Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Moving history

OK, here's the scoop. BCH has moved to

Why? Well, head on over to the new BCH and find out!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Houston during the Civil War

I've put a link to a file on my personal Web site that briefly summarizes how Houston fared during the Civil War.

The one-page document, which comes from a city directory published just after the war, doesn't go into much detail. In essence, it says the city was doing pretty well until the war started. Once fighting began, Houston didn't suffer as much as other Southern cities, but much of the city's growth was stunted. As the war came to a close, residents seemed eager to resume development.


A few days back, BCH logged its 10,000th visit. Since I've returned to Houston, site visits have increased month after month. Not bad for a little blog detailing Houston's past! Thanks to everyone who keeps checking in. Your comments/suggestions are always welcome.


In other news, expect some changes around here early next month. Watch this space.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A stop to street-spitting

People who spit on the street kill more people than criminals who walk the streets, according to Dr. P. H. Scardino, Houston's health officer.

In a statement released Dec. 12, 1917, Scardino was concerned about tuberculosis, which is spread through the air from one person to another. According to the CDC, the bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

Scardino was particularly concerned about spreading the disease through spitting. He was especially critical of Houston police officers, as well.

"One thing that stands out strongly in the city of Houston is the promiscuous spitting on the sidewalks, and I say it to the shame of our police officers that I have often seen them do this themselves and absolutely make no effort to prevent others from doing so," Scardino said, as reported in the Houston Post.

Scardino even placed a priority on catching those who should spit on the sidewalks.

"I personally feel that it would be far better for the police officers to prevent people from spitting on sidewalks, street cars and in other public places than to catch a burglar or common criminal, for the man who spits on the sidewalks and in other public places eventually kills more people by the transmission of the disease than all the criminals of the world combined have ever killed," he said.

Scardino's said that because it was winter more people would likely suffer from colds and other ailments. Therefore, immediate care was recommended to prevent something like tuberculosis from becoming an epidemic.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Check your attic...again

Sunday's Chronicle has a story about renovation work going on at the 1910 Harris County Courthouse. The $65 million restoration will take three years. The courthouse is slated to reopen Nov. 15, 2010 — 100 years after it first opened.

The county isn't sure what the interior looked like prior to the building's renovation in 1954. Anyone with photos or recollections of the interior prior to that year can contact Dan Reissig, special projects manager in the county's architectural and engineering division, at 713-755-5370 or


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Houston History Mystery VI: The case of the missing trophy

This is more of a Texas mystery, but this does have a small Houston connection.

In early May 1898, the Hernsheim Trophy went on display at Brown & Wolf on Main Street. The trophy pictured here was awarded to the 1897 Texas League pennant winners.

I contacted Bill O'Neal, noted author of a number of books on Texas and the West, including a book on the Texas League. He was unaware of the trophy and its whereabouts.

I'm not even sure who Hernsheim was.

I'm tempted to believe the trophy is lost.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Taking a tumble

The April 25, 1850, edition of The Democratic Telegraph and Texas Register mentions a tumble Judge Wheeler took off the second story of "the old City Hotel."

(Newspapers back then were notorious for not publishing first names. This could be a reference to Texas Chief Justice Royal T. Wheeler, but I'm not so sure.)

On April 16, Wheeler was attending a meeting of the Sons of Temperance at their room on the hotel's third floor.

"On descending to the second story, he walked out upon the piazza, supposing he was on the sidewalk a story below, and there being no railing he inadvertently walked off, falling about ten feet upon the pavement."

Suffering only a few bruises, Wheeler was able to take a boat to return to his family in Galveston.

The paper noted it was the third such accident at the hotel, "owing to the culpable negligence of the owners of the building to construct a railing along the piazza."

Then came the punchline:

"It is perhaps fortunate that the Sons of Temperance occupy the upper room, for if the devotees of intemperance were accustomed to meet there, the accidents of this kind might have occurred much more frequently."

The paper went on to mention another man that fell while trying to get a drink at the hotel.

"Jumping up, he cast an angry glance...cursed the high steps, and coolly walked over to get his glass of bitters."


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Opening night at the Alabama

Since the Alabama Theater has been in the news lately, I figured now is a great time to take a look at when it opened. I did a similar write-up on the opening of the River Oaks Theater that you can check out here.

The Alabama Theater opened Nov. 2, 1939, to some fanfare that included fireworks, city leaders and the Elkadettes.

While River Oaks leaders touted their theater as being "Houston's safest neighborhood theatre," the Alabama was advertised as having free parking, ticket prices ranging from 10 to 25 cents, and a Popeye Club for kids on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

The theater opened with the the 1939 film "Man About Town," starring Jack Benny and Dorothy Lamour.

"The brightly-clad Elkadettes, girls drum and bugle corps sponsored by the Elks Club, furnished music for the occasion and the fireworks and giant searchlights gave the festivities the atmosphere of a Hollywood premiere," the Houston Post wrote.

Mayor Oscar F. Holcombe and County Judge Roy Hofheinz attended opening ceremonies. Others on hand included representatives from the major motion picture studios of the time.

  • Among the theater's features:

  • Extra-wide seats cushioned in the new bubble-foam sponge rubber

  • Broadloom carpeting on the floors

  • An 86-foot neon sign

New developments on the River Oaks shopping center can be found over at Houstonist.