Burdette Keeland, Jr. was an influential Houston architect who left a legacy as a designer, an educator, and a member of the Houston Planning Commission. At the peak of his practice, from 1950 to 1980, Keeland produced some of the city’s best modernist architectural design. Yet he will also be remembered for his four decades on the faculty of the University of Houston, where he dedicated himself to mentoring the next generation of architects. This digital collection provides a sample of five of his imaginative works, including architectural drawings and renderings, photographs, clippings, and audio interviews.
A 1950 graduate of the University of Houston, Keeland quickly developed a successful architectural practice. As with many architects of the period, his work of the 1950s reflected the influence of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Keeland’s innovative design for the Fred Winchell Studio and Apartments (with Harwood Taylor, 1953) combined a professional office with rental apartments on a small city lot. Two years later he produced his best-known work, a steel-frame residence for homebuilder W. K. King, featured in the 1955 Meyerland Parade of Homes.
In the 1960s Keeland’s work expressed other trends in architectural design. He interpreted the Brutalist aesthetic in the Essex-Houck Office Building (with Herman F. Goeters, 1962), where his tight grouping of masonry towers gave this small office building a sense of the monumental. In the Williams Beach House of 1967 (with Alan Rice), his crisp, shed-roofed volumes evoked the barnlike structures of California’s iconic Sea Ranch development.
Keeland experimented with new ideas in his own house on Ferndale Street. In 1976 he transformed a modest 1930s house into an urban retreat for his family. He made further changes in the 1980s and 1990s, but the rear courtyard received the most attention. He showed his flair for artistic and whimsical details in the over-scaled metal column that supports a second floor overhang; a few feet away a vine-covered spiral staircase offered access to a roof-top office and observation deck.
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.
This digital collection chronicles the history of Texas from the Spanish Colonial Era through the turn of the 20th century. The bulk of the collection is from the Colonial, Republic, and Early Statehood eras, and in addition to materials broadly documenting the history of Texas, the activities of several prominent Texans and Americans are also documented. The digital collection contains nearly 1300 items.
Included in the collection are papers pertaining to the establishment of Austin’s Colony, including land and legal documents signed by Stephen F. Austin. Sam Houston’s role as President of Texas is extensively documented through correspondence and legal, financial, and land papers. The roles of Anson Jones and Mirabeau Lamar as President of Texas are seen in legal and land paper, and James Morgan’s role as Colonel in the Texas Army is documented through correspondence, legal, and military papers. Finally, Andrew Jackson’s role as President of the United States of America is documented in a letter detailing his decision to not send troops to Texas during the state’s revolution.
Also of interest are slave documents within the collection documenting the sale of slaves as property as well as financial and scrip documents that detail a listing of goods and services purchased by individuals. Other items include illustrations of currency and warrants paid to soldiers for their service.
Providing a panoramic history of the Houston Fire Department from the late 1800s through the 1980s, the digital collection features images of fire trucks, fire stations, firefighters in action battling blazes, and some of the department’s Fire Chiefs through the decades. The collection contains more than 190 color and black and white photographs.
Among the highlights of the collection is the 96-page Souvenir of Houston, published for the benefit of the Firemen's Relief Fund in 1897. The booklet is an early-day guidebook to the city, complete with photos of downtown streets, buildings, and fire stations in the 1890s; advertisements for local retail, manufacturing, and railroad businesses; and pages of text expounding on the many benefits of life in Houston at that time.
The collection also includes many pictures of groups of firefighters posing with their trucks, helping trace the evolution of firefighting technology over time. The department had about 50 horses to pull its wagons in 1910, but by 1921 all of the horse-drawn fire carriages had been replaced by motorcars and trucks. Action shots, meanwhile, capture firefighters combating infernos at lumber yards, restaurants, apartments, and other buildings.
As Houston grew in size through land annexations, such as that of the Houston Heights in 1918, the fire department incorporated more and more outlying stations. Anchoring the portrait of the city’s fire stations through the years is a pictorial series of 67 fire stations photographed in 1976 – illustrating how big the department had grown from its early days of only a handful of stations in the early 1900s.
The majority of the photos come from the collection of Scott Mellott, a Houston Fire Department retiree who has done extensive research on the department’s history.
This collection contains the documents of Joseph Cullinan related to the founding and early operation of the Houston Negro Hospital. Cullinan, a Houston businessman, helped start the hospital with a monetary donation to be used in construction of the building. The hospital was the first nonprofit hospital for African Americans in Houston, and these varied documents provide insight into the founding, construction, initial problems, and political and social forces at play during its early years.
In the early 1920s, the need for a new African American hospital became clear to the community and its physicians. Though a group of physicians had established the Union-Jeremiah Hospital to serve the community, they quickly realized the need for something larger. Cullinan, a successful oilman who had founded Texas Company (later Texaco), was impressed with the group’s work and donated $80,000 to the group in 1923. On June 19, 1926, the building’s cornerstone was dedicated to Cullinan’s deceased son, an Army officer who led African American soldiers during World War I. Cullinan, who made additional donations to the hospital, was consulted and kept informed about hospital business.
The hospital, located in Houston’s Third Ward, opened to patients on May 14, 1927, and provided a place for African American physicians, who were not allowed to admit patients to the African American wards in Houston’s other hospitals, to practice medicine and train students and nurses. It initially operated on an “insurance” system in which individuals and families paid a yearly subscription which entitled them to treatment. The hospital’s early years were difficult, with problems that included a lack of patients and dissension among and between the hospital’s two boards, one African American and one white.
Throughout the 20th century the hospital underwent many changes, including the elimination of the insurance system. In 1961 the hospital was renamed Riverside General Hospital, and in 1984 the building underwent historical renovations. The original hospital building and the School of Nursing building are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and Riverside General Hospital still operates today, primarily as a substance abuse center.
The Houston Saengerbund Records contain five bound volumes covering the activities of the organization and related associations from 1874 to 1937. Three of the ledgers contain minutes of various Houston Saengerbund meetings, financial statements, and the occasional printed program. A fourth volume contains similar materials for the Houston German Day Association, and the final volume contains the records, programs, clippings and correspondence of the German Texas Saengerbunds.
The Houston Saengerbund (Singing Society) was founded on Oct. 6, 1883, as an organization through which German immigrants in Houston could join with their countrymen to sing songs in the German language. The Saengerbund was one of a number of all-male singing organizations that formed in the German communities of Texas during the last half of the 19th century. These local groups were united under Der Deutsch-Texanische Saengerbund (the German-Texan Singers' League, or DTSB), a regional organization that held biennial meetings and Saengerfeste (Singing Festivals) in various Texas cities.
The Houston Saengerbund swelled to over 1,000 members before World War One, and in 1913 Houston played host to a particularly elaborate DTSB Saengerfest which featured a full orchestra and world-class opera singers. But during the war years membership fell as Germans became reluctant to draw attention to their nationality.
After the war, membership increased and the group flourished. The Saengerbund bought their first in a series of clubhouses, and introduced new activities such as dancing, children's plays, and beach excursions. The club officially began admitting women as members in 1937 with the formation of the Ladies Auxiliary and the Damenchor (Women's Chorus) a year later.
With the onset of World War II, the Saengerbund members changed the name of the group to "The Houston Singing Society,” stopped their primary activity of singing German songs, and began keeping minutes in English because of their concern about arousing anti-German sentiment. After the war, the club members restored both their German-language singing and their name, but membership declined, partly owing to a drop in German immigration.
The Houston Saengerbund is still in existence more than 100 years after its founding, and the Saengerbund and Damenchor continue to perform at the Saengerfeste of the DTSB, the International Festival, Lights in the Heights, and other public events.
The original materials are available in UH Libraries' Special Collections in the Houston Saengerbund Records.
Source: The History of the Houston Saengerbund (1990), Theodore G. Gish
Dr. Mehra's research in the history of 20th century physics has produced taped interviews with many famous scientists. The tapes compile discussions on physics, astrophysics, cosmology, quantum mechanics, and quantum physics. Those interviewed include P.A.M. Dirac, W. Heisenberg, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Willis E. Lamb Jr., Murray Gell-Mann, and numerous other Nobel Laureates and distinguished scientists. Other tapes record speeches by many Nobel Prize winners in physics and the humanities.
Some of Dr. Jagdish Mehra's literary works include The beat of a different drum: the life and science of Richard Feynman, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory, and Einstein, physics and reality.
This digital collection consists of remastered audio tapes, transcripts, and speaker biographies from a small portion of this unique oral history collection. It features speakers from the annual humanities series presented at the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (now the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth).
Speakers include: Margaret Mead (anthropologist), William Slone Coffin (clergyman and activist), Archibald MacLeish (Poet), Gerald Holton (engineer and physicist), Jerome Wiesner (engineer and mathematician), Oscar Handlin (historian), Philip Morrison (physicist).
John F. Staub (1892-1981) practiced architecture in Houston for nearly sixty years and became one of the region's best-known domestic architects. An MIT graduate from Tennessee, he began his architectural career in New York City under residential architect Harrie T. Lindeberg. In 1921, Staub came to Texas to oversee the construction of three Lindeberg houses in Houston. Staub then decided to settle in Houston and would eventually start his own architectural practice in 1923. He quickly became known for his domestic architecture and substantially contributed to the desirable neighborhoods of River Oaks, Broadacres and others. He designed 31 houses in River Oaks alone, thereby helping to establish the architectural flavor of that neighborhood during its first three decades. He is best known for Bayou Bend, which is now a house museum containing the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's American decorative arts collection. Staub also designed notable non-residential buildings, including the Junior League Building, the original River Oaks Country Club, the Bayou Club, and the original library at the University of Houston (which is now the blue wing of the M.D. Anderson Library). He remains best known for his residential architecture, however.
Staub amassed a collection of books on architectural types, regions and styles, which he referenced when designing his vernacular-styled houses. In the late seventies he made notes in these books in order to assist scholar and architect Howard Barnstone, who was then engaged in writing The Architecture of John F. Staub: Houston and the South. In these notes, Staub identifies books and images that influenced his own designs. This exhibit allows viewers to compare this marginalia and images from the books with photographs of his finished houses.
Near the end of his life Staub donated his book collection to the University of Houston Libraries. It may be viewed in the Kenneth Franzheim II Rare Books Room of the William R. Jenkins Architecture and Art Library.
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. The hand-drawn pencil 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.
The Oral Histories from the Houston History Project digital collection contains more than 500 oral histories from the oral history collection at the University of Houston, a repository supported by the UH Center for Public History and the University Libraries’ Houston History Archives. These oral histories, collected from 1996 to 2012, discuss topics including the Houston Ship Channel, Hurricane Katrina, and energy development. Most of the interviews also include transcripts.
When the Houston History Archives was created, its mission called for an oral history repository to preserve audio files and transcripts of stories describing the growth and development of the Gulf Coast region. Graduate students and faculty document memories of cultural, political, civil rights, and women’s history, building an assemblage of recollections of the city’s past from multiple viewpoints. To support that effort, the UH Oral History Project in the Center for Public History trains history graduate students to research and interview native and relocated Houstonians.
The Offshore Energy History, a collaborative project among several UH professors and other universities, makes up a large segment of the oral history collection. It was conceived to document the growth of oil production and refining along the Gulf Coast before and after World War II. Other intriguing oral histories include interviews with Katrina emergency responders in Houston, a series of discussions with African American generals from the Vietnam era, profiles of members of Houston's Indo-Asian population, and interviews from the Afro-American Physicians project.
Because the UH oral history project is ongoing, additional oral histories will be added to this digital collection in the future.