Showing posts with label side stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label side stories. Show all posts

Thursday, June 6, 2013

[Side Stories] From Badgers to the Light

Here's another [Side Stories] for you that would've been forgotten otherwise (plus, there needs to be interesting posts--and this one is at least a bit more light-hearted than others). I do love local ads of most types (car dealerships being mostly an exception), and I remember browsing through a phone book, and finding the ad for Dr. Gary R. Badger, DDS. I never went to Dr. Badger's pediatric dentistry or have any other connection with the man, so I can't tell you what he was like, but his ads were...well, take a look for yourself (he even had it on the uniform!).

The worst part is imagining all those poor children who created a mental image that this was what Dr. Badger really was like.

Actually, those kids, with their blank, dead eyes seem to take away some of the effect.

In any case, Dr. Badger later added Candace Light, DDS to his practice (about five months ago, both signs were on the door), but Dr. Badger had retired. Light renamed the practice to "Light Pediatric Dentistry" and created a new marketing brand, this time focused around the sun and blue skies (light).

Thus has ended the ads of Dr. Badger, but I'm gonna miss them. They were original: I have no idea who created the badger drawings, but it was definitely an eye-catcher in any advertising medium.

3318 Longmire Drive

Editor's Note: The other day we alluded to a "big post on College Main buildings", which, despite the name and all, will be smaller than the big Northgate post. However, it will have more information than what is currently featured, and will feature more pictures.

There will be something either tomorrow or Saturday which you'll definitely like and may have liked them in the past. Maybe.

Friday, February 8, 2013

[Side Stories] City of Bryan vs. Shack City

In 1970, Bryan had 200 buildings scattered around town that had been abandoned for years. Rotting porches, missing windows, and infested with rats, mosquitoes, and fleas. Until that time, there was nothing the city could legally do about it, until the Dangerous Buildings Ordinance was passed, which allowed the city to condemn and tear them down.

While it's true Bryan did decline this time, I'm still wondering about an alternate reality where these lots were never rebuilt and whole neighborhoods ended up looking like Detroit with empty houses on blocks.

I have at least one more update planned, with a handful of other ideas. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 4, 2013

[Side Stories] Easterwood Memories

Of my many regrets in documenting this town, I've long forgotten and lost many things: Manor East Mall, the stoplight at North Graham, the old pedestrian bridge over Wellborn, the old H-E-B Pantry, the old Kroger, and countless others. One of the things is the changes that the McKenzie Terminal building.

To date, I've only flown out from Easterwood Airport (the McKenzie Terminal, specifically) no more than 4 times (1998, 2008, 2010, and 2012), but I've been to the terminal building (built in the late 1980s or early 1990s). I can't remember the early days too much...the building had late 1980s décor, and had those black felt seats in the lobby area. There were always two airlines, Continental and American Airlines (I think they weren't connector lines then, but I could be wrong--and at one time, Delta operated, though don't know if they were operating at the same time). Given that my father went out on business trips, that always meant a trip to the airport. My mother would try to entertain us by having us count the white dots along the perimeter of the outside. We would rush up to the windows on the upper level (before they installed handlebars on it), and watch him take off, or arrive. Downstairs, the wood-paneled area near the baggage check had a little sign about the light that would go off. We'd take his suitcases, and drive off, every time, having parked in the upper level loop (short-term).

The entrance/exit was the downstairs front, with the departures on the right (metal detector and baggage X-ray)

Of course, about the time of September 11th, things started to change rapidly. With air traffic plummeting, in addition to new security measures, the airport made "improvements", starting with adding a wooden bar to the airport departure windows, updating the décor so it looked less from the 1980s, reopening the restaurant (it used to be entirely empty, except for something with an electronic sign display). Given that the last eatery closed in 1998 (what was the name?), it's no wonder why I never remember it being open. I definitely never ate there.

In 2003, as part of these "improvements", there was a new restaurant (Sully's Landing) and a gift shop on the opposite side (Reveille's News & Gifts). Unfortunately, Sully's never did too well (despite being one of the few places on campus that sold alcohol), so eventually the bar and food options were stripped out for "Easterwood Airport Howdy Café" that sells little more than coffee and pastries. Given that the flights after 9/11 plummeted and Easterwood was never a big airport anyway, it shouldn't have been a surprise.

One of my other memories is when American Airlines introduced jets on their commuter planes, before pulling out entirely a year later and relying on an airport brand that I forgot the name of. There was the time around 2009 when one of the auto rental places pulled out (forgot their name, too).

After a time where they closed off the bottom-right side of the stairs (expanding the security area), they decided to use tunnels. While this cleared out the lower level entirely (no more waiting in the small lower level "cove" or being restricted by grumpy TSA agents), it was somewhat devastating because not the fact that the gift shop was gutted, but almost the entire upper level (the viewing area upstairs) was closed.

So what that's what I remember about Easterwood. These changes are notoriously poorly-documented, but it's a start. Any memories you have of Easterwood or this terminal?

Monday, December 17, 2012

[Side Stories] All Hail the Late, Great Madden's Street Cuisine

The sad fate of the food truck, now a second Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro

Madden's Street Cuisine, which stopped delivering deliciousness around town early last summer is covered here. I ate there and got a repeat customer card (completely useless now) and a menu, both of which are pictured here for your infotainment.

The menu actually was printed on old scratch paper: the other side has some sort of multiple-course "Civil Engineering Staff Appreciation Lunch" with classy things such as "Tomato Bisque garnished with fresh mozzarella, saffron whipped cream and fresh basil chiffonade", but I didn't scan it since it's in poor shape (and only half of the page), and you could order stuff from the actual Madden's restaurant which is very much alive.

[Side Stories] Houston Street

This was the remnant of something called "Road Profiles", explained below. Originally "Road Profiles: Houston Street". It is currently under construction once more.

Welcome to Roads Profiles! This is the result of a brainstorming session I had, this takes a look at the individual roads of the area, returning some of the focus back to the original site name. Links to other articles at this site are in bold. This is subject to be edited, too, as I get more information.

I plan to make (or to retrofit) more of these to showcase smaller things and link to other articles. Don't worry, "real" articles are most certainly not dead.

Houston Street

There have been proposals to route Welsh down to Houston, but ultimately has fallen through due to neighborhood opposition. This was finally more or less confirmed in the late 2000s when the narrow section of Welsh north of Holleman was torn up and replaced with a narrow concrete road.

Houston Street's rerouting has changed several times. I could look it up at "Historic Aggieland", but it was down during the holidays, so I'll have to get caught up later. The earliest known route is in 1919 where it follows pretty much the same route as today, though with the missing parts filled in, a bit straighter near where Lechner is, and terminating at the south end of modern-day Koldus. Later on, it went through a slightly different route, curving into Fairview, before finally terminating at the intersection of Jersey (later George Bush) as it does today. By the time this happened, however, the MSC had expanded and the road was no longer in one segment.

Anyway, I always knew it as being in three parts: the south, the central, and the north. The south section is a concrete two lane road with bike lanes, with a stoplight at George Bush installed in 1995.

The expansion of the Memorial Student Center and the building of Rudder Tower in the early 1970s sealed off the connection between the center portion and the southern part of Houston Street. On the other side of Houston (which Lamar Street curves into), it's northbound only, and the striping is completely screwed up. Here's what I mean: in places, like, say Jones Street, it was once a narrow two-way road, but was modified into one way with bike lanes heading each direction. But on Houston Street, that's not the case: it's much narrower heading the opposite direction (with the yellow stripe) and a bit wider on the bike lane, and a wide single lane. The result is that buses often stop on the right to pick up and drop off, which means certain risk if you happen to be biking that way. The sensible thing would be is that since there are sidewalks, eliminate biking on the streets altogether, and change the lane closest to the east (with the stops) as a double-white-line buses-only lane and the other for vehicular traffic.

The YMCA Building I have yet to write anything on, but you can at least see some pictures here. Other buildings include the Richard Coke Building and the Beutel Health Center.

At All Faiths Chapel, the road curves into Jones and continues back south, but circa 2005, however, the connection to north campus finally reopened between the center and north portion after years of being for pedestrian use, but it was buses only (even on nights and weekends).

Near this bus connection, is Lechner Hall, one of the last on-campus dorms before the Northside Residence Hall was built (way back in 1986--no new dorms on campus were built for well over two decades--and no, the University Apartments don't count)

The entrance to the Underground and Einstein Bros. are off of Houston, too. Lot 32 is also here, it used to connect to the Special Services Building, and itself used to have the original "Aggieland Inn" from 1925 to 1966. Unrelated to the former Ramada, it was essentially a hotel for others to stay on campus without actually living there. It was doomed by the MSC (a much nicer on-campus hotel) and later the first Ramada Inn. It was torn down shortly after the Ramada opened off-campus. Recently, though, I noticed that Lot 32 has been torn up, probably for conversion into a concrete road (and/or access to the new dorm).

Originally, Houston split into two concrete shady separate lanes (but without bike lanes) and up to the stoplight at College Main and University, but in mid-2012, as part of a rehabbing of University Drive, the northbound lane past Sbisa was cut off and the southbound lane of Houston could only be accessed from University. The remainder was turned into bikes only.

YMCA Building - Renovated many, many times in the last century.
Sbisa Dining Hall - Sbisa's address is actually Houston, even though it faces Ross. The entrance to Einstein Bros. Bagels and the Underground face Houston.

Friday, July 20, 2012

[Side Stories] Bisbee the Cat

Bisbee the Cat

Image Credit:

There's not a whole lot I can say about Bisbee, who passed away in July 2012, as much has been said about him at other sources. He was a stray cat on campus (there were many strays on campus, which would flee at the sight of any humans) until he was caught by the Aggie Feral Cat Alliance, neutered, microchipped, and clipped (on the ear) to show the gender. Named for the building BSBE (Biological Sciences Building East) he became domesticated and became very friendly from the attention he got from passersby. Although often called a stray cat, he was well-fed and relatively well-groomed for an outdoor cat.

Like many Aggies, I often found Bisbee in the area and petted him (always appreciated) or at least said hello. Since Bisbee's passing, a statue has been proposed for the area but none has come. Other cats have since come into the area (including a black cat called "Ms. B" who soon had kittens) but although treated, most flee from people and stay back. Time will tell if other cats can become what Bisbee was to many.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

[Side Stories] Texas 47

Texas 47 was a highway of the 1990s, a short stretch running in west Bryan beginning sometime around 1997 or so. (Wikipedia says '87, but it didn't EXIST even in 1995)

First off is how it works: it's not really a "full" highway, either in the limited access state or even how to get on. It's mostly to get from College Station/TAMU area to the I-35 corridor area (Austin, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Temple, Killeen, San Antonio). That's why there are full ramps heading west out on 21 and west from FM 60, and ramps headed in those opposite directions. There's access turning eastbound from 47 and westbound from 47 to FM 60, but not any heading into 47 from those opposite directions. But I'm sure that if you're reading this blog, you're probably familiar with it, and not much more needs to be said.

What's neat about 47 is that's theres trees and rolling hills, making it a great no-sprawl gateway to A&M. There was one overpass built at Villa Maria (which extended out that area in the 1990s, replacing a part of Jones) built about 2009, but don't quote me on that.

But forces are underway to change that. The city of Bryan (and possibly College Station) tax based on zoning. Zoned commercial, you pay commercial taxes, which are higher than residential. Unfortunately (and very much UNLIKE SimCity, for instance), the city can zone property as commercial under someone's own property.

On Villa Maria and TX-47, someone (who my family knows, and thus, by extension, me) owns a large piece of property. It's some beautiful wooded area and there's even a metal-cut Reveille near the entrance. It's one of the sprawling areas on 47 that make it the "garden entrance" to B-CS, and those aren't my words.

Unfortunately, some folks at Bryan decided that the land would make more money as a commercial pad, possibly a gas station with fast food. They didn't have the right to force her and her family off the property, so they just zoned her land as commercial and started to bleed her dry because of taxes. That land is now for sale as of about a year ago: I don't know what's it's like now.

We should not use taxes to force people off land, or destroy good-looking rural parts in favor of more money. Can you imagine the riots if Bryan used this "tactic" on poor neighborhoods in Bryan? The way that you can re-zone ground under other's feet is wrong and while the people doing this may be within the law, it's a horrible thing to do.

The other thing notable about 47 was that it changed the way Riverside Campus was accessed. Prior to its building, there was an may have had a stoplight, maybe was before my time.

I also like to imagine that the railroad was still connected, or at least had remnants. Maybe overgrown trackage on either side with those overhead lights (but no gates!) popular with older Texas highways.

Today, the "original access" to Riverside Campus is nothing more than a forgotten dead end.

One more the 2000s (I think its finally overgrown) there were tire treads where instead of turning and going over 21 in preparation to merge, one unfortunate soul went forward and went off the steep end.

UPDATE 8/11/13: Updated to Side Stories format, removed some of the colorful language originally

Friday, June 8, 2012

[Side Stories] Millican and the South End of Wellborn Road

Millican is one of those places in Brazos County that is neither College Station or Bryan, which is a refreshing change in pace.

The great joy of the few times of driving down Wellborn Road (back when College Station ended at Graham Road/TX-40 and Wellborn was seemingly a charming urban oasis) was Millican.

Unlike the sad fate of Wellborn, Millican IS incorporated, so the biggest threat is becoming a bedroom community to College Station.

What makes Millican interesting is...a few reasons. For one, it's got one of the few places south in Bryan to make use of the railroad, a small fertilizer plant called American Plant Food Corporation, though unlike El Dorado in Bryan, doesn't seem to be much more than a huge warehouse. Secondly, FM 2154 tends to peel back from the railroad, still paralleling it, but at a distance of about a block away, to get things like a fertilizer plant in there. Secondly, it used to be far bigger than it used to be. Today it's around 100 people. Back in the Civil War days (1864), when it was the railroad terminus, the population was 3,000. This dwindled when the railroad expanded and hit Bryan in 1866, which caused Millican to lose the distinguished "railroad terminus", and just within a few years the population was in sharp decline. By 1867, there was yellow fever running through town, and by 1868 race riots had cost more lives, and by this time it already had less than half of the population it had four years prior (1,200). The last chance for Millican came when Phillips Petroleum Company dug a 17,000-foot well, but no oil was found. So, when the highway bypassed Millican in 1930, that was essentially the last straw and it got to the state it is now.

The other cool thing about it is that FM 2154 is that there's a large stop sign and a blinking light (or at least there was: a 2008 Google Street View image has the stop sign but no light on the sign...or maybe I was just imagining the blinking light on the sign) at FM 159, which if you travel north, the next stop is at Wellborn, and if you go right on FM 159, it will turn into Rock Prairie (eventually).

While it is kind of depressing that it shrunk so much (at its peak, it wasn't much smaller than Hearne and Caldwell are today), and of course it died before it got a chance to construct a "real downtown", it probably had to be done to allow Bryan and College Station to become larger. After all, had the railroad not extended out to Bryan, A&M would've been placed in Navasota, and history would be altered. Or if the oil well had struck gold, Navasota would be remembered as some dinky little community with a collection of houses and a graveyard, and maybe where Robert de LaSalle was killed (which he was). Millican would be the one with a downtown, fast food, a few hotels, a small high school, a Wal-Mart, and a Brookshire Brothers, and would become a bedroom community sooner than it would be.

Going a bit farther than Millican and entering Navasota (the ETJ, anyway: and yes, Millican is served by the NISD) we reach the end of FM 2154, which is not Wellborn Road at this point.

The current Wellborn Road ends on the first interchange of Brazos County, as Highway 6 (I use "Highway 6" and "Texas 6" interchangeably around here, so bear with me here) is limited access. It's also in the Navasota ETJ. For years, Highway 6 was an extremely dangerous highway past Greens Prairie, as there were no turn lanes or frontage roads. The many driveways, the slight hills, and the propensity for wildlife to suddenly come darting out of nowhere, were a significant danger to drivers, and the FM 2154 intersection was no exception. Sure, it was the only road in the stretch to have a dedicated left hand turn lane for the road, and that saved people's lives. Everywhere else was a death trap, with some horrifying accidents coming from it. I plan on covering Texas 6 at some point.

The current picture from Google Earth, showing both the current Wellborn Road, the older Wellborn Road segment until circa 2007, and a very old segment that connects Wellborn Road directly into Highway 6, lacks one important detail that made that area kind of special. There was a gas station, which I vaguely remember as having a small convenience store but many pumps. It was built after 1995, apparently, and torn down in less than a decade than when it was built. I don't think it was even any brand name.

A poster thinks the gas station was called "Victoria's" but I have no way of knowing that. On June 14, 2012, I changed the name of the post to read "South End" of Wellborn Road to coincide with a post I'm updating. May 31st, this got a Side Stories label.

Friday, January 20, 2012

[Side Stories] The Terrible Food at Blinn

Texas A&M University Dining used to be great: there's dozens of cool places to eat: there's a Chick-fil-A in the Underground food court, the all-you-can-eat offerings at Sbisa, the baked goods and coffee at Poor Yorick's Coffeehouse in the library, and dozens of others. There's even a few full "Rattler's" convenience stores that offer a wide selection of slightly overpriced, delciously unhealthy goodies. Of course, since the Compass takeover, all these have deteriorated, but it's still edible.

However, at Blinn, where I spent three semesters, that was not the case. There were exactly four (later five) places where you could get any food at all: there was the lobby of the library, where there were vending machines, a college bookstore that had a small selection of convenience items, and two no-name places in the Student Center: "Clux Delux" and "Block & Barrel". These establishments claim to provide a healthy alternative to fast food. A&M offers healthy alternatives to fast food, these places provided alternatives to edible food. Block & Barrel claimed to be a "deli", but all they had was pre-packaged sandwiches made at an unknown time and wrapped in plastic. These were soggy. There were also pre-packaged items that could be microwaved in-house, but they weren't very good either. Clux Delux was even worse. Although the franchise made it look a bit like a poor man's Chick-fil-A, but it wasn't. It was cafeteria food, sitting under heat lamps, which gave it a very unappealing look. And this wasn't cheap, either: $6.50 got you chips and a drink, but it wasn't worth it at all.

Later on, "Maui Wowi" opened, and offered smoothies and coffee. It was name-brand, but didn't offer that much besides smoothies and coffee.

The other option was a food truck that came on certain times, on certain days of the week. While they are award winning and have awesome food, they're way too expensive and come at too odd a time to be a reliable lunch option.

Unsurprisingly, most people never ate lunch at Blinn, with people only going to the places because they were desperate.

But I remember, way back when Blinn was opening the Student Center building, it had real food, one of which was a Taco Bell (I suspect the other was a Yum! Brands restaurant). Indeed, underneath the cheap banners of CD and B&B, you could see holes drilled in where the restaurant signs once were.

So, if you're going to Blinn, whether a Blinn student or a Texas A&M student, I suggest you avoid any classes near lunchtime at Blinn.

updated June 2013

Friday, September 30, 2011

[Side Stories] Just Train Crazy

Sometime in late 2005 and early 2006, George Bush Presidential Library, and by extension, the entire town, was wrapped up in a massive railroad exhibit.

"Trains: Tracks of the Iron Horse" opened in November 2005 in the Special Exhibits section of the George Bush Library. But unlike other special exhibits, it was wrapped up in an entire event that involved the city and Union Pacific itself. Union Pacific is the company that runs the railroad tracks in town (except for the ones in far south Brazos County--that's BNSF), having acquired them from Southern Pacific (I think) in 1996.

And regardless of being a railroad town in name only--the trains quit stopping here officially in 1995, and by the time this happened, Callaway Villas had poured concrete over where the Amtrak station once was, leaving only an overgrown platform (that's progress, I guess).

But Tracks of the Iron Horse was impressive, and kicked off numerous things in town.

#1: If you had money to spend, there was a train ride in the brand new George Bush 4141 (a specially painted Union Pacific train) to Dallas. Yes, the luxury of going in a real train from College Station (where trains only stop under unusual circumstances) to Dallas would cost you: $250 a person and up! (link)

It's likely it went on the same route up to Dallas via Corsicana. Because of the Villa Maria underpass construction at the time, and a change in the way the tracks crossed downtown, the train didn't parallel Finfeather.

#2: After the train ride, a special spur was built near the pedestrian overpass that housed the 4141. She's a beauty, and in the time since, I've seen it several times. I once got in an argument on Flickr that I had just seen it in town when the other person claimed it was in the storage yards. So obviously one of us was mistaken, or UP made multiple 4141s.

#3: Local businesses and other institutes bought fiberglass trains for $2500 to paint. I have a full brochure (it's on Project HOLD somewhere) that details the exhibit and also the train details, but here's the list. I saw the "Hot-N-Ready Express" the most often, but there were many others. In 2006 they were auctioned off, though there are still a few hanging around town.

#4: There was a talk done by the Union Pacific President and Former President George H.W. Bush, which I went to. And I talked to former President George H.W. Bush, which was amazing.

#5: There was a giant model train in the rotunda of the museum.

#6: The exhibit featured a "timeline" of how various railroad companies were eaten up to become an oligopoly industry today.

All in all, it was a fantastic exhibit and a fantastic era (if short) of the city, and one of the highlights of the year 2005. I had liked that year so much in particular that last summer on the now-defunct Two Way Roads, I dedicated an entire summer to The Spirit of 2005. Two Way Roads, of course, is defunct and often has terrible writing, but CSR&R is a spin-off of it, and thus some credit has to be given.

In the future, I may update this post with pictures of the glossy book that was handed out during that time (it's paperback and essentially a giant advertisement for UP, but it's just that cool).

EDIT 3/20/12: A better link for those train statues.

May 2013 Update: Side Stories

Monday, September 26, 2011

[Side Stories] Turkey Creek: FM 2513

Updated June 2013

Back in early 2011 I created a post called "Turkey Creek: The Old FM", but the whole thing was based on the assumption that Turkey Creek Road was the old FM 2818. But I did more research and found out that I was wrong. So I removed the post and eventually forgot about it. But in September of that year, I found it and updated it again.

It's 1956 in Snook, what's the quickest, distance-wise, to get to downtown Bryan?

Well, FM 60, of course. You could keep going west and go into Texas A&M College, but that's a bit out of the way. Isn't there an easier way? Today, you could go on FM 2818, but back in the 1950s to 1970s, people didn't have that option. They DID have, however, FM 2513, which takes you to directly to Carson Street.

A distinctly different road, FM 2513 is a bit blurry to read, but what happened to it?

Well, part of it was replaced with FM 2818, but it's still mostly intact. Turkey Creek Road, yes, from Bryan to the airport.

It would make sense, of course: Farm to Market roads were around long before the West Loop, and why else would there be two Turkey Creek Roads?

I had theorized that they did connect, and if you looked at the way the grass is after Turkey Creek Road connects to Harvey Mitchell near the Dick Freeman Coliseum, it supports that.

The College Station segment was never really improved. The West Loop opened (I'm guessing...1972-1973?) as a two-way road, which likely caused the existing Turkey Creek to be torn up and rebuilt, and the rest of Turkey Creek, now in two segments, to lose its status as a FM. While the section between FM 60 and F&B had homes and got the old "tar and gravel" treatment (it was eventually paved), Turkey Creek between F&B and Harvey Mitchell was never improved, and retained a narrow, badly-paved section. Historical, but hardly drivable material. This remained into the early 1990s, when a new terminal was built for Easterwood Airport, causing Turkey Creek to be extended under Raymond Stotzer Parkway (an overpass was completed circa 1996) as William A. MacKenzie Terminal Road. However, from the other end of 2818, anyone looking to turn onto Turkey Creek for a quick shortcut to the airport would be very sorry.

In the late 2000s, F&B gained a stoplight and extended, causing Turkey Creek to be broken in multiple segments, so that there were two different segments. At least now one segment of Turkey Creek WAS a shortcut to the airport. Shortly afterward, in 2009 or 2010, the oldest and worst segment of Turkey Creek was closed. There's gates and barbed wire, with a cul-de-sac at the southern end, but it hasn't been torn up. It's a private road (and sometimes I see the gate near the 2818 side open). Sadly, as much as I'd like the actual feel of a genuine old Texas farm-to-market road, potentially getting stuck/cited for trespassing is not one of my favorite things to do.

One more thing: prior to F&B's major expansion, it was planned that Turkey Creek (CS) was going to widened significantly to become a major road. Oh well, it was doomed anyway...

The Bryan section I'm less familiar with, and it did keep its FM status for a little while longer. Originally, the intersection with 2818 was completely different.

This isn't actually that intersection, but it's a close replica: it's a tilted version of the Texas 21/William Joel Bryan Parkway intersection redone in the late 1990s or early 2000s, though the Turkey Creek/2818 was redone years before it, possibly to create a small extension. I do enjoy the Turkey Creek interchange, it's possibly the last place with the overhanging yellow and red blinking lights (the ones at 47 go way too fast, dang LEDs). That's worth it for the nostalgic factor, and I always passed those lights, and I'm glad that it's one of those things on those Waco trips I used to take when I was younger that's still around (unlike Hearne's railroads and a few other things).

UPDATE 6/18/12: AND IT'S GONE in early 2012, with only the concrete bases remaining. However, to be fair, it was for the 2818/Villa Maria interchange, so I guess it at least has an actual REASON.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

[Side Stories] George Bush Presidential Library and Museum: The First Ten Years

Yes, IA&ABV is alive after all: I'm not going to leave you hanging (that's a tactic of other blogs/websites I know), so here's another post.

To be honest, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, whether or not you are a Republican or have even a semblance of respect for G. H. W., is a profound achievement of College Station and the greater area.

I don't really have a bunch of pictures on the Library, I just have a map (as seen below) and eggs. Easter eggs, that is, and we'll get to those later (eventually).

The 2007 renovation changed a lot of things for the worst, but here are some of the general (and specific) memories I have:

- Security was amped up a lot after 9/11. There were hidden cameras everywhere, but it wasn't until post-9/11 that a permanent bag check was established near the entrance. Prior to that it was just a nice open area where you could probably find a corner to curl up next to an air conditioning vent (I know I did).

- The Ansary Gallery of American History is a temporary exhibit gallery. Over the years (prior to 2007), there was a general 1960s Americana thing: I specifically remember a tiny putting range (that you could use!) and an old Wheaties box. That was the first temporary exhibit, and over the years, it included so many things that they're largely forgettable. One of the things I remember was the "Miniature White House", in which you just looped around the giant (and detailed) dollhouse and went back out again. Another one was about trains, but I'll talk about that in a bit.

- There was a holographic baseball in "The Family, The Man" section, but it was several years until I was tall enough to see it on my own. Still, it was really neat, but it was removed with the renovation (holographic images were really popular in the late 1990s)

- The World War II area actually never changed over the renovation, which I like. There's a film on George Bush getting shot down and rescued later, and also a metal platform with information on some WWII planes (including the Enola Gay, which dropped the first atomic bomb)

- There was also a wall of television screens, which screamed "1990s" and was taken out after the renovation.

- "The Overlook" originally had nothing, it was turned into a (rather tacky) quasi-museum area after the remodel.

- "Air Force One" was a neat exhibit, it was styled to look like an airplane cockpit, complete with the sound of pressurized air. You could buckle up in one of the seats, but the buckles were removed in the late 1990s and remained that way until just a few years prior to the renovation.

- There was a Berlin Wall exhibit, which I honestly forgot is still there or not. It used to have several black and white pictures and a color monitor. Most notably, it had a chunk of the Berlin Wall, with graffiti on one side, and nothing but concrete on the other.

- "The Gulf War" exhibit was later de-rided in its later years for being a bunch of chintzy lights, but I tell you, it was something really neat. There was a huge 3D (at an angle) map of the Middle East, with LEDs going off as a video was telling you was telling you about the Gulf War. The lights indicated troop movements, bombing raids on Iraq as a bunch of rapidly flickering lights (then fading), missle movements, and little red lights indicating where Saddam set the oil on fire as he was leaving Kuwait. Lights would flash overhead when the missles hit (such as the Scuds being aimed at Israel). It gave me chills watching it every time, and back in that era, Saddam was still at large post-Kuwait. The exhibit that replaced it really is pathetic compared to what it once was.

- Toward the end, there were machines (I think they're still there, but they cost extra...I think) where you could input your name and pick a number of pre-selected questions to get a "letter from the President". The novelty wore off quickly. Also toward the end was tourist information. I always picked up this digest-sized "dining guide" that had menus of restaurants all over town (including but not limited to the late Deluxe Diner).

- There was a time in 2nd grade where we were taking a tour and saw Barbara Bush walking her dogs. We thought we were so lucky because the other class missed it, but then another class got their picture with her. :/

- One of the best times during the pre-remodeling was the 2005 train exhibit...but I've decided to save that for another time, as it really is a story in itself.

- I don't know if it's still there, but there was a "Millie's Activity" thing where there were doghouses periodically that had questions for kids. I think there were two levels, one for beginners and one more advanced.

Friday, September 16, 2011

[Side Stories] Texas A&M...OF THE FUTURE!!

Here we have an article I scanned in a long time ago for Project HOLD on a separate page elsewhere that was eventually put on permanent hiatus when I realized that College Station Roads and Retail was a much cooler project than submitting it to Project HOLD (which, as you know, is VERY difficult to navigate: my site has a lovely index to browse through).

Anyway, here's the one article I scanned, an reprinted article from January 9, 1957 (reprinted from an anniversary edition):

As you can see, there's both real predictions, laughable predictions, and things that would become scarily realistic later.

Let's see, highlights:

• "The campus is too spread out. Students have to travel all over the campus to attend classes." DING! Give this man a prize: this is a problem today, with loads of buses, hundreds of pedestrians, and idiot bicyclists*. Keep in mind that this was written before West Campus, too.

• Saving two million dollars every year would NOT get us a new campus, even accounting for inflation.

• The military aspect HAS been greatly diminished. More than 50% are "civilians", but the Corps of Cadets isn't eliminated.

• Highway 6 (by this time, Texas Avenue) had been four laned, but by 2000, that was the business route of 6.

• "...and the railroad will be replaced by a monorail" is a definite reminder that these people still had the "flying cars to the moon" future in mind.

* I by no means mean to imply ALL bicyclists are idiots, only certain ones. You know who I'm talking about.

EDIT 3, May 28th 2013: Updated some to fit in with modern site

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.

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

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

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Big List of Road Closures, Renames, and Rerouting

This page is no longer located at Brazos Buildings & Businesses. Click here to visit the new page.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Actual Koppe Bridge

Minor paragraph added on March 18, 2012, rename from "Koppe Bridge"
Addition on May 15, 2013, changed categories, added [side stories] tag

Today, most people associate "Koppe Bridge" as one of the tasty local hamburger joints in town, but at one time, it was an actual bridge.

The problem? It's gone. Totally.

Here the bridge is in the 1960s.

That's not an eye trick, the bridge has literally twisted and was condemned.

But surely there must be some remnant left. After all, the support columns of I&GN railroad are still on the Navasota River, right?

Right, so there must be remains. Not so: I've combed up and down the Brazos River and can't find any trace of it, at least on Google Earth.

A map reveals the location of the bridge, so it must be right here (ignore the mislabeling, they screwed up Penberthy's location in the past). The other side of the bridge must have gone up the other side and gotten back to FM 50.

Shame they condemned it, it would be cool to have some backwoods/backdoor entrance to Brazos County, and an old-timey steel truss bridge at that.

Realistically, though, if it DID survive, I think it would probably be transformed into a walking path nonetheless, much like bike paths that go through nowhere only because the path was an old railroad right-of-way.

UPDATE 2/6/11: The Koppe Bridge website (for the restaurant) claims they incorporated some timbers from the original bridge. However, they also claim that the bridge was destroyed in the 1920s, when it at least was intact into the 1960s. And since the restaurant opened in 1992, who knows how they acquired it?

UPDATE 3/18/11: With the latest Google Maps update, you can see much more of where the bridge was. The previous picture, taken in early 2010, was taken during a very wet year. The current photo now was in October 2011, when the drought was in full effect. Still doesn't look like much.

UPDATE 5/15/13: Google Maps has the Brazos flowing better. Looks like some trees are caught on something...and they haven't changed the wrong road name on there!

[Side Stories] LoTrak

Updated on June 28, 2013, with the correct spelling of the word, also renamed from "LoTrack: What Little We Know"
Being in College Station, I can say that The Eagle keeps the worst archives of newspapers around.

One of the more interesting things I heard I've heard about the history of the city was the circa-1993 proposal of "LoTrak" officially) was a way to avoid railroad crossings along Wellborn Road.

The main reason is that both College Station voters didn't want to do it (or was it Texas A&M?) even though TxDOT, the county, and Bryan would do it (it would cost millions, as seen above).

The original plan (seen above) was a sunken trench that would basically allow trains to descend about 25 feet below street level around Southwest Parkway, and convert Wellborn Road to a divided highway. What's bizarre is that Villa Maria Road and FM 2818 (it was FM 2818 back then!) as railroad crossings, which ironically are the only ones today that have replaced their at-grade crossings with overpasses or underpasses since the LoTrak proposal.

I've heard some earlier conflicting stories about this (source and other source), as some have claimed that it would go past 2818, or be partially elevated (possibly around University, maybe, which already had an overpass)

Later the possibility came up of rerouting the railroad to the west (that I remember) around 2001. That was even more difficult to imagine. First off, had they done that, my best friend would've moved out of town (he had lived in River Run). Furthermore, I couldn't imagine (and still can't, frankly) the railroad being abandoned along Wellborn. That would leave a lifeless right-of-way along Wellborn, bumping over patched crossings and seeing nothing but a scarred grass path, which would eventually give way to a full highway.

Updated to 2013 Format 5/15

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Villa Maria Road, Finfeather, and the North End of Wellborn Road

Historically, for me, the last stretch of Wellborn Road was really neat, but it always carried historic fear, as the only reason to go that way would be going to the pediatric dentist. But the reason I wanted to cover this (originally planned as part of the defunct "Wellborn Way" plan). This post has been going on and off for several years now (it's one of the oldest posts in the collection). As a result, there are some things that are somewhat dated, as well as the overall structure of the post. I've tried and re-tried to rewrite the post but was never able to properly.

After passing the last stoplight for the FM 60 overpass, the road goes through a relatively sharp bend downward, quite noticable at 40 MPH. It also loses the left-hand turn lane, replaced with a median that prevents U-turns. Church Street is on the right, until the mid-2000s or so, it had a distinctive brown street sign with the same font but also a little CS logo (the one that looked like a snail). The font was the same as most of the other street signs, but the brown signs gave it distinction. Today, there's a different brown sign, but I miss the old ones.

The stretch of Wellborn in Bryan was always quite from College Station, rather than the modern paving of the College Station stretch (with its left hand turn lane and stripes), the Bryan paving had redder, older pavement, and Botts dots instead of stripes.

The Old College stoplight was quite old. I like it because of the almost curved pole, and how the green light has kind of has an inner burned orange. It's warmer than those newfangled LED lights, which are as ugly as all get out, at least without the diffusers. I nearly cried in 2012 when I discovered that they WERE replaced with LED lights. There's three apartment complexes. The first is the horrifically tacky Wave's Z Islander, which opened circa 2009.

I'd rather have those trees than Z Islander. By a long shot.

The railroad on the left goes through trees and is at a higher grade than Wellborn. After passing Montauk (leading into a subdivision built roughly at the time of the underpass), you enter the Villa Maria underpass area.

When I went to Blinn (and later, worked at Village Foods), I really did enjoy going under the Villa Maria underpass (west to east). Not that going underpasses is so great, more often than not I'm driving into the sun, and am often stopped at the stoplights, but given my daily commute, it is nice not to be backed up by trains. And when they redid the overpass, they also took out access to Green Road...that blind curve was not fun, especially if someone was turning left out of it.

But I still missed the way it was set up before the construction.

Villa Maria Road and Finfeather was one of the cooler road set-ups that I kind of miss (the admittedly less-exciting North Graham Road is coming up next). I don't have photos to give you justice, but I DO have this aerial photo that was taken in 2004.

As you can see, the two railroads are separated from each other paralleling Wellborn, coming together after the crossing. But to me it was more than that.

(click for higher-resolution)

As you approached Villa Maria from Wellborn, you would just go straight and meet a red barricade blocking a path to the golf course. Going right led you to College Avenue and the Green Street Death Trap™ but going left led you across the two tracks and the Finfeather stoplight, which I believe was a normal stoplight but of the hanging variety.

It was especially cool to me how, despite the large gap of the tracks, if one crossing guard went down, so did the other. The fact that one track was skewed made the effect even cooler.

Unfortunately, what was "cool" wasn't necessarily safe. And due to the very odd position of the tracks (about sixteen feet above the Wellborn level), it was not really safe at all. A train de-railed near the intersection in early 2003 (or 2004), and construction began in late 2004 or early 2005. When it was all over, the result was that Finfeather no longer had direct access to Villa Maria and the gas station at Finfeather and Villa Maria was forced to convert its prices to the electronic style so it could be seen.

Today, it's pedestrian accessible, there are neat graphics on the underpass side (such as the Queen Theater, which was installed long before the Queen was actually restored), and it's a lot safer for pedestrians, trains and automobiles alike.

But back in the day, there was the intersection of Tee Road, and then the stoplight and that red barricade that indicated that Wellborn had come to an end.

I used to believe that the red barricade had blocked off part of Wellborn that once existed long ago.

After all, Wellborn had paralleled the railroad until the county's end, and the space beyond was pretty clear-cut, as if something had been there in the past, and maps showed that Texas Avenue was pretty close to the railroad (this was before Google Maps, mind you). Even though I was wrong (and completely disproved as late as 2009), it was a question I had for years.

One more thing...there was a Citgo on the corner of Finfeather and Villa Maria, originally a 7-Eleven and later an EZ Mart (later renamed EZ For You, keeping the logo intact) which had stores facing the east side, originally a fish market (The Fishman) and later other stores that were never successful (Omar's Upholstery among them). The Citgo eventually became an Exxon as well, but still suffers from poor access. I'm surprised that it's still open and kept up in decent condition...while it's visible from Villa Maria, you'd have to make two rights to get up there.

Finally, just west of the intersection was Doug's Ace Hardware...long before Ace Hardware came to town, there was Doug's Ace Hardware on Villa Maria. In simple block lettering, the store...well, I don't really know a whole lot about it, like when it opened, but I'm thinking the 1980s.

Eventually "Ace" was removed off of the sign. This was long before Ace came into town, and I thought it was a bit underhanded. Then it closed altogether shortly after, circa 2006. It's now Enercon. I never went inside until after it became Enercon.