Saturday, July 01, 2006

Houston History Mystery #1: The case of the missing murals

Have you seen us?

These murals hung in the Southern Pacific Depot's main waiting room. The top shows Gen. Sam Houston entering the town of Houston in 1837. The bottom represents Stephen F. Austin and Baron Bastrop with a group of Texas colonists in 1823 with the State House in the background.

The paintings were done by John McQuarrie of San Francisco. According to the Houston Chronicle, the paintings were 17 feet wide and 16 feet tall. They were painted on heavy canvas and cemented to an area provided for them on the station walls.

In 1960, as the wrecking ball tore down the station, the Houston Chronicle reported the paintings would be stored until a suitable place could be found for them to hang again. Soon, they ended up under the care of the Texas National Guard and were moved to the Gen. John A. Hulen Armory off OST.

What happened to the murals after that is anyone's guess. The armory was sold to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in the 1990s.

In 2000, I checked with the Texas National Guard to see what happened to the murals, but, sadly, no one knew.



At 12:27 AM, Anonymous Serena said...

How sad! Have you tried contacting one of the museums or television stations in Houston? This sounds like the kind of story they'd love.

At 2:26 AM, Blogger J.R.G. said...

Serena: I wrote a little article for the Chronicle back in 2000 with no results. I haven't contacted museums or the TV stations about it. It seems kinda unlikely that someone would just throw out some murals, doesn't it?

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we learn who the senior Guard Officers were in Houston in 1960? Perhaps some of them are still here and could provide information. These are pieces that should be preserved.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger J.R.G. said...

In 2000, I spoke with Aaron Reed, a spokesman for the Texas National Guard (in Austin, I believe). He checked with a number of people (one of which was in Bosnia at the time) and didn't come up with anything.

Portrait artist Harry Worthman was in charge of removing the murals at the time. He's the one who turned them over to the Texas National Guard. This was 40 years ago, so I'm not sure he's even alive today.

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous RIP Ford said...


From what I've been able to find on the net, Harry Worthman died in 1989.


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