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The Texas Medical Center through the years: Aerial images

by Alethea Drexler
archives assistant
I’ve had this post on my mind for awhile but it took some time to put it together.  I think it’s pretty self-explanatory, but still of interest.
(Click on the images to see larger versions.)
1. We know what the Medical Center looks like now: Pavement as far as the eye can see and growing upwards all the time . . . which is why this 1926 photograph of Hermann Hospital (located at the northwest corner of the Medical Center) is virtually unrecognizable.  At the time, Hermann was at the end of the city’s rail line and was so far from civilization that a fence had to be put up to keep wild animals away from the building.


2. There is a gap in our image collection of about twenty years.  It seems that little changed during the 1930’s and early 1940’s, when the country had other, bigger, things on its mind. By 1947, Hermann had been joined by Baylor College of Medicine’s new Cullen Building and some businesses on the other side of the road, but all of it was still nestled in woods.


3. By 1952 or 1953, we can see the Hermann Professional Building on the far left, then Hermann Hospital, Baylor, and the new 1951 Methodist Hospital.   The Texas Medical Center Library was founded in 1949 but is still housed in Baylor’s Cullen Building, although at center-left you can see the oval lot where its own building will stand in a year or two.  The Rice University athletics field is in the foreground.  Texas Children’s Hospital is nearing completion on the right-hand side of the image, and construction has begun on St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, right behind it. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has moved from its original home in a repurposed World War II Army barracks and occupies the large building above Texas Children’s and St. Luke’s.
The white building with the dark, low-pitched roof, in the center of the photograph says “Cyclone Fence Division” on the side.


4. 1958. Voila!  There’s the library (this is the back of it; Baylor is to the left)!  By this time, Texas Children’s Hospital and St. Luke’s Episcopal are up and running.


5. 1964. Baylor and Methodist have expanded considerably, and the Mental Sciences Institute, which opened in 1965 and was demolished this year, can be seen at the far right.


6. 1970. You can see why we have so many parking garages–the Medical Center seems to have been completely taken over by parking lots.  It looks a bit like an anthill, really, and the trees are beating a hasty retreat.
Take a good look at Hermann (front left corner).  It will be different the next time you see it.


7. 1972. It looks as though a foundation is being dug to the west of the library, and Hermann Hospital has sprouted its forward-facing wings.  Everything is looking, on the whole, more vertical.


8. 1974. Construction is nearing completion of a new addition to the library building, and something has indeed sprung from the hole in the ground that we saw in the last photograph.  You can also see the Astrodome in the background.  The Shamrock Hotel is in the upper right.


9. 1975. This doesn’t tell you much about the Medical Center but it’s a good view of downtown Houston, which has grown considerably between 1975 and 2010.  The Gulf Oil/J.P. Morgan Chase Building, which was the tallest building in the city from 1929 until 1963, still looks semi-significant, although today it’s lost in a forest of skyscrapers.  That’s Braes Bayou in the foreground.


10. 1981. We’ve finally progressed to parking garages, although I’m still astonished to see empty parking spaces in the remaining lots.  The library is hiding behind the University of Texas Medical School.  The campus still looks comparatively pastoral, though, and Hermann has not been walled in.