Drive-by Houston History; a tour of Houston’s historic buildings

HOUSTON – Ever been curious of the history behind some of Houston’s oldest buildings? We’ve hot a history lesson for you, but this isn’t your typical classroom!

Ann Becker of the Harris County Historical Society joined Lauren Kelly for a drive-by tour of the Rice Downtown, the Kirby Mansion, and the Link-Lee Mansion.

Did you know that before downtown was the downtown we know today, Main Street was lined with big mansions?

Scroll down for interesting facts about all three buildings.

About the Link-Lee Mansion

This building was built in 1912 by J.W. Link Oil tycoon J.W. Link founded "The Montrose" in 1911.The Links only lived in the home until 1916 when it was sold to oilman T.P. Lee, who was with the Texas Company now Texas for $90,000. He lived in this home with his family until his death in 1939.

The "Link-Lee Mansion" has served the University for 71 years and continues to house the offices of the president and vice presidents, and provides a beautiful, welcoming space for campus events. In 2001,

Link-Lee became a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, the highest honor the state can bestow on a historic structure. This designation further validates the mansion's historic and architectural significance, not only to the University of St. Thomas, but to the City of Houston and to the State of Texas.

About the Kirby Mansion

Built by John Henry Kirby in 1894, it is in the Tudor Revival architectural style. Kirby Mansion transformed from its original Victorian theme when Kirby and his family first moved in back in 1897 to a more modern look through their expansions and additions in the 1920s. Architect J.S. Price built the original home, and James Ruskin Bailey was responsible for the updated design. The property, consisting of the mansion and two separate structures, is now valued at $3.9 million, according to the Harris County Appraisal District. The 18,000-square-foot home sits on a 62,500-square-foot block near the Pierce Elevated, where I-45 splits Downtown from Midtown. The area is bounded by Brazos, Pierce, Smith and Gray.

Kirby’s wife sold the home in 1947, seven years after his death. Since the late 1970s, the landmark has been used as office space. Longtime owner attorney Phillip Azar worked out of the building. He sold the home to Central Houston Auto, which has connections to Nicpa Holdings, Ricardo Weitz, Central Houston Cadillac and Central Houston Nissan.

About the Rice Downtown

This spot of land has seen the City of Houston grow from a dusty dirt cattle town to what we have today. 1836-1839 On this site the first capitol building of the Republic of Texas and finally settled in Austin where it remains today. It was very exciting place to stay.

In 1909, President Taft spoke from the lobby of the Rice Hotel about the fact that this place where Texas declared independence from Mexico was only a few miles from the site of the Battle of San Jacinto. In 1910, eyewitnesses described the Rice Hotel as having ‘lots of mosquitoes’ and you left the windows open to be cool and slept under mosquitoes nets. The Crystal Ball Room was built in 1913 resplendent with crystal chandeliers, heroic murals, 35-foot ceilings and a full wraparound terrace. The 5,600 square foot event space and the adjunct 1,400 square foot parlor provide an ample space for up to 400 guests for a seated meal, with a dance floor. Louis Armstrong performed in the Crystal Ballroom.

Among the important bands to play there: Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Gene Vincent, the Everly Brothers, and Carl Perkins.


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