From department stores to parades to old-fashioned saloons, Main Street has seen it all. As one of the most prominent streets in Houston’s downtown core, it’s been growing and changing with the city for almost 200 years.
Take a trip down the historic thoroughfare with these 13 photos:
Looking south from Rusk Avenue, ca. 1918
The World War I homecoming parade was a massive celebration along Houston’s Main Street. The procession moved north up the street and was led by representatives of the Red Cross.
Looking north, ca. 1923
If you look closely at this photo, you can spot a banner across Main Street that reads “Majestic Theater.” The theater was the third Majestic in Houston, but the first to install air conditioning in the city. The building was full of ornate details like star-studded ceilings and statues until it was demolished in 1971.
Looking south from Congress Avenue, ca. 1900
During the 19th century, Dick Dowling established a saloon called the Bank of Bacchus at the corner of Congress and Main, right around where this photo was taken years later. The saloon was popular among those early Houston residents and sold brandy, rum, whisky, claret, port and champagne “of all the brands of the Old or New World.”
Looking north from Lamar Avenue, ca. 1927
The year 1927 saw Houston experience a massive building boom. In this photo alone, The Neils Esperson building, the Lamar Hotel, the west wing of the Rice Hotel, an addition to the Second National Bank building and the Kirby building can all be seen under construction.
Looking north from Capitol Avenue, ca. 1912
The Rice Hotel was named after the founder of Rice University, businessman William M. Rice. Over the years, the hotel saw many historic events and guests, including John F. Kennedy, who had dinner at the restaurant on November 21st, 1963, the night before he was assassinated in Dallas.
Main Street between Preston Avenue and Prairie Avenue, ca. 1900
During the early 20th century, Main Street was often referred to as the Wall Street of Houston because of the many banks and financial institutions that lined the street. The city was a boomtown, especially with the discovery of oil near Beaumont in 1901. It continued to thrive until the Great Depression.
Looking north from Walker Avenue, ca. 1925
The Bender Hotel can be spotted in the left-hand side of this photo. The building was constructed in 1911 out of steel and concrete with a red brick, terracotta and granitic exterior at a cost of $600,000.
Looking north, ca. 1924
In 1838, the First Presbyterian Foreign Mission sent Rev. William Allen to spread the church’s beliefs to the Republic of Texas. He built the first church in the region at Main and Capitol in 1842. Later, in 1948, a new church was built at 5300 Main, where it still stands today.
Looking north at the 800 Block, ca. 1920
Right before the beginning of the 20th century, a man named Philip Battlestein moved to Houston with almost no money to his name, and later founded Battlestein’s department store at 812 Main Street. The upscale shop thrived until the mid-20th century when it was drowned out by newer retail establishments popping up along the streetscape. The building still stands today, with an unassuming, almost austere look and very little decoration.
300 Block between Congress Street and Preston Avenue, ca. 1866
The Morris Building, seen here in the center of this photo, was the first four-story building in Houston. The structure was built by Joseph Robert Morris, a tinsmith and the mayor of Houston for a few months in the mid-19th century during the post-Civil War reconstruction.
Looking south from Prairie Street, ca. 1930s
On Wednesday, September 13th, 1922, the Houston Post announced the establishment of a new fine men’s clothing shop at Main and Prairie. The “extra-special” incentive being offered for opening week was “a big group of two-pans fall suits” for $24.75.
600 Block at Texas Avenue, ca. 1911
Over the years, there’s been some confusion over the name of Texas Avenue — or is it Texas Street? An article published in the Houston Chronicle in 2013 attempts to debunk the issue. To the city, it’s Texas Street, but to Houston residents, it’s always been Texas Avenue. Even the signs on the street (or Avenue?) itself are confused — light poles and buildings read Texas Avenue while the official street signs designate it as Texas Street.
Looking north from Walker Avenue, ca. 1913
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
This photo comes from Jerome H. Farbar’s book, “Houston: Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea,” published in 1913. The caption under the photo reads, “Main Street North From Walker Avenue. All the Buildings in This View Were Constructed Within the Last Three Years.”