What you need to know about the blue tiles on Houston's streets

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - It's a piece of Houston history people drive and walk by everyday and may not even notice, blue tiled street signs. 

Vintage blue and white tiles are on street corners around the Bayou City and were the original markers of Houston streets when they were first paved in the 1920s and 1930s. 

"We're very passionate Houstonians and we love all things Houston, so when we started to see the amount of blue tiles in Houston, we thought we would find out more about them," explained Joey Sanchez who started the Blue Tile Project two years ago.

He and his wife, Kelly, were riding their bikes around the Bayou City when then noticed the vintage tiles along the curb sides. 

"It's the little things in life that make it beautiful, and it's the little things in Houston that make it beautiful, so these blue tiles are on most street corners," said Sanchez. 

He and his wife created the Blue Tile Project in 2015 as a way to document and preserve the remaining blue tile street signs of Houston.

"They faded out, they went from blue and white mosaic tiles to the green and white street signs we know today, but this was the original street sign of Houston," explained Sanchez. 

Sanchez said initially they only knew of 20 street signs, but thanks to social media and the app they created called the Blue Tile Project App , they've located 3,450 blue tiles through geotags. 

"We have some avid blue tilers who go around and have found hundreds of them," said Sanchez. "Next time you're on a drive or inside the loop, take a look and you'll see them on almost all street corners." 

 

The interactive map shows not only where the tiles are, but picture pops up which shows the state the tiles are currently in. 

Some are in perfect condition, while others are holding on for dear life or have been removed all together. 

"That's what happens you have road construction and some of the past gets torn out, but we want to bring them back," explained Sanchez.

In the parking lot of Spring Streets Studios, there are more than 75 blue tile street signs that have been salvaged and placed at each parking spot. The parking lot is considered the "blue tile graveyard" and most notably has the street Studewood. 

"Studewood was widened about 15 years ago with construction and the owner of Spring Street, Jon Deal, decided to save and bring them to the art studio," said Sanchez 

He wants to bring the blue tiles back and recreate the tiles for not only art, but image purposes to support local businesses and to use as a symbol of Houston. 

Above the doors at 8th Wonder Brewery in East Downtown Houston, there are blue tiles Sanchez made for the beer company. 

"If you go to 8th Wonder, they actually have a beer called Weisstheimer and it's a really great Hefeweinzen beer that is a seasonal beer, but they've got it in the blue tile," explained Sanchez. 

Sanchez works as the director of business analytics for the Greater Houston Partnership full time, but he's so passionate about the Blue Tile Project that he started making tiles and giving them to friends then started selling them on the side. 

"They are historically accurate, blue and white, in the font and you can do your street number, Houston, or get creative and put a different word," said Sanchez.  "When you buy the blue tiles...you actually have to finish the project and grout them into the curb or grout them into a frame. This isn't an all-inclusive project, you have to be part of history," said Sanchez. 

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