamed Houston International Airport. The airport was named William P. Hobby Airport in 1967, in honor of the Texas governor, a Houstonian.

Fortunately for Houstonians, the original terminal building is still standing, and now serves as the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. It features a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits, and a viewing area from which visitors can watch the air traffic at Hobby Airport.

More information:
1940 Air Museum website
The Handbook of Texas Online, “William P. Hobby Airport