The Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC)’s newest quarterly newsletter will offer updates on exciting happenings at HMRC. Our spotlight articles will give you a closer look at our materials, tips and research help from our expert staff, and much more
HMRC houses around 5 million photographs. Recently, we identified and digitized many images documenting NASA and its efforts to land on the moon. These images are now ready to view just in time for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20, 1969.
We have two significant photo collections at HMRC that capture this historic era: the Bert Brandt Photographs (MSS 0087) and the Houston Post Photographs (RG D 0006).
Many of Brandt’s photographs document the early days of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, originally called the Manned Spacecraft Center. This 1962 aerial photo provides an early view of the site.
In Brandt’s images, we also see the groundwork that supported space exploration. We can see some of the math involved.
In this distinctly Houstonian photograph, Brandt records a trail ride taking place in front of the Manned Spacecraft Center in 1965.
Photos from the Houston Post newspaper provide a more local perspective. This photo reminds us that President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech about going to the moon took place at right here in Houston at Rice Stadium.
The Post archives also includes images of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins at the Apollo 11 post-flight press conference.
The Houston Post photographers also recorded the parade in downtown Houston celebrating the Apollo 11 astronauts after their return to Earth.
HMRC has digitized dozens of images showing the Manned Spacecraft Center, the Apollo 11 mission, and other NASA endeavors. However, the HMRC photography archives contain many more still waiting for the researcher, documentary filmmaker, or casual history enthusiastic to discover.
These and other recently digitized images of Houston’s—and indeed, humanity’s—history will be shared online through the Houston Area Digital Archives.
“Aerial View of the Site for the Manned Spacecraft Center,” MSS 0087-1372, Houston Public Library, HMRC
“Printout of formula with lunar lander,” MSS 0087-2488, Houston Public Library, HMRC
“Trail Ride in Front of Manned Spacecraft Center,” MSS 0087-1330, Houston Public Library, HMRC
“President John F. Kennedy at Rice Stadium,” RG D 0006N-6106-008, Houston Public Library, HMRC
“Apollo 11 Post-Flight Press Conference,” RG D 0006N-1969-3379, Houston Public Library, HMRC“Apollo 11 Ticker Tape Parade in downtown Houston,” RG D 0006N-1969-3813-001, Houston Public Library, HMRC
In the celebratory aftermath of the Apollo 11 mission, the City announced plans to build Houston’s first major downtown park commemorating the event. The name Tranquillity Park was in reference to the location where the lunar module Eagle landed; the Mare Tranquillitatis, or the Sea of Tranquility.
It covers 120,000 square feet, bounded by Walker, Capitol, Bagby, and Smith Streets. The park was proposed in addition to an underground parking garage. The project carried over three administrations from Louie Welch to Fred Hofheinz to Jim McConn.
As early as 1970 there were conceptual models of the park, and in 1971 a discussion of creating light sculptural installations and a space hall-of-fame. But the project lay dormmate nearly five years as the parking garage was being built.
The park became part of the City of Houston Bicentennial Project, which was to include the revitalization of Allen’s Landing and the beautification of Buffalo Bayou. In the summer of 1975 a fund drive was announced to build the park because money was scarce. Three million dollars came from private donors and two million was given in matching park bonds by the City.
Notable Houston architect Charles Tapley and his associates were on the project from the beginning. The construction was completed by the Manhattan Construction Company. Some of the difficulties that Tapley faced were the towering fountains in the center of the park. The fountains, funded by and named for Gus Wortham were designed to conceal the exhaust pipes for the parking garage. Additionally, sculpture artist Henry Moore was to have a cast of his Large Spindle Piece displayed in the park but was ultimately unhappy with the tight space and the angular architecture of the park.
The spelling of Tranqullity did not come easily either. City Council had to defer and request an official report from the Houston Public Library on whether the word should be spelled with one “L” or two. It was a matter of translation versus transliteration, and Mrs. Jackson C. Hinds, chairman of the park task force was in favor of spelling it with two. The task force officially states; “In the case of Houston’s park, the intent is to make the name of special note. The use of two ‘ells’ makes it special.” Mayor Jim McConn went along with the decision “primarily because of her group’s overall interest in the completion of the park.”
The dedication ceremony was publicized around City Hall by the distribution of “launch bags” encouraging citizens to bring their lunch to the ceremony. The ceremony occurred on July 20, 1979, ten years after the moon landing. People who attended the ceremony received paper sun visors, listened to an armed forces band, and watched the launch of 2,500 balloons into the sky.
Pictures feature material retrieved from HMRC vertical files “VF-H-Tranquillity Park”
 Hinds, Mrs. Jackson C., “Official position on the spelling of tranquility park,” March 27, 1979, retrieved from HMRC vertical files VF-H-Tranquillity Park
 Houston Chronicle, “Much ado about tranquility,” March 14, 1979, retrieved from HMRC vertical files VF-H-Tranquillity Park
Each fall, HMRC celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, the 30-day period from September 15 to October 15. (Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15 is to commemorate independence of several Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.)
This year, we invite you to experience the sights and sounds of Houston’s Latino music history with our exhibit: Música! A History of Hispanic Sounds in Houston. From the heydays of the Shamrock Hotel to nights at the Pan American, this exhibit will feature archival photographs, posters, and oral histories that reflect a diverse and significant contribution to Houston music.
Among the featured musicians in this exhibit is Patricio Gutierrez (1896-1985). Patricio was born in San Antonio, but moved to Houston with his family at an early age. In his youth, he was the organist at Holy Rosary Catholic Church and First Presbyterian Church. He later played piano and French horn with the early Houston Symphony Orchestra, and was one of its first soloists.
Patricio was a member of the Houston Professional Musicians Association, Local 65 for most of his life. When he joined this union in 1907, he was their youngest working member and, at his death, the oldest. He played chamber music at the Brazos, Rice, and Lamar Hotels, and even at the movies. In his own words:
“I used to play silent movies, you know? I used to play between the movies, they had a little show. Amateur show. And I was a pianist, see? But that was a union job for me. …But I started playing in the movie house …And I was getting $18 a week, boy, and I was in heaven! Eighteen dollars. For 25 cents, I could go and get myself a treat …”
Patricio came from a musically talented family. His father, Jesus, was a bassist, and his brother, Fred, played violin in the Houston Symphony. His brother Joe played clarinet, and his Uncle Joe played the trombone. Patricio recalls lessons with his father:
“my daddy used to tell me when he played violin, ‘I’m going to play, I’m the leader. Watch me, what I do. Play the way I want you to learn.’ …He’d slow down the tempo when it got there, and like accelerate when it got there, you’d listen. So sure enough, he would--he’d do something and bingo, he had to have it recorded. This is –with his little bow, he hits me in the head, ‘You got to listen!’ So that’s my training.”
Patricio’s wife, Edith Gutierrez, taught piano in Houston for many years and together founded Greenbriar Music Studios. His stepdaughter, Pauline Oliveros, is a renowned composer and accordionist.
Hispanics have contributed to the Houston music scene in every genre and every decade. Patricio Gutierrez represents one of the early Mexican American musicians who played a significant role in the classical and jazz music scenes in Houston. Visit our fall Música! exhibit to learn more about Patricio and the significant history of Hispanic musicians in the Bayou City.
Pictures feature archival materials from the Patricio Gutierrez Collection (SC 1310).
 OH 0293 Patricio Gutierrez, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, interviewed on January 27, 1980.
Every year the City of Houston holds a poster contest for children to depict City of Houston employee positions. Ruby Cahlik, age 7, created a poster showcasing the Texas Room of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center. She received honorable mention for her age group. I asked Ruby about her illustration and her experience at HMRC.
Why did you choose to design your poster with maps?
“My Mom, and I love her very much, works at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center and I noticed there were a lot of maps in the center of the room. I really like newspapers and maps from the old times. There’s a lot of cool stuff in the old times. I think it’s interesting because people in the old times really didn’t know about electronics.”
Ruby further explained that she was able to notice the changes over time by looking at maps from different decades. She continues;
“I thought maps were cool and I really wanted to show off the research center so that’s why I thought it was a good idea to have maps in the poster. I also think it’s neat that you can get copies (reproductions) of the maps.”
What are some other areas or events that you have been to at HMRC or the Julia Ideson Building?
“One time I went with my girl scout friends to the building. I really liked the Norma Meldrum Children’s Room. We were able to look at some books, but we had to be very careful because of their condition. I also like going to the second floor of the building and looking up to see all the windows and pretty decorations on the wall.”
“It was cool because there was also a jazz exhibit I went to. There were jazz players, yummy refreshments, and I listened to jazz records by Wilton Felder. This was real jazz music! I had never really listened to jazz music like that before and I felt like it made me happy. I liked it, I liked listening to it. I also liked the band.”
At the end of the interview and after looking through all the drawings from the contest, Ruby said in amazement;
“I can’t believe I was the only one who drew a poster about the Houston Metropolitan Research Center!”
I may be a little biased, because Ruby’s my daughter, but I must say she represented HMRC well! Check out all the entries here.
Pictures courtesy of Abra Schnur.