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Historic Photos of the Houston Area

Thanks to TxDOT and the Houston Chronicle for making these photos available.

Gulf Freeway (IH-45 south)
Sources: TxDOT archive library; Economic Evaluation of the Gulf Freeway, City of Houston, July, 1949
1949 Velasco Street Overpass (51 kB)
Notice that the median consists of a curb with no barrier.
1949 Aerial view over Telephone Road (130 kB)
This view looks north towards downtown. Having worked for Schlumberger for 7 years, I immediately noticed that the Schlumberger facility (just northwest of the freeway railroad crossing) was very minimal in 1949.
1949 Traffic Counting Device (51 kB)
This strange device is something straight out of the 1950's (well, late 1940's to be exact).
1953 Aerial view looking towards downtown. High resolution (236 kB); Medium resolution (168 kB)
This section of the I-45 just south of downtown was completed in 1948. At the time of this photo, the freeway stopped just southeast of downtown. In the early 1980's, this section of freeway was fully reconstructed to its current configuration with a second freeway deck.
Undated circa 1950's Observation Tower (106 kB)
This is even crazier than the traffic counting device. But in 1950, freeways were a new form of transportation and it looks like TxDOT was carefully studying vehicle movements to better understand the roadway performance.
July 1956 View of highway near League City (140 kB) (added 31-May-2001)
Although all of the facility was open by 1952, this photo shows that US 75 (now IH-45) was not a limited access freeway.
July 1956 Installation of center barrier (128 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
Many early freeways, including the Gulf Freeway, were built without central barriers between opposing traffic. It didn't take long before TxDOT realized that freeways needed barriers. About 8 years after the opening of the freeway, the center guardrail was installed.
Undated circa late 1950's Exit at 90A (Wayside drive) (82 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
This is a typical 1950's style exit sign on the freeway.
October 1958 Just north of IH-610 interchange (109 kB)
This view looks north, just north of the future location of IH-610.
Undated circa 1960's Aerial view of Gulf Freeway/IH-610 interchange (204 kB)
This view looks east along the IH-610 corridor. The IH-610 feeder roads are in place. The interchange at the Gulf Freeway would not be completed until 1975.
Undated circa 1960 Aerial view looking South at Bellfort (213 kB)
Notice that this photo is incorrectly labeled as the Eastex Freeway. That was a serious red herring, and it took some detective work to find the correct location.
1970 Sea-Arama Marine World (154 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
OK, this is not a road photo. But it brought back some memories for me, so I threw it in with the rest of the IH-45 photos. (For those not familiar, Sea-Arama is long defunct.)

IH-45 Galveston Bay Causeway (photo and magazine article added 31-May-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
1954 View of original drawbridge (75 kB) (added 31-May-2001)
1961 New high clearance bridge and original causeway drawbridge (139 kB)
This photo was labelled as the "new" causeway high clearance bridge. The original drawbridge facility, which can be seen in this photo, was later demolished.
September 1961 Texas Highways Magazine "Gulf Coast Ceremonies" Page 1 (371K) 2 (412K)
This article describes the dedication ceremony for the first high-clearance bridge and provides some interesting history about the Galveston Bay crossing.
July 1964 Texas Highways Magazine "Galveston's Twin Causeways Dedicated" Page 1 (154K) 2 (189K)
This article describes the completion of the second high-clearance structure in 1964. Both spans of the causeway are scheduled to be replaced with two 4-lane structures, with construction beginning around 2003.

North Freeway (IH-45 north) (section added 2-June-2001)
Source: Houston Chronicle Archives
1959 Construction looking north at Spring-Stuebner (184 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
A major widening is in progress as of June 2001, and should be complete in 2003.
1959 Aerial view of construction at the Woodlands (184 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
Of course, the Woodlands did not exist in 1959. The overpass at the bottom of the photo appears to be Rayford-Sawdust road. Major widening of this section completed in 2001.

IH-45 north of Conroe, TX (40 miles north of downtown Houston) (added 23-Feb-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
Undated, circa 1961 Aerial view of construction (119 kB)
October 1963 Texas Highways Magazine "Closing the Gaps" (457K)
This article describes the completion of a 7 mile section north of Conroe in 1963.
November 1963 Texas Highways Magazine "More than Just a Hunk of Concrete" (395K)
The new section of Interstate near Conroe received a commendation for its scenic qualities. This is one of the few sections of Interstate in Texas where the right-of-way was not clear-cut. Forested medians are common in much of the rest of the nation, but not in Texas. Hopefully, forest will be preserved on the new sections of IH-69 to be constructed in the future.

Interstate 45 through downtown Houston (photo added 11-May-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
May 1961 Aerial view north of downtown, overlooking IH-45/IH-10 merge (363 kB)
This view looking south shows the IH-45/IH-10 merge just north of downtown Houston under construction. For views of the merge in 2000, see downtown Houston photos page 2.
May 1961 IH-45/IH-10 merge near Quitman Street (222 kB)
This view shows where Quitman street crosses the IH-45/IH-10 merge. It is incorrectly labeled as the Southwest Freeway.
May 1961 Aerial view of construction west of downtown (354 kB)
This view looking northeast shows the IH-45 bridge over Buffalo Bayou, with the downtown Houston skyline in the background.
May 1961 Aerial view of construction near the Sam Houston Coliseum (317 kB)
This view looking north includes the Sam Houston Coliseum on the right side. The Sam Houston Coliseum and adjacent Houston Music Hall were demolished in 1999 to make way for the new Hobby Performing Arts Center.
May 1961 Exit ramps under construction (178 kB)
This view shows piers for exit ramps, framed by the 1950's-style steel pier structure that helps identify this structure as a 1950's design.
May 1961 Southwest downtown view (192 kB)
This view looking south-southeast shows that construction had not begun on the southwest side of downtown as of May 1961.
December 3, 1964 Southwest downtown view transition to Pierce Elevated (205 kB)
This view, looking south-southeast, shows that the freeway was now substantially complete on the southwest side of downtown Houston. Notice the office building that arose between 1961 and 1964.
December 3, 1964 Pierce Elevated (205 kB)
This view, looking southeast, shows the Pierce Elevated substantially complete. Official opening did not occur until 1967, according to news reports. The Pierce Elevated, named after the adjacent Pierce street (just to the left of the elevated structure), was fully re-decked in 1997.
December 3, 1964 At IH-10 merge (270 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
This view shows the completed IH-45 main lanes. Notice that construction had not begun on the IH-10 main lanes, which would be located in the large central median and on the outside of the IH-45 main lanes.
April 11, 1972 IH-45 / US59 interchange (327 kB)
This view, looking southeast, shows the construction of interchange.
April 11, 1972 IH-45 / US59 interchange (398 kB)
This view, looking north, shows the construction of interchange and construction of the wide US59/TX288 merge just south of the interchange.

Southwest Freeway (US 59 South) (photos added 2-June-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library, Houston Chronicle Archives
1958 Right-of-way clearance near Hazard Street (289 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view looks east in the vicinity of Hazard Street or Shepherd.
1960 Trench excavation and bridge at Hazard Street (311 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view looks west at the Hazard Street bridge, which was being contructed with cast-in-place concrete. This bridge was removed in 2000 and replace with a long span arch.
May 1961 Aerial view over Kirby, looking east (318 kB)
This view shows the construction in progress at Kirby. In the background, the depressed section of freeway starting at Hazard Street appears to be nearly complete.
May 1961 Spur 527 downtown split (286 kB)
This view looks south-southwest along Spur 527, showing the merging point with the Southwest Freeway.
July 27, 1961 Opening Ceremony, downtown to Kirby (289 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view looks east at ribbon cutting ceremony over Montrose Street. This section of elevated freeway will be demolished and moved into a trench, with construction scheduled to start in 2002 or 2003.
1962 Traffic jam near Hazard Street with car views (340 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view appears to look east towards downtown. I don't know if there as a traffic disruption, or if this was a normal backup since the freeway end point was just ahead on the roadway. Most interesting in this photograph, however, are the automobiles. Notice the tiny car in the foreground. A texasfreeway.com reader identified it as an ISO Isetta, an Italian car introduced in 1953. Notice the lack of doors on the sides. The passenger entered through the front.
1968 Original Freeway at Chimney Rock, looking west (312 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
It's hard to believe that the Southwest Freeway was this small at Chimney Rock until expansion began in 1989. This photo was taken during a freeway closure. To see a view of the freeway at this exact location in 2000, click here.
1978 Original Freeway at Newcastle, looking west (331 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view shows the original freeway just inside loop 610 at rush hour. The outside emergency lane had been converted to general use to help alleviate severe traffic in this section.
1980 Aerial view over Newcastle, looking east (271 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
1981 Looking east from Edloe overpass (312 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This section would be expanded to 10 main lanes and central HOV during 1989-1992.
Mid to late 1980's Original freeway at Westpark, looking northeast (277 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
It's hard to believe that the Southwest Freeway at Westpark was this small as recently as 1989. There was always heavy traffic at this location, not just during rush hour. The freeway now has 12 main lanes and 1 HOV lane at Westpark. Soon, the Westpark Tollway will connect at this point.
1991 Widening at Bissonnet Street (266 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
Widening was completed in 1992.

Eastex Freeway (US59 North) (photos added 11-May-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
Mid 1950's(?) Aerial view of construction looking southwest, just north of downtown (450 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
Unfortunately this photo was not dated. However, this freeway was complete by May 1961, as the photo below shows. This section of freeway is being rebuilt and expanded as of May 2001. See a photo of the massive new freeway.
Mid 1950's(?) Aerial view of construction looking northeast, just north of downtown (455 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
This view shows construction through the location of the future IH-10 interchange.
May 1961 Aerial view of US 59, IH-10 interchange (254 kB)
This view looks west with US59 going from right to upper left. IH-10 stopped at US 59 at this time. Right-of-way clearance for the extension had not begun, and the photo shows that many structures were on borrowed time. The extension of IH-10 opened in 1972. For views of the extension, see downtown Houston photos.
Undated circa 1960's Aerial view looking southwest, interchange location, Eastex freeway at Loop 610 (283 kB)
This view looks southwest over the location where the north Loop (IH-610) would cross US 59. In this photo, the future IH-610 would cut diagonally across the upper left corner of the photo. This section of IH-610 was one of the last to be completed in 1975. I vaguely remember that smokestack structure when I was a kid. It was demolished; I think the demolition occurred in the late 1970's.
Undated circa 1960's Aerial view looking north, Eastex freeway at Loop 610 (233 kB)
This view looks north along US 59. The future (IH-610) would cross US 59 right at the bottom of the photo. The roadway going across the photo left-to-right is the old (non-freeway) IH-610, now Kelley Road. See a view of the interchange in 2000.
March 1977 Interchange, Eastex freeway at Loop 610 (60 kB)
Interchange construction was about 50% complete when this photo was taken.

US 59 through Downtown Houston (section added 2-June-2001)
Source: Houston Chronicle Archives
1965 Construction of elevated structure at Union Station (270 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
The Enron Field baseball stadium was constructed on the abandoned railyard in 2000. This view reminded me of going to see the bicentennial "Freedom Train," which was parked on these tracks in 1976.
July 1966 Construction of freeway south of Buffalo Bayou (228 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view looking north shows the freeway was nearly complete in July 1966.
1966 Looking south over cleared right-of-way (195 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view looks south over the transition point from the elevated freeway to the depressed freeway near Bell Street, just north of IH-45. The right-of-way was clear in 1966, but construction had not yet begun.
1969 Right-of-way clearance south of IH-45 (378 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view looks south across the wide right-of-way south of IH-45, where US 59 and the South Freeway US 288 would merge.

Katy Freeway (IH-10 west) (added 23-Feb-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
October 1966 Texas Highways Magazine "Prestressed 'Grape Arbor' Spans I.H.10" Page 1 (204K) 2 (409K)
Ever since I was a kid growing up in Houston, I wondered why this crossing was constructed with this design. The railroad crosses the freeway at a 30 degree angle, so a large deck was built over the depressed freeway for the railroad tracks. Well, this article gives all the answers. There was a design priority to depress the freeway, and after that, cost was the deciding factor.
December 17, 1967 Construction near Memorial Park, looking east (112 kB)
January 1969 Texas Highways Magazine "Depressed Area Impressive" (239K)
On December 28, 1968, Interstate 10 between downtown and the West Loop 610 was opened. This is an impressive stretch of 10-lane freeway, mostly below grade as the article suggests.
July 1972 Texas Highways Magazine "Kyser Did It His Way" Page 1 (398K) 2 (387K)
This article is about the completion of the final link in IH-10 through Houston, the section north of downtown, on May 17, 1972. It was the final achievement for engineer A.C. Kyser, who was in charge of much of Houston's freeway design in the 1960's. He does make a sadly prophetic comment in the article: "It will be increasingly difficult for the state to build new freeways."

East Freeway (IH-10 East) (photo added 2-June-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library, Houston Chronicle Archives
September 1956 New San Jacinto River bridge (360 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This photo shows the just-completed new bridge of the San Jacinto River on State Highway 73, which would become IH-10. The old truss bridge can be seen in the photo. The truss bridge was later removed, and the San Jacinto River Bridge was expanded.
December 3, 1964 Construction of depressed section east of downtown (217 kB)
This unidentified photo appears to be the depressed section IH-10 between downtown and the East Loop IH-610
December 3, 1964 Construction of depressed section east of downtown (200 kB)

Beltway 8 / Sam Houston Tollway (photos added 2-June-2001)
Source: Texas Turnpike Authority Annual Reports, Houston Chronicle Archives
1969 Original direct connector ramps at JFK Boulevard (212 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
Houstonians today enjoy the two direct connector ramps to JFK boulevard when they go to Bush-Intercontinental Airport. But motorists may not realize that these are not the original ramps. The original ramps, shown nearing completion in this photo, where replaced in the mid 1990's construction of the Beltway 8 main lanes, which is a freeway at this location. Houstonians familiar with the ramps will also notice that the stack order was changed in the new facility. To see the facility today, click here. The removal and replacement of these ramps was prophetic: sometime between 2005 and 2010, the entire 5-level stack at IH-10 west will be demolished and rebuilt to accommodate the expanded IH-10 main lanes.
1980 Ship Channel Toll Bridge Construction High resolution (384 kB), Medium resolution (75 kB)
The toll bridge was a financial disaster and was bailed out in 1994 by the Harris County Toll Road Authority for $225 million, a price which was about twice as high as the 1994 cost to construct an entirely new bridge. See more details on the financial problems and 2001 bridge photos at Beltway 8 east mainlane page.
1981 Ship Channel Toll Bridge Construction High resolution (282 kB), Medium resolution (58 kB)
The two sides are being connected in this photo.
1988 Construction of stack at IH-10 west (289 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This 5-level stack was completed in 1989, but will be removed and replaced sometime between 2005 and 2010. For more info and photos, see the IH-10 west/BW8 stack page.

IH-610 ("Loop 610") (photos added 2-June-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library, Houston Chronicle Archives
1962 Aerial view (vertical) of the West Loop corridor, North section
Low resolution (574 kB)
High resolution (2788 kB)
This view shows contruction in progress on much of the West Loop corridor.
1962 Aerial view (vertical) of the West Loop corridor, South section
Low resolution (490 kB)
High resolution (2283 kB)
This view shows that right-of-way had been cleared through Bellaire, and storm sewer construction was in progress. Work on the feeders and main lanes had not yet begun.
December 3, 1964 Aerial view of North Loop (270 kB)
This view looks east along the North Loop between US 290 and IH-45. The freeway is mostly complete, but the section in the foreground consists of feeders only. The street in the foreground is Ella.
December 3, 1964 At Westheimer,looking northeast (215 kB)
This view looks northeast over the intersection. Notice that the IH-610 mainlanes stop north of Westheimer. There was a traffic backup in progress when this photo was taken. This location would become ground zero for Houston's densest retail/office concentration.
1965 At Westheimer, looking southwest (298 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view looks southwest over the intersection of Westheimer and Loop 610. Most of the land in this area was vacant.
May 31, 1965 Aerial view of construction north of Post Oak (310 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This view shows the freeway under construction through Memorial Park.
November 13, 1967 South loop, bridge construction at South Main (185 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This section of freeway was widened to 10 main lanes in the early 1990's. The original bridge, shown under construction in this photo, was retained in the widening.

IH-610 Ship Channel Bridge (Texas Highways article added 11-May-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library and Texas Highways Magazine
November 1970 Texas Highways Magazine "Texas Giant" Page 1 (375K) 2 (182K)
This article describes the construction of the bridge. The bridge has a main span of 1233 feet, and a deck width of 154 feet.
June 1971 Beam being positioned (163 kB)
June 1971 Looking northwest (150 kB)
June 1971 Looking north along roadway (173 kB)

Southwest Freeway (US59) / West Loop (IH-610) Interchange (added 23-Feb-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
December 1959 Aerial view looking east (278 kB)
Construction was just underway in December 1959. Notice the subdivision in the upper center of the photograph. This entire subdivision was displaced, some by the Southwest Freeway, the rest by the Greenway Plaza commercial complex.
December 1959 Aerial view looking west (211 kB)
This view looking west shows the mostly vacant landscape of west Houston.
May 1961 Aerial view of construction looking northeast (280 kB)
Construction was about 33% complete in May 1961. The interchange was complete and open in 1964.

Katy Freeway (IH-10) / West Loop (IH-610) Interchange (photos added 11-May-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
1963 Aerial view looking north (164 kB)
This view looks north along IH-610 over the interchange under construction. The interchange was only about half complete at this time.
April 25, 1964 Ground level view along IH-10 (154 kB)
This view looks eastward along interstate 10. The eastbound lanes of IH-10 come to a halt just before the interchange, and traffic is forced to make a sharp left turn.
December 3, 1964 Aerial view of interchange (315 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
This provides an excellent view of the eastbound mainlanes of IH-10 being diverted northward towards the Old Katy Road.
December 3, 1964 Aerial view of interchange looking east (212 kB) (added 11-May-2001)
This view shows the end of the IH-10 main lanes just inside Loop 610.

Northwest Freeway (US 290) at the Loop (IH-610) (section added 11-May-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
December 3, 1964 Aerial view, looking northwest (229 kB)
This view shows that US 290 interchange was complete, but 290 came to a grinding halt just after the exit from Loop 610.
December 3, 1964 Aerail view looking southeast towards downtown (237 kB)
December 3, 1964 Aerial view looking east along IH-610 (237 kB)
Notice that IH-610 also stops just north of the interchange, but the freeway feeder roads were already in place.

North Freeway (IH-45) / North Loop (IH-610) Interchange (added 23-Feb-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
May 1961 Aerial view looking north (148 kB)
This view looks north along IH-45 over the interchange under construction.
May 1961 Aerial view looking west (238 kB)
This view looks west along IH-610. Notice the left exit for traffic connecting to southbound IH-45. This is one of last occurrence of this poor design practice in Houston.

Baytown Tunnel, SH146, and the Fred Hartman Bridge (added 10-March-2001)
Source: TxDOT archive library
The 4110 foot (1253m) Baytown Tunnel was opened in 1953. After completion of the 146 bridge in 1995, the Baytown Tunnel was removed and all traces of it destroyed.
1970 photo South (Laporte) portal with ventilation structure (62 kB)
April 1964 photo View inside the tunnel (83 kB)
1955 photo North (Baytown) entrance (132 kB)
April 29, 1964 Tunnel Television system (90 kB)
March 1990 Construction of bridge towers (175 kB)
1994 Construction of Main Span
Low resolution (107 kB)
High resolution (783 kB)

Allen Parkway
Source: Houston Chronicle Archives, Houston Road Planning Document
1929 The "Deathtrap" (428 kB) Image courtesy of the Houston Chronicle Archives (added 2-June-2001)
This photo appeared in the 1929 City Plan for the City of Houston. The 1929 document had very high aspirations for Houston. It included many photographs of locations in European cities, such as the Place de la Concorde in Paris, Trafalgar Square in London, and bridge views Venice, Italy. But first, a few local problems had to be addressed, such as dangerous roads. This view shows Allen Parkway (then Buffalo Parkway) where it went underneath the railroad, calling it a "deathtrap."
1953 Buffalo Parkway and Downtown Houston. High resolution, 609 kB, Medium resolution, 115 kB
In 1953, Allen Parkway was still called Buffalo Parkway. Something huge is missing in this photo. If you're from Houston, you'll spot it right away! For today's view of what is missing, click here. (Hint: it's not the skyscrapers.)

Freeport/Surfside - 332 Intracoastal Crossing (added 29-November-2001)
Source: TxDOT archives
These photos show the original intracoastal crossing at 332 connecting to Surfside. This bridge opened on August 21, 1954, and was replaced with a new span in the late 1990's. For views of the new bridge, see the Brazosport photo gallery.
Circa 1955 Side view
Circa 1955 Angle view

1932 McKee Street Bridge, Spanning Buffalo Bayou (added 26-June-2006)
Source: United States Library of Congress
These images show construction drawings and 2001 photos of this historic bridge near downtown.

 
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