Last January, via twitter, I met Lorraine Arnold (@LegacyRoots) who specializes in the history of buildings and business. Lorraine, was able to identify the location of a building in a photo of Ethel's father, William Bloomfield from around 1920. She featured this amazing photo detective tale in her blog Legacy Roots. I hope Lorraine will be proud of the photographic detective work I was able to do with Ethel's photo today!
Though the writing on the awning behind Ethel is obstructed by her head, thanks in part to the glasses, it's pretty obvious the sign says Houston Optical Co.
The Big Clue
The crowds and tall buildings indicate a busy Downtown Houston street. Her outfit, the fitted blazer, sharp skirt and high heeled pumps suggest Ethel was dressed for work. She looks pretty young, so I am estimating the photo to be from around the early 1940s. Maybe heading to her first job as a secretary after college.
My next step was to look for information on the Houston Optical Co. Google was unhelpful so I turned to the US Ci Directory on Ancestry.com. I went to the 1940 City of Houston Directory and BINGO!
The Houston Optical Co., owned by Ronald M Chamberlin, was located on 1006 Texas Avenue, Houston, Texas.
|The Houston Chronicle|
Source: Ancestry.com same as above p.270
Point A is 1006 Texas Avenue, the location of the 1940 Houston Optical shop. Point B is 512-520 the location of the Houston Chronicle building (which today takes up the whole block). As you can see, Travis Street and Texas Avenue intersect. If you click a street view at the Texas Avenue location, this is what you see:
The building today is the Historic Rice Hotel Building which houses the Post Lofts, and spans from Travis to Main Street on Texas Avenue.
If you follow the virtual tour around the historic building and onto Travis Street, you find yourself in this spot:
Your view from the Travis Street corner of the expanded Chronicle building is:
You can zoom in and see the historic street lamps the city of Houston preserved for the district, almost identical to the ones from Ethel's photo (take another look).
The Rice Hotel, according to the Houston's City Directory, spanned from 917-925 Texas Avenue. The Houston Optical Co. at 1006 Texas Avenue was at the Main Street intersection, literally across the street from the Hotel. There is not enough detail in the buildings in Ethel's photos, to pinpoint which direction of the street the picture was taken from. What is clear, she was standing on the corner of 1006 Texas Avenue between main street and Travis Street where the old Chronicle building stood. I'm pretty sure the building to her left (to the right side of the photograph) must be the Rice Hotel. Here are some old postcards of the old Houstonian landmarks.
What precisely was my stylish grandmother doing in the hip part of Houston that day, I can only guess, so I'll put my best guest forward. I think she was either dropping off an article, going to a staff meeting or maybe picking up her $15 paycheck from the Houston Chronicle. Maybe in her bag she had a copy of that day's edition to take home and cut out her article for the scrapbook?
|The Chronicle Building 1913|
US Archives.org http://bit.ly/16JDS0i
|The Rice Hotel 1912|
The University of Houston Digital Library: