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Houston in the 1930s: What Houston Looked like During the Great Depression

In 1930, Houston had a population of 292,352. The city was still growing despite the stock market crash. In 1930, a dozen skyscrapers were completed, including the Sterling Building. The modernization of downtown continued in 1931 with the demolition of the Hotel Brazos and a house built in 1841 at Louisiana and Prairie. The Turning Basin’s infrastructure was improved with more dredging east of Harrisburg and new docks. Several roads were paved during this period. There was a rise in air travel as new services between Houston and Atlanta began. Four significant downtown buildings were auctioned off during the Depression, despite this economic activity. Floods hit the city in December 1935, causing over $1 million in property damage and killing six people. Texas and Houston celebrated their centennials in 1936.

In 1931, Jesse H. Jones led local bankers to pool their resources to save weaker banks. Despite this, building activity in the private sector declined during the worst part of the Great Depression in 1932 and early 1933. A new Houston City Hall and the Lamar High School were constructed with assistance from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Works Progress Administration during the mid-1930s. Commercial and passenger facilities at Houston International Airport expanded during the 1930s, and Braniff, Eastern, and Southern airlines all offered regular flights by 1941.

#1 Shantytown Along Houston Street

Shantytown Along Houston Street

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#2 Tug at refinery dock. Port of Houston, Texas

Tug at refinery dock. Port of Houston, Texas

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#3 Oil well with wooden derrick, near Houston, Texas.

Oil well with wooden derrick, near Houston, Texas.

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#4 View of downtown rooftops, 1930s.

View of downtown rooftops, 1930s.

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#5 Oil refinery on the bank of the ship channel. Port of Houston, Texas

Oil refinery on the bank of the ship channel. Port of Houston, Texas

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#6 Oyster shell barges at unloading dock of cement plant. Port of Houston, Texas

Oyster shell barges at unloading dock of cement plant. Port of Houston, Texas

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#7 The Duke of York at the turbine factory of British Thomson-Houston in Rugby.

The Duke of York at the turbine factory of British Thomson-Houston in Rugby.

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#8 Result of a duck shoot near Houston, Texas, United States of America, 1931.

Result of a duck shoot near Houston, Texas, United States of America, 1931.

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#9 Corner of the Shopping Strip on 1201-1209 Caroline St. Campaign headquarters of Anthony Hall, running for Congress.

Corner of the Shopping Strip on 1201-1209 Caroline St. Campaign headquarters of Anthony Hall, running for Congress.

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#10 Zion Lutheran Church, 1930s.

Zion Lutheran Church, 1930s.

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#11 Dedication of Colored Carnegie Library, 1930s.

Dedication of Colored Carnegie Library, 1930s.

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#12 Aerial of Rice University campus, Houston, 1930s.

Aerial of Rice University campus, Houston, 1930s.

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#13 Two men standing on dirt road near an oil well, 1930s.

Two men standing on dirt road near an oil well, 1930s.

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#14 YWCA building, 1930s.

YWCA building, 1930s.

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#15 Congress Avenue, Houston, 1930s

Congress Avenue, Houston, 1930s

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#16 Man in front of a store with wooden crates and car in foreground.

Man in front of a store with wooden crates and car in foreground.

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#17 Houston Fire Station No. 6

Houston Fire Station No. 6

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#18 New rebuilt Harris County Courthouse.

New rebuilt  Harris County Courthouse.

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#19 Citizens State Bank

Citizens State Bank

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#20 Industrial plant on the banks of the Port of Houston, Houston, 1930s

Industrial plant on the banks of the Port of Houston, Houston, 1930s

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#21 Trees and moss along the bayou, Port of Houston, Houston, 1930s

Trees and moss along the bayou, Port of Houston, Houston, 1930s

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#22 Industrial plant on the banks of the Port of Houston, Houston, , 1930s

Industrial plant on the banks of the Port of Houston, Houston, , 1930s

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#23 Trees and moss along the bayou, Port of Houston, Houston, , 1930s

Trees and moss along the bayou, Port of Houston, Houston, , 1930s

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#24 Weighing cotton at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, , 1930s

Weighing cotton at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, , 1930s

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#25 Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

The bale will be weighed as it swings in the air, suspended by these hooks.

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#26 Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

The bale will be weighed as it swings in the air, suspended by these hooks.

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#27 Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

The bale will be weighed as it swings in the air, suspended by these hooks. Cotton compress.

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#28 A worker at cotton compress taking a drink of water from bucket, Houston, 1930s.

A worker at cotton compress taking a drink of water from bucket, Houston, 1930s.

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#29 Weighing checker at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, 1930s

Weighing checker at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, 1930s

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#30 Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

Putting grappling hooks on bale of cotton.

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#31 A man slashes bale of cotton to take sample as it passes him on a hand truck, 1930s.

A man slashes bale of cotton to take sample as it passes him on a hand truck, 1930s.

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#32 Weighing cotton at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, 1930s

Weighing cotton at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, 1930s

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#33 Trucker and weighing checker at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, Texas

Trucker and weighing checker at unloading platform. Cotton compress, Houston, Texas

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#34 Unloading bale of cotton from freight car. Cotton compress, Houston, Texas

Unloading bale of cotton from freight car. Cotton compress, Houston, Texas

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#35 Industrial plant on the banks of the Port of Houston, Houston, 1930s

Industrial plant on the banks of the Port of Houston, Houston, 1930s

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#36 Along the banks of the Port of Houston are several crushing plants for oyster shell, 1930s

Along the banks of the Port of Houston are several crushing plants for oyster shell, 1930s

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#37 Along the banks of the Port of Houston are several crushing plants for oyster shell. Oyster shell products are used for cement, roads and fertilizer. Houston, Texas]

Along the banks of the Port of Houston are several crushing plants for oyster shell. Oyster shell products are used for cement, roads and fertilizer. Houston, Texas]

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#38 Unloading bale of cotton from freight car at cotton compress, Houston, 1930s

Unloading bale of cotton from freight car at cotton compress, Houston, 1930s

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#39 Loading bale of cotton onto hand truck at platform. Cotton compress, Houston, Texas

Loading bale of cotton onto hand truck at platform. Cotton compress, Houston, Texas

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#40 Loading bale of cotton onto hand truck at platform. Cotton compress, 1930s

Loading bale of cotton onto hand truck at platform. Cotton compress, 1930s

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#41 Unloading bale of cotton from freight car at cotton compress, 1930s

Unloading bale of cotton from freight car at cotton compress, 1930s

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#42 Unloading bale of cotton from freight car at cotton compress, 1930s

Unloading bale of cotton from freight car at cotton compress, 1930s

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#43 Loading cotton into hold of ship. Port of Houston, Texas

Loading cotton into hold of ship. Port of Houston, Texas

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#44 Storing bales of cotton into hold for freighter for export. Port of Houston, Texas

Storing bales of cotton into hold for freighter for export. Port of Houston, Texas

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#45 Stevedores loading cotton on to the freighter. Port of Houston, Texas

Stevedores loading cotton on to the freighter. Port of Houston, Texas

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#46 Moss-covered trees along the ship channel. Port of Houston, Texas

Moss-covered trees along the ship channel. Port of Houston, Texas

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#47 Oil refinery on the bank of the ship channel. Port of Houston, Texas

Oil refinery on the bank of the ship channel. Port of Houston, Texas

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#48 Unloading freight car load of cotton. Compress, Houston, Texas

Unloading freight car load of cotton. Compress, Houston, Texas

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#49 Pier and cement plant. Port of Houston, Texas

Pier and cement plant. Port of Houston, Texas

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#50 The boyhood home of Howard Hughes, record-smashing globe circler, at 3921 Yoakum Boulevard, Houston.

The boyhood home of Howard Hughes, record-smashing globe circler, at 3921 Yoakum Boulevard, Houston.

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#51 Front exterior of Chromalloy Glass-Mirror building, 1930s

Front exterior of Chromalloy Glass-Mirror building, 1930s

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#52 House of Katherine B. And Harry L. Mott, 1930s.

House of Katherine B. And Harry L. Mott, 1930s.

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#53 Downtown Bellaire, 1930s.

Downtown Bellaire, 1930s.

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#54 View of Prest-O-Lite Company. building, looking northwest, 1930s.

View of Prest-O-Lite Company. building, looking northwest, 1930s.

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#55 Mr. and Mrs. Dillon Anderson house, 1930s.

Mr. and Mrs. Dillon Anderson house, 1930s.

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#56 Two men at Amil Abel Homestead, Hull Oil Field, 1930s.

Two men at Amil Abel Homestead, Hull Oil Field, 1930s.

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#57 United States Post Office building

United States Post Office building

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#58 Memorial Drive, Houston skyline in the background.

Memorial Drive, Houston skyline in the background.

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#59 S. S. Merrymount at Houston Harbor

S. S. Merrymount at Houston Harbor

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#60 Heat-Treating Building of the Hughes Tool Company, rear view

Heat-Treating Building of the Hughes Tool Company, rear view

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#61 Majestic Theatre.

Majestic Theatre.

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#62 Hughes Tool Company products being loaded onto a truck.

Hughes Tool Company products being loaded onto a truck.

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#63 Large ladies’ bridge party in the ballroom of the Rice Hotel, Houston, 1930s.

Large ladies' bridge party in the ballroom of the Rice Hotel, Houston, 1930s.

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#64 View of Allen Parkway

View of Allen Parkway

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#65 Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library

Freed-Montrose Neighborhood Library

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#66 Building under construction in Houston central business district

Building under construction in Houston central business district

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#67 University of Houston Science Building

University of Houston Science Building

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#68 Union Station, Houston, 1930s

Union Station, Houston, 1930s

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#69 Houston Municipal Airport, 1930s.

Houston Municipal Airport, 1930s.

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#70 Benjamin Jesse Covington house, 1930s.

Benjamin Jesse Covington house, 1930s.

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#71 AC Burten Motor Co. building, 1930s.

AC Burten Motor Co. building, 1930s.

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#72 Southwestern Bell Telephone Building, Houston, 1930s.

Southwestern Bell Telephone Building, Houston, 1930s.

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#73 Humble Oil Filling Station No. 4, 1930s.

Humble Oil Filling Station No. 4, 1930s.

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#74 Negro unloading bale of cotton from railroad car. Compress, Houston, Texas

Negro unloading bale of cotton from railroad car. Compress, Houston, Texas

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#75 J.C. Parks Building, 1931.

J.C. Parks Building, 1931.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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