Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dueling Gas Stations at Rock Prairie Road and Wellborn

Shell station. It turns out that we don't have a great shot of the Exxon yet.

This post was originally title "The Development of Rock Prairie Road" and includes, in the comments, the text dump of an old post on Southwood Athletic Park. On July 31, 2014, an overhaul of the post was done when it was re-opened as a commentary on gas stations.

12727 FM 2154

Soon after Rock Prairie Road extended to Wellborn in or around 1997 came an Exxon station at 12727 FM 2154 (in 1998) with an A&W restaurant, if I recall correctly. Well, that didn't last too long (I seem to remember A&W, but it somehow managed to miss the phone books) which later became Sonic around 2001-2002. After Sonic moved about five years later, it became Taco Casa. The renovation was cheap, you could see the Sonic-style canopies well after it departed (the red and yellow seemed to be "close enough" for Taco Casa's yellow and orange). Taco Casa closed about five years after taking over Sonic's space. A few were disappointed by Taco Casa's exit from the gas station (and the area), but it eventually returned as a stand-alone store (in Bryan).

The Taco Casa was then renovated to be a Little Caesar's. It offered drive-through and only had a walk-up counter in the store, but you could still enter between the convenience store and the Little Caesar's (certainly gives "gas station pizza" a better name, marginally at the least).

The gas station itself has a small area to the right of the convenience store (the restaurant is to the left) that sells liquor and cigars. It used to have an exterior exit but can only be done through the convenience store now.

Some years after the Exxon opened (we're talking about 2003 now), a Shell (12667 FM 2154) opened with Lajita's Grill and some sort of barbecue/meat market called Oxbow Smokehouse. It was located on 12815 Wellborn Road. Lajita's Grill eventually became Mi Cocina, which eventually was forced to become Polly's Cocina circa late 2009/early 2010, as they were sued by a company with a similar name, similar to what happened to a place called "Doug's Ace Hardware" up in Villa Maria that was later named "Doug's Hardware" before disappeared altogether (it's now Enercon). Polly's Cocina is the last remnant of the local Mi Cocina but has declined from the original Mi Cocina on Southgate.

One of the big-ticket items that the Shell offered was Krispy Kreme donuts, which most of the Shells offered around 2004. Unfortunately, it didn't last too long after a disappointing entrance (Shipley's held an iron grip on the donut market, and the Krispy Kreme donuts weren't made fresh there. Coupled with corporate problems and unfortunate timing, like the Atkins Diet craze, which would hit its height soon after, KK disappeared from the Shells within a few years, if even that. The new Rattler's Shell that opened at Holleman and Harvey Mitchell in late, late December 2004 did not offer Krispy Kreme donuts.), and now Shell instead offers "Sub Express" inside. I may venture a guess that since Max Express, the convenience store in there, had a store at the Texaco at Welsh and Southwest Parkway, that this may have been designed to be a Texaco originally.

Originally, before the Wellborn widening, there were some grimy open ditches in front of the gas stations, but that all went away in the widening as well. Finally, it's worth noting that these gas stations were in the national spotlight (if briefly) when this unfortunate incident happened.

For more on Rock Prairie Road, check out
Alta Vista Christian Academy and McDonald's-Blockbuster.

Monday, August 29, 2011

[Side Stories] Comm. Building Permits College Station in the Late 1980s

We rarely get stuff this neat: this is a list of commercial buildings for the late 1980s (taken from a city-produced master plan guide from circa 1990). This either has Bryan permits in mixed in, or a Lowe's they got a permit for in 1987 was cancelled. There wasn't any Lowe's in College Station until 2010. It's possible that Lowe's got the permit for their current location and sat on it for over two decades, which is plausible but unlikely.

No idea where the other 1985 permits except for Scott & White, and that's probably the older building on University, and the Hampton Inn...which is probably the one next to Applebee's. It's likely the Theatre is the Brazos Fellowship building (it was a three-screen theater off of Southwest Parkway), but I can't know for sure. I do know where Aggieland Printing was, up until about 2001, it was located in a little maroon building right about where the water tower driveway is.

The 1986 permits include 7-11 (which replaced a gas station-turned-bar), but it's not a 7-11 anymore, which is a shame: I do enjoy Slurpees, and ICEEs (found at a few gas stations in town, and Target) aren't the same, as they mix syrup and ice, while Slurpees is frozen syrup continually blended (it's true).

Kentucky Fried Chicken is probably the one at Southwest Parkway and Texas, renovated a few years ago.

Whataburger is almost certainly the one on Dominik, which places it as being relatively new before a fire gutted it in the early 1990s (it has since been repaired).

Mazzio's I have unpleasant memories of, it's where Harvey Washbanger's is. The change-over happened in the late 1990s.

Post Oak Square is I think the one to the west of the TJMaxx/Toys R Us center (that one's Post Oak Plaza, I think). Post Oak Square had Catherine's, and a tasty Korean take-out place I'm not sure is still there.

1987 brought Putt-Putt Golf (which closed about five years ago or so, dying as "Brazos Valley Golf and Games"), an "Exxon Shop", which I'm guessing is modern-day Franky's (or the Valero on Holleman, or even the Highway 30 ones), and Wal-Mart, which secured its permit that year and was up and running by 1988. I don't know about the go cart track, wasn't Pooh's Park, which was on its way out by that time.

1988 brought Loupot's (probably the Southgate location), Taco Cabana (near Barnes & Noble), Circle K (which is where Texaco is, near Walmart, a funny story on that one, we'll discuss it later), CC Creations (moved), Shamrock (Diamond Shamrock?).

1989 brought "Nancy's Cookies", "Jud's", and "Western Auto". Western Auto is probably the current Advance Auto Parts on Harvey, which is what all Western Autos are now.

If you have locations for any of these, please please please...


(Some of you may have been concerned at the lateness of this post. Don't worry: posts are still daily, they'll just be in the evening instead of the morning)

EDIT July 2, 2012: Fixed and updated stuff, especially Hampton Inn.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gulf / Chevron at Southgate

Click for larger size/higher resolution. I don't know who the subject is.

Something different today: here the focus isn't on a building, but the places around it. Here's a pretty awesome picture [click for higher resolution] of a Gulf station off of George Bush Drive, courtesy of Project HOLD from 1985 (supposedly). Based on the placement of the road, I'm guessing this is where the Chevron is. It's great seeing the George Bush (er, Jersey) stoplight as it was...the "old style" of College Station stoplights (becoming increasingly rare today), complete with the old railroad crossing (a cantilever railroad crossing? Awesome! Wait, where's the crossing gate? Guess it doesn't have one, since those of that type have the cantilever but no gate), and all those trees, too: this must have been before Olsen Field, and a time when you could probably still see the I-GN right of way on both sides.

I can't see what is behind the Gulf station. Whatever it was, it later became some crummy liquor store, and ultimately was cleaned up to be a clothing shop (Aggieland Outfitters, of course).

Anyway, the gas station has been a Chevron since the early 1990s when a merger happened that converted area Gulf stores to Chevron. It updated once to the newer 2005 design (didn't roll out fully until the late 2000s), and has always been Reveille's (convenience store) at least since the mid-1990s (if not further back).

I snapped this modern view of the gas station (the Reveille's sign can't be seen) from a bus.

I found this picture as well, which could be this Chevron. The angle will work, and the garage could easily have been turned to a convenience store later.

UPDATE 7-20-18: After de-branding around early 2017 to be ""K.D. Timmons Co. Inc." (a local fuel supplier, though it kept the Chevron colors), by July 2018 this gas station and convenience store is permanently closed, presumably as part of the George Bush underpass project.

300 George Bush Drive

Friday, August 26, 2011

[Side Stories] Welsh Avenue

Originally called "Welsh to George Bush", then became a Road Profile, then went back to a Side Stories.

I do remember a time in the 1990s, not directly, when it was proposed that Welsh go all the way to George Bush, at Houston. Houston and George Bush put up a stoplight circa 1994, and in the late 1990s, a stop sign had been placed at Welsh and Holleman.

Of course, this ended up not happening, and Welsh continued as a two lane road (no turn lane) to Angus Street, where it still ends today.

But such a thing was still on the table in the late 1980s, when Welsh was proposed to be a four-lane road going straight into "new Jersey Street" (that is, the current George Bush). Residents were (of course) unhappy with this, and petitioned the city to not do that (they didn't).

Now, what's interesting is that they ARE willing, unlike in the 1990s, to let Welsh add a turn lane all the way to Jersey, as well as upgrading Dexter. Of course, that ended up also not happening. There's even a gap in between the Dexter(s) at Southwest Parkway and the rest of the city that was placed sometime before the 1990s, that is, if it wasn't always that way to begin with.

And it's kind of a shame they didn't go with one of the other options because there is really not that many ways to get into campus. East-west through George Bush and University, north-south through Wellborn, and maybe College Avenue...and wouldn't it be nice if there was a road that could go from Rock Prairie to TAMU?

Around 2011, a bunch of homes along Welsh (closer to the western side) were razed and replaced with denser and newer houses.

There's also the Checkers at the corner, which has been a site of a convenience store for at least 30 years, mostly solidly.

At Southwest Parkway and Welsh Avenue, there's the Embassy Townhomes. These laughably ugly places can be best described as exactly the same type of townhomes found in the Eastern United States (particularly Washington DC and points north), except placed there years after the fact. It would be as if someone built a Soviet-style apartment building in an upscale suburb. Fortunately for Embassy, it tends to blend into the somewhat dumpy surroundings, which prevents it from sticking out too much.

The stretch of Welsh from Southwest Parkway to Harvey Mitchell is largely failed commercial with successful education purposes.

For many years (dating back to the 1980s), the "Student Korner" grocery was located next to the gas station. By the late 1990s, it shut (with the old sign NEVER being changed) and sat vacant for years and years before reopening in 2012 as "Determined Faith Christian Center", which besides changing the sign, made no exterior renovations. In fact, the Student Korner road sign is still up.

Next to Student Korner was a little Greek hole in the wall. Since it never bothered to put a sign above the storefront, it was passed over and closed. By 2006, it was a Coco Loco and still is today.

On the right is 1806 Welsh Avenue, which was obviously a failure, because it only has one tenant (Suite G, so six/seven empty), Monograms & More. It's almost certain that 1806 Welsh never was 100% filled.

Next to it was an old yellow sign (gone now, disappeared in the late 2000s) that said "Now Leasing for Fall XXXX". The XXXX was actually blacked out spot, because it was originally a year (1998, maybe?), then the CSISD offices. After that is the massive A&M Consolidated High School complex.

The stoplight at Harvey Mitchell and Welsh was originally a two-lanes-and-a-turn-lane affair coming up to the road. A small post had been put on the right side to prevent people jumping into the bike lane/drop off to turn right. The construction in 2007-2008 not only updated the stoplight design, but added additional straight lanes to both sides, plus yield lanes. It also added a crosswalk on the west side of the intersection (which is almost never used).

On the other side, there's an Exxon station, covered in Stories of the West Loop.

From there on, it's mostly suburbia (forgettable, though may cover it in some form or fashion). Navarro Drive is here, which often has some people turning in and out, but it's never enough for Welsh to require a stop sign (yet).

The Deacon one DOES require a stop sign, however. There's a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here, and it used to have a bizarre (and TALL) sculpture of three rods pointing up. It was later removed (height ordinances?)
I seem to remember that it until 2007, the intersection had just traditional left hand turn lanes, and then they changed it into this slightly strange merging thing today. (Maybe it wasn't 2007. I just remember going down a house there and seeing it) Why? Who knows! It causes problems for people unfamiliar with it. Well, Welsh ends at Rock Prairie, which installed a light there in the early 2000s.

It is two lanes with turn lanes for most of the way except in parts mentioned and has always been done in asphalt past Holleman.

Given that Victoria's start is a block away and it requires a short "jog" to Victoria (a similar sized road), I wish that they could've connected both together. Unfortunately, since it's hemmed in on both sides, that would be near impossible.

Oh, and a few other things: it wasn't as nearly as long it is today, and was expanded numerous times, with the Rock Prairie end coming in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Start: Angus Street
Terminus: Rock Prairie Road

Thursday, August 25, 2011

CSISD Middle Schools Since the 1990s

Until June 13, 2012, this was known as "Middle School misery history!". I changed it to be a bit more specific

Circa 1998-1999, there were only a handful of schools in the CSISD. There was the relatively new Pebble Creek Elementary School and Rock Prairie Elementary School (actually 10 years old by that time), the freshly-renovated South Knoll Elementary School, Southwood Valley Elementary School, and College Hills Elementary School. There was also Oakwood Middle School and Willow Branch Intermediate School, and College Station Junior High to the south. But there were problems with that layout. Despite a recent expansion of Rock Prairie to Wellborn (meaning you no longer had to drive down to North Graham Road or go through Welsh if you weren't coming via highway), the the junior high was crowded, and the school pathway (all 5th graders going to Oakwood, all 6th graders going to Willow Branch).

So during that time (around 1999), the schools received a major shakeup. The elementary schools remained, but the grades 5-8 were changed dramatically. Willow Branch was renamed A&M Consolidated Middle School, got a minor renovation (including the demolition of the dome-like auditorium, a holdover from the days when Willow Branch was a high school) and held half of the city's 7th and 8th graders. College Station Junior High was renamed College Station Middle School (just a quick signage change, really). Oakwood Middle School lost its "Middle" namesake: that was for junior high schoolers, and held 5th and 6th graders. A new campus was built, Cypress Grove Intermediate School for 5th and 6th graders. But there were budget problems during construction, so Cypress Grove was left incomplete, with stubby wings and a few cut plans (like showers in the locker rooms). And because of the never-ceasing flow of kids, it meant it had to compensate with portables.

I say this because I did go to Cypress Grove and CSMS in the past. It was a different time back then: the "outdoor classroom" and garden surrounded by the track has been replaced by an expanded parking loop, the great trees and wilderness to the south, of which only you could see the tip of Christ United Methodist and the water tower was replaced by Creek View Elementary School, and the east, of which we could reach through the fence and grab dewberries, was eventually torn down for more subdivisions. Indeed, what was once the fringe had quickly turned into rapidly multiplying suburbia.

CSMS and AMCMS...I went to both, had very different layouts. The CSMS layout was confusing, as there were essentially five corridors (7th, 8th, Science, Elective, Gym/Cafeteria) that was wrapped around the library. This was in theory a good plan but the problem was the library was more impeding, forcing the central corridors to be very packed (and this was after the split). One neat thing about CSMS was it had three lines, the Cub Canteen, the Cub Café, and something else with C. It served pretty good food at the time: you could order a tall glass of sweet iced tea (they had sugar packets, too), but I doubt that's the same today with draconian food nutrition laws. A funny thing about CSMS was that in spring 1991 when it was built, the school's mascots was still the Kittens (as opposed to the Cubs), but unfortunately, I have no real references (yearbooks, articles, etc.) that actually confirm that fact, so take it with a grain of salt.

AMCMS was better in that the layout was basically an "X" with a central corridor and a second building that was a big loop. The "big loop" building was neat in the fact it had multiple gyms, ramps, and about three or four brick types on the outside. I don't know how much of that was from the original high school there, and what was Willow Branch construction.

I never went to Oakwood, but there was a mural on the south side that had cats on it (probably student-painted) that disappeared sometime in early 2006, and as a kid I always thought the Oakwood library was really cool and unusual (I wonder if it's still that way? Oakwood is one of the oldest, and thus, most architecturally interesting, of the CSISD schools, as far as I know).

Got any memories of CSISD schools, grades 5 through 8? Post 'em here!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Graham Road: History and Mysteries

Updated June 13, 2012: Added tags, removing an old link.

There may be a Graham Road today, with a gas station, schools, and lots of businesses, but it's not the same Graham Road of yesteryear. First off, a 1980s aerial picture did show the "multiple segments", and while it crossed the railroad, it did not go to Dowling (which was still one continuous road at the time). Secondly, it was in its "segments". While I couldn't compare aerials, I did find that on a 1990 city report that North Graham was recently extended past Victoria, which means the Castlebrook section was not part of the original Graham segment, and that means Victoria and Arnold were the other Graham segments.

Victoria Avenue between Castlebrook and Arnold, is, of course, a nice two-laned road with turning lanes, wide bike paths, and sidewalks, but Arnold Road is closed to traffic, except for little parts on both ends. The bike "cul-de-sac" at Arnold, as seen behind CSMS is where Old Schaffer intersects, which is mostly closed off to vehicular traffic, continues down to the current Graham Road, which probably continued some way before fizzling out. All this must have changed in the late 1980s, when the streets were added in that area (but no homes), with Graham Road being broken up into segments. This is the era in which the "people names" streets were added, and two of the new segments created from Graham included Arnold and Victoria, both of which were extended. Arnold must have been never improved and abandoned by the early 1990s (a detailed city map in 1994 shows it as "abandoned ROW"), probably around the time of the new junior high. South Graham must have been stubbed out to include Wellborn and the highway. North Graham then was extended to Dowling, cutting the road in two.

The problem is, of course, that's not actually how it turned out: Old Schaffer Road and Graham were not part of the original Graham, as maps show a road coming off of Graham, and bending toward the highway. That is modern-day Old Schaffer Road and Graham, making a right-hand turn that is right across from Cypress Grove.

I don't know the naming history of these roads, I don't know why they called this segment South Graham at all, unless the north end of Graham was always called North Graham Road, which would be odd because they cut off North Graham at Victoria (back when it actually connected to Victoria), and then in the late 1980s, added a segment to the north of it, calling it North Graham Road (again, this is Castlebrook). I've seen on maps that Old Schaffer, that is, the road (I think it doesn't have street sign) was called Schaffer Road, and then, in parenthesis, "E. Graham Road". It's all very confusing. It's possible that in the early days there were two roads: Graham and Schaffer, both out of town farm roads that led essentially nowhere (though Schaffer connected to the highway).

Graham's segments were extended, creating Victoria Avenue (possibly Victoria Road at first), Arnold Road, and North Graham Road. Schaffer's southern segment was extended, creating South Graham Road.

Whatever the case, Old Schaffer is mostly closed save for a drivable part near Cypress Grove (and a bit of Hasselt Loop), North Graham would ultimately be truncated, its railroad crossing and stoplight at Wellborn be completely torn up for suburbia (except for the northern most section, renamed Castlebrook), Rock Prairie extends past Victoria to Gandy (and beyond), and South Graham would get a total rehab, getting bike lanes, sidewalks, concrete, and turning lanes (like Victoria), and be renamed to simply Graham once more (this happened around 2002).

Arnold would become a bike path for most of its right of way.

It was always North Graham that struck a chord with me personally, from fuzzy memories of when it did cross Wellborn, and the great beyond that lay beyond the stoplight (sort of like the "green light" in The Great Gatsby, except in a different context).

I also found a Google Maps Street View picture of the truncation from the other side of Wellborn. This was demolished when Wellborn was widened.

Also, some pictures of the area and how has it changed. From top to bottom, 1995, 2003, 2010.

Here's the North Graham Retail article. It's not yet complete.

As a final word, here's the current ending of North Graham as it ends at Old Wellborn. I've always felt there was something sad about it...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

And now for something completely different

This post has been removed. As seen here, it focused on a mysterious "second span" of the Waco Suspension Bridge, which eventually turned out to be the remains of a long-defunct streetcar bridge.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Looking back at South Knoll

This is one of those posts back when I was still trying to figure out what to do with this blog. I will say that when I did go to South Knoll, my mother and I did visit the Kroger down the street pretty often. It's a better post to check out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

[Side Stories] The Whistle Stopped

Ever since I changed the name of this site to "In, Around, and About Brazos Valley" (for a time) it meant more than just covering roads and retail, it means covering history, also. Recently, I stumbled across some information on an old "whistle" that blew from the Texas A&M Power Plant, at 8 am, noon, 1 pm, and five pm. It was known throughout the entire town (until A&M President Jack Williams ordered it stopped in the 1960s or so, believing it to be too factory-like). The power plant and the nearby area have always been a bit intriguing: I mean, in the early 1920s, there was a full railroad spur that ran out that direction (abandoned in the 1930s...I think)

No one knows about the whistle today, if it's still around. Do you?

Note: prior to 5/12/12, this was "Power plant stories"
Over a year later, rebranded to Side Stories, removed name ("Power Plant Stories"), removed other water tower information

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Campus Theater

A much, much, better version of this 1989 shot is found here. This version is from TexasEscapes.

217 University Drive

The Campus Theater opened in Northgate in 1940, on the corner of Boyett and University. It was the first theater in College Station, and ended up lasting a very long time. Done in an art deco style and with a single screen (it had a balcony and cry room, too!), it survived sometime into the mid to late 1980s as competition forced it out of business (or maybe the Schulmans, which owned and built it, closed it in '85, along with their theaters in downtown Bryan. Makes sense in the timeline). (Here is an awesome shot of the cinema not too long after opening, but I don't have permission to post it).

After the theater began to deteriorate, around 1995 it finally reopened as Shadow Canyon, which soon after gave it a dreadful makeover by covering over much of the building in wood to give it a country-western theme, and that's been the type of tenant of it's been ever since. Shadow Canyon did well initially, but within a decade, they were out, after they started charging a cover and used gimmicks like wet t-shirt contests to gain attendance. Next up was Midnight Rodeo, which still has locations in San Antonio and Amarillo (an Austin location has closed since 2013). But the College Station location did not last nearly as long as Shadow Canyon, as it opened in early 2006 and closed by summer 2007. (There was another location in Katy Mills in Katy that closed about the same time, and was replaced with Circuit City, bet that went well for them). In 2008 (at least I think it was 2008), it became Daisy Dukes, owned by the Dallis brothers, which was a country-western dance hall. As you can see from a Panaramio picture below, it's obviously the same building, but horrible things have been done to it (sorry I lack a better picture).

Panoramio user rahulatiitd

So the building was clearly mauled, but it got worse. In spring 2013, Daisy Dukes took advantage of the upper level the original building had and opened rooftop seating right above the marquee, with seating and televisions. This was not only ugly but also raised the question if the circa 1940 roof clearly not designed to support tons of people would collapse one day (then again, these sorts of things were done with all sorts of redundancies). By November, it was renamed to Duke's, and by summer 2014 changed hands to The Tap's owners. Prior to this time, there was a lot of drama with the Dallis family including squatting in the Café Eccell building, DUI arrests, and the fact that a former manager of DD's (and an estranged brother, at least publicly) was arrested for something more major, and while initially The Tap talked about the space becoming "No Name Saloon" (which was just a temporary name and never actually on the marquee, the closest to that being when they were changing signs).

Their Twitter page actually "borrowed" the same Campus Theater page I had linked to (and I am absolutely sure they saw this page), but not only did they not restore the facade (not that I expected them to do so at all but the opportunity was there) it just remained a trashy dance hall, this time named Boulevard 217.

As a "parting shot", here's a from-the-back-seat picture I took of it on the night of October 30, 2014.

Horrible picture, I know, but it gets the point across

Rewrite 2015.

* This was cited from a link from The Eagle (now dead), but the URL indicated it was the June 8 2007 issue, if that helps.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Restaurant Wish List

With the BJ's Brewhouse and Chuy's in the mall parking lot, and new development areas elsewhere in town (even the undeveloped "Wolf Pen Village"), what restaurants do you want to see in town, and where? Please leave them in the comments. Fast food and traditional! (try to pick locations that do have Texas locations)

Mine are...
-Taco Bueno (the other side of Holleman, across from the Cottages)
-In N Out Burger (realistically, I could see that opening in Tower Point or whereabouts)
-Ruby Tuesday (because, really, who doesn't have one? Could go anywhere)
-Tinsley's Chicken n Rolls (former Red Lobster)
-Noodles & Company (Holleman Drive, or if they demolish the Plaza Hotel and build some sort of mega parking garage like Baylor, that's fine too)
-Cheesecake Factory (in front of the mall)
-California Pizza Kitchen (also in front of the mall)

Leave comments...

8/3/11 11:22 AM
Central Daylight Time