This collection is the result of a partnership between the William R. Jenkins Architecture and Art Library and the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It includes the oral histories of people who strongly impacted the built environment in the Houston Area. Architects, developers, scholars and philanthropists discuss their work, projects, and the influences that shaped Houston. Each subject is interviewed by an architect or architectural scholar who frames the discussion and provides context. The collection of oral histories is ongoing, so Building Houston's content will regularly expand to accommodate new subjects. Photographs of the Zemanek House on Bomar Street courtesy of Catherine Essinger.
This collection highlights the career of Donald Barthelme (1907–1996), the first Houston architect to gain national prominence in the years after World War II. These 57 items illustrate his work through pencil sketches, photographs, and the detailed working drawings used to construct his buildings.
Barthelme first gained attention in 1936 as the lead designer for the Hall of State, the principal building of the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. In 1948 he won an award from the American Institute of Architects for Houston’s St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, applauded for its simple Scandinavian modern forms. Yet he made his reputation with the West Columbia Elementary School of 1951, which won many awards and was published internationally. Its innovative design departed from the traditional practice of placing classrooms along both sides of a long corridor. Instead, Barthelme arranged the building around two large courtyards; classrooms opened to the courts through floor-to-ceiling glass walls. This flooded the rooms with light while providing a sheltered environment for the students. At the main entrance a flamboyant scalloped canopy greeted visitors.
In addition to the St. Rose and West Columbia buildings, the collection includes Barthelme’s own residence. He built this small modernist house for his family about 1939. The original drawings are lost, but he enlarged it slightly a decade later, and the collection preserves his 1949 drawings for this remodeling.
Of particular interest, and rarely seen, are a few of his studies for the Adams Petroleum Center (1954–58), his largest and most ambitious project. The Ada Oil Company, owned by K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr., wanted to develop its large site as an office park. Barthelme planned to build the complex in four phases, beginning with the client’s own building. He spent hundreds of hours studying different designs for the APC tower and preparing a dramatic aerial view. The company later abandoned the scheme and constructed only a modest building without the tower.
Barthelme helped shaped the look of Houston during its postwar boom. Today only the church buildings still stand, but the West Columbia school district has preserved his entrance canopy at the original site of the elementary school.
Several of Barthelme’s children became prominent writers, and the works of his eldest son, Donald Barthelme, Jr., are preserved in the Donald Barthelme Literary Papers.
The original materials are available in the UH Libraries Special Collections in the Donald Barthelme, Sr. Architectural Papers.
The digital collection contains 236 photographs of Houston dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s, including images of downtown, monumental buildings and landmarks, and daily activities in the lives of citizens. Legendary Houston newspaperman and historian George M. Fuermann gathered these photographs over the course of two decades for his book research; most are copy prints of earlier photographs, but some are originals.
The George Fuermann Texas and Houston Collection is an extensive group of materials amassed by Fuermann between 1950 and 1971. Among the collection’s highlights are over 800 photographic prints that document Houston’s history and enterprise. A small set of images depicts other cities such as Huntsville and San Antonio. The images available in this digital collection represent only a subset of the photographs in the Fuermann Collection - those that are no longer under copyright and are in the public domain.
George Fuermann’s career with Houston daily newspaper the Houston Post spanned 49 years, beginning in 1946 as a general assignment reporter. From 1950 to 1971 he wrote a popular daily column, based on snippets of local history, called “Post Card.” Fuermann continued as Editorial Page editor from 1971 to 1983 and as “Wine Talk” columnist from 1984 to 1995, when the Houston Post closed its doors.
Fuermann also published approximately ten books, mostly on the history and people of the city of Houston. Among his best known books are Houston: Land of the Big Rich, 1951; Reluctant Empire, 1957; The Face of Houston, 1963; and Houston: The Once and Future City, 1971.
The 243 postcards in this collection present colorful views of historic Texas, from Houston in the east to El Paso out west, from Laredo down south to Amarillo up north. The painted, sketched, and photographed images depict historic buildings, street scenes, and landscapes to reveal Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and other locales as they were in the early 1900s.
Drawn from the larger George Fuermann Texas and Houston Collection, this group represents the subset of postcards that date from before 1925. Especially noteworthy are the postcards from the Alamo, the State Capitol, turn-of-the-century Galveston, and many of downtown Houston’s earliest commercial buildings. Also pictured are rivers, lakes, city parks, railroad bridges, hotels, churches, and court houses from all over the state. Both the front and back of each postcard are included in the digital collection, so viewers can read the personal greetings handwritten by the original senders.
Legendary Houston newspaperman and historian George M. Fuermann gathered these postcards over the course of two decades for his book research. From 1946 to 1995, Fuermann was a reporter, editor, and columnist for the Houston Post, where his work included a long-running column called “Post Card,” based on snippets of local history. Fuermann also published numerous books, mostly on the history and people of the city of Houston.
The Houston Chamber of Commerce and other business entities presented the city of Houston as a center of growth, industry, opportunity, and scenic beauty in the early 20th century, and this digital collection includes several publications detailing these efforts. Complete with the covers and every page of each item, the collection comprises eight individual books and one that spans 12 volumes.
The collection’s titular item, Houston: The Magnolia City, is a 13-page pamphlet published in 1912 that features illustrations of prominent downtown buildings. The 12-volume set titled Art Work of Houston, Texas was intended to provide a pictorial, artistic perspective of the city. Published in 1904, the set contains photographs, illustrations, and textual descriptions of the neighborhoods, residences, and buildings that made up the city of Houston at the time.
Dating from 1891, Souvenir Album of Houston Texas is the oldest book in the collection, and it features more than two dozen black and white illustrations of pre-1900 buildings, including City Hall, the Opera House, the Cotton Exchange, hotels, churches, and private residences. Houston: Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea, published in 1923, was one of the earliest books to contain color photographs of the area.
The longest book in the collection at 101 pages, The City of Houston aims to attract new residents and capital investors by stating a vigorous case for Houston as a bustling center of commerce; the author describes Houston as not only “the Chicago of the Southwest,” but also as “the foremost city of the grandest state of the greatest country on the face of the globe.”
Other titles in the collection include Greater Houston, Texas and the Southwest, Industrial Advantages of Houston, Niels Esperson Building, and The Gulf Building: Thirty-five Floors, One Thousand Offices.
The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections.
Significant to the architectural history of Houston was the work of architect Kenneth Franzheim (1890–1959). The Kenneth Franzheim Collection is comprised of photographs and architectural drawings and models of Franzheim’s work. In addition to Houston landmarks such as the Foley’s Building and the Gulf Building, the collection surveys a broad range of works; included are corporate offices, high-rise apartments, theaters, private residences, airport facilities and others. Beyond Houston, the works contained herein were built and/or proposed for a variety of locales within and outside Texas. Represented are Franzheim’s contributions to the architectural landscapes of New York, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere. The collection’s images comprise the collected works of Franzheim as they appear in three self-published volumes: Kenneth Franzheim, Architect, New York City (1940), Drawings and Models of Some of the Recent Work of Kenneth Franzheim, Architect, Together with Sketches of a Few Proposed Buildings (1952ca) and Drawings and Models of Some of the Recent Work of Kenneth Franzheim, Architect, Together with Sketches of a Few Proposed Buildings (1960).
Through his early drawings, this digital collection captures architect Lucian Hood’s eye for detail and exemplifies his artistry and graphic skills. These drawings, done before architects were aided by AutoCAD and other drafting software, embody the craftsmanship and sense of detail from a bygone era. In all, the collection contains 116 drawings done by hand in pencil. The drawings include floor plans, interior and exterior elevations, foundations, and plots.
Many of the drawings are from Hood’s early work on residential homes, which are representative of the architectural trends and influences of the early 1960s. These homes, located throughout the Houston neighborhoods of River Oaks, Tanglewood, and Memorial, are highly sought after in the marketplace, and owners are often interested in the original drawings in order to restore the homes to their original specifications.
Hood was a 1952 graduate of the University of Houston who studied under Donald Barthelme. He was one of Houston’s early modernist architects and his work was in great demand for more than 40 years, from the 1950s through the 1990s.
This digital collection presents examples of notable works housed in the University of Houston’s Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room. The room contains approximately 1000 rare or unique books, journals, and pamphlets on fine art and design. Highlights of the collection include portfolios of building types, architectural product catalogs, and first editions of some of the 20th century’s greatest books on art and architecture. The books in the collection date from the mid-16th century to artists’ books published in the 21st century. The Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room is located within the William R. Jenkins Architecture and Art Library on the first floor of the College of Architecture.
The world’s first indoor, air-conditioned sports stadium, the Houston Astrodome was nicknamed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1965. The construction of the Astrodome was instrumental in bringing Major League Baseball to Houston, and the Dome would also host the NFL’s Houston Oilers and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. A selection of over 100 items, including promotional photographs, newsletters and brochures, and documents on the creation of the Astrodome, illustrates the history of the stadium and the key individuals who brought this vision to life.
The bulk of the items in the digital collection are derived from the George Kirksey Papers. Kirksey was a well-known sportswriter who became a baseball promoter. In the late 1940s, he began his work to bring major league baseball to Houston. Eventually he would join with several other men, including Houston oilman and civic leader R. E. “Bob” Smith and Houston mayor Roy Hofheinz, to form the Houston Sports Association. This group would become the owners of the Colt .45s, later known as the Houston Astros, and would advocate for the construction of the Astrodome.
The selection of items for this project includes Houston Sports Association and Astrodome promotional materials and ephemera, photographs of the Dome and of Colt .45 and Astros players and staff, Astros and Colt .45s press releases, and other documents relating to the creation and operations of the Astrodome in the 1960s.
This digital collection documents the built environment of the University of Houston campus from the ground up, featuring maps, aerial views, architectural drawings and models, and photographs of buildings both under construction and upon completion. In all, the collection contains 272 photographs and drawings in both color and black and white, dating from the 1930s to the 1990s.
A comparison of campus maps from 1948-1950 and 1965-1969 highlights the rapid, mid-century growth of the university, while several aerial photographs taken from 1937-1980 provide a dramatic overview of the development of the campus and the surrounding city – from acres of untouched fields to miles of urban sprawl.
Dozens of architectural drawings and models illustrate the finely detailed planning process involved in creating the university’s physical appearance. These architectural works comprise both interiors and exteriors of individual buildings, as well as the campus as a whole.
Most of the university’s signature buildings are represented with photographs showing their progress from construction to completion, including Moody Towers, the Ezekiel Cullen and Roy G. Cullen Buildings, the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture, the M.D. Anderson Library, and many others. Of particular interest are photographs of Veterans Village, which is no longer standing, and the University of Houston at San Jacinto High School, which predated the university’s own campus in the 1930s.