Sunday, December 14, 2014

A dirt road across a prairie: River Oaks Blvd. 1924.

       “Country Club Estates,” they called it. A 1,100-acre piece of land three miles west of Houston’s downtown. The Hogg brothers and Hugh Potter saw a planned residential park, a haven for affluent homeowners in a city of 250,000 people where zoning was a pie-in-the-sky idea.
       A model of urban planning, the new community would have wide, winding streets intersected by only three cross-streets. There would be parks and cul-de-sacs, and all the utility wires would be laid underground. That was in 1924!
       In July, ground was broken on River Oaks Boulevard, the first street in the new subdivision. At the north end was, and still is--the River Oaks Country Club. At the other end, across Westheimer, Lamar High School was built in 1937. Jokesters were fond of saying that River Oaks Boulevard was the only street anywhere with two country clubs--one at each end!
       River Oaks, once just a muddy road, would become Houston’s premier residential neighborhood, home of the rich and famous.
       But in 1924, property on that dirt road on the outskirts of the city was a hard sell.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas is coming, and so is Ima Audio!

 IMA HOGG: THE GOVERNOR'S DAUGHTER is in production as an audio book!
More news to come on this blog.
Meanwhile, Happy Holidays to all.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Will Hogg, where are you when we need you?

      While we don’t yet know all about Ima Hogg’s adventures in Germany, we know what her elder brother was up to, and we shall not see his like again. Who in his right mind would seriously argue for a “fool-proof and sensible city zoning plan” in Houston? Will Hogg, that’s who--in 1927. And that was when Houston had only 250,000 people. But we remained, then as now, resistant to any zoning plan, sensible or not.
       Will did what he could on his own. He bought land just northwest of downtown’s business district for $260,000, because he thought we needed a civic center. He then persuaded the city to purchase the land and pay for it with a bond issue. That area is now occupied by City Hall, the Jesse H. Jones Center for the Performing Arts, Wortham Center, Hobby Center, and the Houston Public Library.  Largely because of Will Hogg, we have Memorial Park, one of the largest city parks in the nation. Will named it to honor Houston soldiers who died in World War I. With his brother Mike and his old UT chum Hugh Potter, Will bought land 3 miles out in the country, west of downtown. That would become River Oaks.

      More about that later.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ima leaves Germany in 1908, and returns, and returns...

     What was Ima doing in 1908 in Germany? She returned to Houston late that year, or perhaps early in 1909. We know that she was in a friend’s wedding in Lampasas in April 1909, and she began to give piano lessons to a small, select group in Houston that year.
       But in the summer of 1910 she returned to Europe with her brother Mike. She kept a journal of their tour, describing cities and sights she wanted Mike to see. The two of them went first to Berlin. They stayed there a week--but there is not one word about what they did or saw there. Ima had lived in Charlottenberg, a suburb of Berlin, for over a year, but she does not mention anything about her stay, or about people she knew.
       Why--when she describes every other stop on their tour in some detail?
       When Ima Hogg had a secret, she kept it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

1907:Ima plans to stay in Germany

On January 4, 1907 Ima went to the American Consulate in Berlin, and signed a "Certificate of Registration" allowing her to reside in Germany "for the study of music," as she wrote.

She signed her name with her distinctive signature, always making her first name illegible.

What other secret was she keeping?

(Research in progress!)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Ima in Germany: A diary begun--and suddenly ended.

         Ima was ever the dutiful tourist on her “grand tour” of Europe in 1907. She was twenty-five years old. Every museum, every painting, every cathedral, every building, filled her travel journal in guide-book detail, from June to October.         
         Then, for reasons still undiscovered, she suddenly decided to stay in Germany. She said she wanted to learn German and work on her music. With the help of a “Mrs. Cranberry” (Grandberry?) she took a room in a house (Mrs. Cranberry’s?) in Charlottenberg, a suburb of Berlin, then a neighborhood for Jewish artists and intellectuals.
         Ima acquired a Bechstein piano, and a famous music teacher, Xaver Scharwenka. She went to operas and concerts and practiced her German and her music. She played checkers with “Buddy,”a handsome young man who  lived in the house and played the violin. (Was he a family member? A tenant?)
     Ima began a diary on January 1, 1908, and abruptly ended it on February 29.

         Mystery upon mystery.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ima's first trip to Europe, 1907. Her journal begins.

      In the summer of 1907 Ima Hogg, still grieving over her father’s death the year before, set off on a grand tour of Europe. It was her first trip, and it lasted from June till October--and then she stayed on. (More about that later.)
      She kept a journal of her travels:

This is a chronology of my trip to Europe--not a diary of personalities.
June 22--Sailing-

President Lincoln, Hamburg-American Line.
Cabin 63 - Room-mate Mrs. Ben Thompson.

An auspicious start--a glorious warm day, our ship - 618 ft. long--making its maiden trip. Many friends had telegrams, letters, books and flowers as farewell to me, and we waved them a far away good-bye with grateful hearts for their remembrances - a home leaving being at best somewhat sad....

         Ima traveled with family friends, the Lewis Thompsons of Texas, their sons Ben & Lewis, and their governess, Magdalena. IH’s roommate on the voyage and probably on land travels was Mrs. Ben Thompson from Nacogdoches (a relative of the Thompsons, most likely.) This group from Houston was joined by a Mr. Scott, a chemistry professor at Austin College, and a Mr. Ben Foster and his sister Miss Ione Foster from Kansas City.

The passengers are mostly German so we have fallen completely in to the spirit of things, even trying out our bits of “Deutche” words on them. Really, though, have made comparatively no acquaintances. My table seat to my right though is occupied by a lovely old gentleman Rev. Wilkie from Florida and his wife to his right. A Mr. Dick from Newcastle Eng. Has played bridge with us and defeated us all. Much of our time has been spent at cards, some at reading, we have been dutiful enough to dive into guide-books--then we’ve walked leagues. Shuffle-board is a great game- I can’t play it much, but intend to spend lost of time at it on the return. Mr.  Thompson and I matched Mrs T. & Mr. Dick at “ring-toss” --they beating us by one point only.

       Ima was always competitive.