; Sunset Heights
Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out

Sunset Heights


  • pg 1
									2                               The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration

    It only happens once
       every 100 years
    This September marks the 100 year anniversary for the Sunset
Heights. As representatives for the community the two civic clubs of
the Sunset Heights, the Sunset Heights Civic Club and the East Sunset
Heights Association, want to mark the event with some flair. Promoting
our celebration was a large undertaking for our entirely volunteer
organization supported only through membership funds. We are proud of
all the work that we have accomplished together.
    The real success of our event depends on you. Our goal is to reach out
to you and involve you in celebrating this community of which you are
a vital member. If along the way, we have taught you something about
being from Sunset Heights, our history, our local businesses, or our civic
goals, then we have really made it.
    In this book you will find details to join us in celebrating the
centennial. As the celebration on 9/25/10 comes closer, stay tuned to
our website for the most current updates: www.SunsetHeightsHouston.
    We have also included information about our civic clubs. We look
forward to meeting you at our next meeting. If you are new to the
area or a long time resident, we hope you enjoy the history of this
neighborhood that we have put together. If you know something we don’t
know, come see us at the Halbert Park festival, and tell us your story. We
would love to hear more.
    Before we sign off, a special thanks goes out to the supporters of our
celebration whose advertisements grace these pages. We made a point
to find close-to-home truly local businesses that have invested in the
Sunset Heights. Frequent them and tell them you love this place!

The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                       3

      Sunset Heights Centennial Festival
                    Program of Events
                      September 25th, 2010

                     10 AM Community Parade
       Parade Grand Master, Ed Gonzalez District H
The Sunset Heights welcome the Reagan High School Marching
   Band, Homeless Animal Partnership Initiative, and more

             11 AM - 2 PM Festival at Halbert Park
   Be there at Halbert Park for a good time with games & food
           Free parking provided by Prosperity Bank 2310 Yale
            3PM -5 PM Cookout at the Rose Garden
                    Meet your neighbors at 2621 Link Road
                7PM Live Music at Dan Electro’s
                                1031 E 24th

4                               The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration

           A letter of sincere thanks
      Events like this come along only once in a while, every 100 years in
fact. When the civic clubs of the Sunset Heights decided to host an event
for the occasion they had no idea what it might become. They could
only imagine what the process might be and how it would unfold. Our
community has made this a reality for everyone. We want to take this
opportunity to thank the people and businesses that supported our dream
before we even knew what it was.
      Thanks to Anna Eastman, HISD trustee, for helping us put together
our community parade and arrange a band. Thanks go out to Master Car
Care, 2305 Yale for photos provided throughout our history. For our fes-
tival at Halbert Park we couldn’t have made it happen without Staging
Solutions who donated our stage and Brian Albritton of Albritton Audio
who supplied the public address system.
      A most warm thanks goes out to the volunteers from the civic clubs
who worked so hard to make this happen. We look forward to celebrat-
ing with you and our community. See you there!

    Lady Cocchia                           Buster Pendley
    Jaclyn Cribley                         Sharon Pendley
    Jason Frank                            John Ridgway
    Bob Gaspard                            Sean Young
    Dorothy Hester                         Chuck Shoults
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                             5

 History of Sunset Heights
                          By: John Ridgway

Before the beginning
     The 240 acre area that is now known as the Sunset Heights started
out as a part of the much larger 8,856 acre John Austin land grant when
this area was still part of Mexico. The name Austin is still well known
in Texas today. In fact, John Austin was a friend of the more famous
Stephen F. Austin. John Austin asked for land and it was granted to him
by the Mexican government in 1824. John Austin died in 1833 during a
wide spread cholera epidemic leaving the land to his wife. In 1836 his

This map demonstrates the size of the John Austin land grant. The South
East corner is marked by Minute Maid stadium. The North West corner is
near Shepherd and 610.
6                               The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
widow sold the land to the Allen brothers, who used it to create Hous-
ton in 1836. They paid her close to a dollar per acre for all 8,856 acres
of land, which was still part of Mexico at the time. The battle of the
Alamo was fought that same year, 1836. When Texas became a new
republic in 1839, soldiers who fought for Texas and survived the war
were given land grants as rewards, and previous ownership of the land
was often not recognized. But the John Austin grant was recognized
by the new government which included John Austin’s friend Stephen
F. Austin.
     The Allen brothers had been working on their new city, Houston,
for 5 years. But it was an unfortunate time to be creating a new city; the
war with Mexico had raged on during 3 of those years and the Allen
brothers were deeply in debt by 1841. By order of the Sheriff they were
forced to sell several hundred acres of land to cover those debts. This
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                               7

Above is a copy of the Sheriff’s deed ordering the Allen brothers
to sell land to cover debts. The description of the land did not use
measurements or degrees like a surveyor would use today. Instead the
documentation used descriptions of trees (i.e. the big red oak) and
bayous and fences to identify the land.

transaction was called a Sheriff’s deed.
      In 1851, a 430 acre portion of the John Austin land grant was sold
to J. W. Cruger and F. Moore Jr. for $1,200 or about $2.80 per acre. The
firm Cruger and Moore sold the land on June 18, 1855 for $1 to James
Cruger. That sounds like an amazing deal for Cruger but in buying out
Moore he also assumed the debt of the company.
      On May 12, 1859 that same 430 acres was sold to the Houston
& Texas Central Railroad for $5,000. They never built on the land, but
they did use it as an asset for bond collateral. The Civil War started in
1861 stopping construction of the railroad until 1867. This lost time
was cited years later as the beginning of the railroad’s demise. The cost
for construction of one mile of rail line in 1857 was $6000. That price
also included bridges and crossings on the route. By 1860, the rate had
risen to $16,000 per mile. By 1866 it was even higher at $20,000 per
mile. And by 1872 it was a staggering $30,000 per mile. With the costs
rising faster than income, the railroad’s debt continued to mount.
      Bond holders with investments of over $23 million found out there
                                                         were problems
                                                         in early 1885
                                                         when the rail-
                                                         road failed to
                                                         make its bond
                                                         payments. Law
                                                         suits against the
                                                         railroad called
                                                         for    investiga-
                                                         tions and sei-
                                                         zure of control.
8                               The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
This financial crisis impacted Houston but also investors along the east
coast especially the financial hub of New York. For years the railroad
sued the state of Texas for back payment, the bond holders sued the
railroad for assets, and the trustees sued for control. This litigation tied
up the assets of the railroad making it impossible to sell any of them
until everything was settled.
     Finally, Fred P. Olcott took control of the railroad in 1888 as a
receiver. He restructured the company and sold it to the Central Trust
Company for use by the Southern Pacific railroad. The Houston and
Texas railroad was mortgaged.
     To the South, the Omaha and South Texas Land Company had
been working on a new neighborhood called the Houston Heights
which was officially formed in 1891. The Heights became a well es-
tablished neighborhood and later its own city. Most of the lots in the
Heights were platted at 5,500 square feet. To the North, Independence
Heights was created in 1908 by the Wright Company. Most of the lots
in Independence Heights were platted at 3,000 square feet. The area in
between, Sunset Heights, was still undeveloped.

The Beginning
     On March 28, 1910 the Houston and Texas Central railroad was
allowed to retire bonds which it had issued in 1881. The railroad had
not made enough profits to pay off those bonds, so the railroad began
selling land assets that had been used as collateral. This is the land at
the center of so much controversy. The land had been used as collateral
more than once causing lawsuits over ownership. Richard Rodgers pur-
chased 100 acres of this land on June 9, 1910 for $18,750 or about $13
for each 3,000 square foot lot in his new Sunset Heights neighborhood.
He also worked
out a deal with
the trustees of
the      Houston
and Texas rail-
road to give
him a 3 year
loan at a rate of
6%. Clear title
to this land was
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                            9
challenged several times. The Sheriff’s deed from 1841 was used to
challenge ownership. For example, the estate of Alfred Watson used it
to make a claim in July 1910 and Rodgers had to pay the estate $250.
The Second Presbyterian church made a challenge as late as 1914.
They claimed rights from the estate of A.C. Allen even though the prop-
erty had been sold at least twice by that time. The church agreed to
back down on its claim but with so much uncertainty over ownership
no title company would back Richard Rodgers so he had to bond the
land himself. Acting as his own title company, Rodgers had to create a
$100,000 bond for Sunset Heights. This bond was the insurance policy
to protect purchasers of land in his new neighborhood if more chal-
lenges to the title arose.
     So who was Richard Rodgers? He was born in 1868 in Ireland and
immigrated to the United States in 1893. He built his fortune by run-
10                             The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration

Top is an advertisement for the Capitol Hotel run by Rodgers. Middle
left is an advertisement for train service from 1910 showing the use of
the name Sunset. Right is an advertisement for Hardin Lumber who was
a partner in the Sunset realty company. Note the old fashioned phone
ning Houston hotels. Two of his larger hotels were the Windsor at 314
Louisiana where Kim Son restaurant stands now and the Capitol Hotel
which was located at 614 Main. The Capitol Hotel was demolished in
1911 and the Rice Hotel was built in its place. The Rice Hotel was later
converted into the Rice Lofts.
    By August 15th 1910, Richard Rodgers created the Sunset Realty
Company along with George W. Cater, W. B. Courtney, and Benjamin
R Hardin. This was not Rodgers first attempt at developing an area. He
had done smaller projects like the Rodgers addition for the Woodland
Heights. That project added a few dozen lots; his Sunset Heights project
                                                        was going to be
                                                        much grander
                                                        in scale. One of
                                                        Rodger’s part-
                                                        ners in the en-
                                                        deavor owned
                                                        a lumber com-
                                                        pany and of-
                                                        fered loans for
                                                             Why did
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                               11

The original plat of the Sunset Heights accepted by city engineers on
September 8th, 1910, the birth of the Sunset Heights. As seen in the
diagram, the original end of Sunset Heights was at Link road, but the
neighborhood was quickly expanded to Airline by the Sunset Heights
12                            The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
Rodgers use the name Sunset? If you picked up a newspaper from 1910
you would read that Sunset was a very popular name for everything
from coffee to train lines to the new railroad hospital that opened in
1911. Rodgers was right in step with popular culture when he named
his company Sunset Realty and his neighborhood Sunset Heights.
     On September 8th, 1910, the documents for the creation of the
Sunset Heights were accepted by T.C. Edminster civil engineer for the
City of Houston, creator of the 1936 Edminster Engineering Company
which still exists today. People frequently wonder why the developer
of Sunset Heights platted the subdivision at 3,000 square feet but sold
the land as 6,000 and 9,000 square foot lots. This was Rodgers way
of playing it safe in the housing market. The Heights which had been
platted twenty years before had 5,500 square foot lots and Indepen-
dence Heights had 3,000 square foot lots. Rodgers was not sure what
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                           13

                                                Left and above are
                                                newspaper ads from
                                                1910 showing other
                                                nearby areas under
                                                development with land
                                                for sale.

home buyers would be able to afford. The 3,000 square foot platting
gave home buyers options. Someone who was interested in buying two
lots could be offered a third at a discount during negotiations. The few
3,000 square foot lots that were sold
were on E 29th street, which bordered
Independence Heights before the 610
interstate separated the two neighbor-
     According to neighborhood plat-
ting standards, developers had to
design in alleys for the homes. This
standard was changed in 1911 to not
require alleys. This is why areas like
Milroy, Gostic, and the Sunset Heights
Extension which came about after
1911 do not have alley ways.
     The Houston area experienced
a population explosion in 1910. In a
very short time a large number people
settled in the Sunset Heights area. The
people came from all over the United
States and other countries like Poland,
14                             The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
Germany, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Australia, and England. On
January 4, 1916 Mrs. Irene McBride purchased 3 lots totaling 9,000
square feet for $400 or $133 per each 3,000 square foot lot. This prop-
erty is at the intersection of Aurora and Oxford. In 1947 it was sold for
$7,000. Today that same land has three homes on it and is worth over
one million dollars. Compare that increase with the cost of a gallon of
gas which rose from 7 cents in 1910 to $2.80, a loaf of bread which
sold for 3 cents and now sells for $1.50, and a quart of milk at 3 cents
which is now 90 cents in 2010.
     Sunset Heights had enough resources that in January 1911 it was
able to successfully fight annexation by the Houston Heights with the
help of Senator Hume and members of the legislature. The Houston
Heights was attempting to annex unincorporated areas around it to
become so large that Houston would be unable to annex it. The efforts
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                               15
were futile. Houston Heights was even-
tually annexed in 1918. Richard Rodg-
ers died in 1922, and his wife Blanche
took over the Sunset Realty Company.
The drive to make the neighborhood
a full fledge city seemed to have died
with him as Sunset Heights was an-
nexed by Houston in 1927.

     Infrastructure                         The Sunset Heights Water Works
                                            and Power station. The tank
      Two water wells fed a large con-      is over ten feet deep and has
crete water tank that supplied the          trees growing up through the
neighborhood’s homes with water.            bottom of it. The remains are
This was also the location of the satel-    located at 714 E 27th St.
lite land office. The main land office
was located on Franklin on the fifth
floor of the Commercial Bank Build-
ing. The area did not get sewer lines
until a major project was undertaken
by the City of Houston in 1933.
      The civic club convinced the
Houston Electric Company to extend its
street car lines into the Sunset Heights
neighborhood. In 1914, the lines were
completed. A line ran up Main, turned       This is a street car token from
west onto E 27th to Columbia. At Co-        the Houston Electric Company
lumbia the line turned north to 31st.       good for one fare on the street
                                            car, which came to the Sunset
At 31st it headed back east to Main
                                            Heights in 1914.
to complete its
loop. However,
the growth of
street cars in
Houston was
coming to a
close in 1914.
That same year
saw the start of
bus lines and
jitney services
16                              The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
which would eventually replace street cars. In 1930’s the city started
to pave many of its streets. Street car companies were required to pay
for the street paving where their rails ran. Many decided it was cheaper
to give up the lines and instead concentrate on buses. Almost all the
street cars were gone by 1935.
      Even though Sunset Heights is at a higher elevation, it had its share
of flooding. For example in 1919 the county performed drainage work
after it received complaints that students and teachers were wading
through knee deep water to get to class. One of the more amusing
stories was that of Dan O’Hara who caught a two foot alligator in the
ditch in front of his home in the 800 block of E 25th in 1929. A group of
Sunset Heights residents with the alligator in tow went to city hall and
demanded that some-
thing be done about
the drainage.

     Post Offices
     The first location
of the post office was
at E 27th and Main on
the southwest corner
and the postmaster
was H. Davis. By the
1920’s the post office
had moved down the
street to 417 E 27th.
                        The building of the satellite post office at
Mrs. Mamie Pridgeon Baylor and E 26th still stands.
was the postmistress
at that time.
The post office
had a rating of
fourth class un-
til 1927 when
it got upgraded
to     presiden-
tial grade. The
post office was
used until 1951
along with the
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                            17

cancellation stamp for the Sunset Heights. After that the building was
used as a barber shop until it was demolished in the 1990’s. A small
satellite post office existed at the corner of Baylor and E 26th. Some of
the local residents still remember getting their mail there. It was shut-
down sometime before 1948.


The two-story red brick building rests on a raised basement and features
Romanesque arches and an inset vestibule. The building mass is sheltered
beneath a low hipped roof with broad eaves typical of the Prairie School
of architecture. The school still retains its four-over-four wooden sash

     Harris County had been looking for potential school sites before
Sunset Heights was even built. County Judge A. Amerman had land
purchased within Sunset Heights in August of 1910 before the area was
fully platted. Sunset Heights School was located in School District 25,
which encompassed much of the area between the Buffalo and White
Oak      bayous
west of down-
town Houston.
It was one of
ly 40 subur-
ban and rural
school districts
established by
Harris County
in 1884. In
18                              The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
1911, taxpayers in
School District 25
petitioned to raise
$20,000 for building
and equipping a new
school. The referen-
dum passed in 1912
and construction of
Sunset Heights School
began that same year.
The school building
still stands at Harvard Sunset Heights School: Back – Miss Ford, Mr,
and E 27th and cur- Philipps, Mrs Welling, Front – Miss White, Miss
rently owned by HISD Kibbi
                                                  Hamilton middle school
                                                  built in 1919 straddled
                                                  Heights Boulevard. It
                                                  was originally named
                                                  Heights Senior High
                                                  School. The name was
                                                  changed to Alexander
                                                  Hamilton Senior High
                                                  in 1925. It became
                                                  Hamilton Junior High in
                                                  1926 when Reagan High
                                                  School opened. It is
                                                  now a middle school.

and used as a storage facility. The property is currently for sale and
listed by the Preservation Texas organization in 2009 as an endangered
historic site.
     In its first year, 1912-13, the teaching staff for the Sunset Heights
School consisted of Mrs. Anna Kinsman, Miss Mabel Bouldin and Miss
Irene Hartt. Robert Bunting was the principal. Sunset Heights School
remained in use until 1926 when it was replaced by the newer Alamo
Heights School. Long-time principal John C. Bennett remained at the
school from 1923 to 1933, making the switch from the original Sunset
Heights School to its replacement, Alamo.
20                             The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
      The oldest standing example of the first churches in Sunset Heights
is still located at 800 Aurora. It was the former home of the Aurora Pic-
ture show and is now home to 14 Pews. The structure is almost com-
pletely original. Most of the other churches followed this same design
however by the 1950’s the other churches had all replaced their small

Clockwise from top left: The first Baptist church, The Brethren Church,
The building at 800 Aurora, the Baptist Church Sunday School building.

wooden structures with larger stone or brick buildings.
     The Sunset Heights Baptist Church at one time was one of the larg-
est churches in the area. It had grown to three buildings before closing
in 1998. The original church was similar in construction to the Aurora
church. A stone Sunday School building that was built in 1951 stands
where the original wooden church stood. The brick church to the side
was built in 1945. To the north there is another more modern sanctuary
that was built in 1961.
     For a short period of time in the 1920’s, the Bertie Fulbright Meth-
odist Church existed at 515 E 25th. Sunset Heights Christian Church
at E 28th and Harvard existed during the 1920’s but by the 1950’s ap-
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                                21
peared to have been demolished. The Bethel Temple Assembly of God
Church located at 300 Aurora was first built in the 1940’s and is still in
operation. St. Anne De Beaupre located at 2810 Link was established
in 1948.
     The Brethren Church was attended by many Czechs who immi-
grated to the United States after the 1850’s. In 1903, representatives
of several of the area’s congregations
gathered to create the Unity of the
Brethren in Texas in the effort to res-
urrect the Brethren Church which had
been suppressed for many years in
their homeland. The Brethren Church
located at Main and E 23rd was built
in 1954.

                                            Top, the building that was
     The Sunset Heights Drug Store originally the Sunset Heights
was located at 505 E 27th . It was op- Drugstore. Bottom, an old
erated by Jas Cunningham. The brick map showing the layout of the
building still stands and has been original Grogan Building Supply.
converted into a beautiful residence.
     The Yates Grocery store was lo-
cated on the corner of Harvard and E
23rd. Mr. and Mrs. Yates lived on the
same street as their store and moved
to the neighborhood in 1938. A story
is told that Mr. Yates won a sum of
money gambling and Mrs. Yates in-
sisted they purchase a house with the
     Grogan Building Supply is in
business on the west side of Yale.
Grogan Building Supply was original-
ly on the east side of Yale at the corner
of E 25th Street. Just South of Grogan
Building Supply is Master Auto Ser-
     There were two pickle factories
located near the neighborhood. One
was the Price-Booker Pickle Manufacturing Company which was lo-
22                           The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration

                                     Top Left: The former Price-
                                     Booker Pickle Manufacturing
                                     Top Right: Master Car Care circa
                                     1950. Photo courtesy of Master
                                     Car Care.
                                     Bottom Left: The K&K Food Mart
                                     near N. Main and Cavalcade
                                     before it was rented to
                                     Blockbuster Video.

cated at W 24th and Nicholson which was a larger facility. The build-
ing still stands today but has not
produced pickles in years.
     The other pickle factory
was the smaller Adam Brothers
Pickle Manufacturing Company.
The Adam Brothers Company
went out of business abruptly
during the 1929 crash on Wall
Street. The owners just walked
away leaving the building full
of pickles. People who remem-
ber growing up in the Sunset
Heights recalled going to the
vacated pickle factory and get-
ting pickles for months after it
was abandoned.
     The K & K Food Market was
located at Main and Cavalcade.
The store was run by the Kowis
family. They have owned the
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                         23
building since 1934 and now rent it to Blockbuster Video.

      Treasurer of Sunset Heights Civic Club Sylvia
Varva tells the following 1920’s story about her grand-
father in a 1992 civic club newsletter .
      “When I was a child I lived over ninety miles from
Houston. In those days ninety miles was a long way to
travel in model T’s over rough and muddy roads. So
all I knew about Houston was what I learned in school
and heard from others. My grandfather used to travel
a lot, so when he would come over, he would tell us
about the different parts of Texas including Houston
and the surrounding area. I remember hearing about
his distant kin, they had the same family name (Hrus-
ka) as my grandfather, moving into or near Houston.
Later grandfather was telling us that he stopped by Above: This
                                                      bottle is from
                                                      the Sunset
                                                      Company that
                                                      was located on
                                                      Link road near
                                                      Airline and
                                                      operated by
                                                      H.C. Wooley.
                                                      The fancy
                                                      bottle has
                                                      arc designs
                                                      on it with
                                                      Sunset Heights
                                                      embossed near
                                                      the bottom.
                                                      The bottling
                                                      company was
                                                      short lived, and
                                                      the building
                                                      was torn down
                                                      by the 1940’s.
24                             The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
to see these people. He told us they had bought a lot on which they
had a new house built. Years later, I moved to Houston. First I lived on
the south side for a short time and later in the Lindale area for several
years. In 1965, as I decided to move from there, I rented a room in
                                          The house at 106 Aurora
                                          may be the oldest one in the
                                          neighborhood. It was built in
                                          1908 on 2007 Lubbock Street.
                                          In 1929 it moved just one lot
                                          to 2009 Lubbock Street. In
                                          1980’s it was moved from
                                          that address to its current
                                          location to make space for
                                          the Consulate of Belgium.
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                          25
Right: Sharon and Buster Pendley
of East Sunset Heights shared this
old photo of their home and the
previous owner identified as possibly
being Athina or Manto Hoak.

the 200 block of East 26th from Mrs.
Mary Stasny. Soon, to my surprise, I
learned that I was living in the same
house my grandfather talked about
back in the 1920’s as being in the
Sunset Heights!”
     Mrs. M. S. Gomez and her hus-
band were Air Raid Wardens dur-
ing World War II. Air Raid Wardens
were trained in fire-fighting, first
aid, and patrolled to make sure ev-
eryone had their lights out during
blackouts. Her grandfather named
Sikes owned the property where
Caninos on Airline Drive is located
today. Mrs. Gomez used to go the
Fulbright Methodist church and remembers going to the Reinhardt
store on Yale and 27th.

What’s in a Name
    Heights Boulevard originally ran all the way to E 23rd St. which
marks part of the northern boundary of the Heights. It stopped going
                                                      through when
                                                      Hamilton mid-
                                                      dle school was
                                                      built. This area
                                                      was later re-
                                                      platted as part
                                                      of the Milroy
                                                           Most      of
                                                      the       streets
                                                      which        run
                                                      north/south in
26                           The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
These maps are sections
of Sanborn fire insurance
maps. They contain
drawings of the buildings
with codes that explain
the purpose and type of
building, information
used when calculating
insurance premiums.
For example, the maps
showed whether a
structure was brick or
Bottom left: A map
showing where Heights
Boulevard previously
continued through.
Bottom right: A map
showing Cambridge
Street, renamed after
the Gostic development.

the Heights were given the names of schools. Going east after Oxford
the next street was Cambridge. Some maps actually show the street as
Blanchard into the 1950’s. Blanchard was the merging of Blanche and
Richard, the same couple that formed Sunset Realty and developed the
area. At some point after the Gostic development was completed, the
street was renamed to Gostic.
     Most of the other streets in the Gostic development had their
names changed. Little became E 22nd and Barker and Bartholomew
became E 21st. McNeil became Wilder and Melrose became Sheldon.
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                          27

       The Civic Clubs of the
          Sunset Heights
             by: John Ridgway and Dorothy Hester

The start of the Club
     As an unincorporated area, the Sunset Heights Civic Club was the
primary form of government. It was formed at the same time as the
neighborhood in 1910. The Civic Club worked with the electric com-
panies to get the street car lines extended into the neighborhood in
1914. It worked with the county to make sure roads were graveled and
that there was good drainage. It worked toward getting the fire hydrant
system implemented which lead to setting up the Sunset Heights Vol-
28                             The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
unteer Fire department in 1914, a volunteer group of eight men who
used a hose wagon to fight fires.
     The area wanted to incorporate itself to become a city, and at-
tempted this several times. The biggest attempt was in 1916, but it was
stopped by residents in Studes Woods. Studes Woods was a neigh-
borhood created out of Henry Studes
Woods. On a side note, that is where
the name Studewood came from for
the street. These homeowners feared
that their area would be included in
the city. Even though no evidence can
be found that Sunset Heights ever of-
ficially became a city, it was listed in
the Houston city directories as a town.
The Sunset Heights Civic Club ceased
operations shortly after Sunset Heights
and several other surrounding neigh-
borhoods were annexed by the City of
Houston in 1927.

The second and third coming of             Even though the telephone
                                           company was a top employer
the civic club                             for the neighborhood, phones
                                           were still not widely used in
     In 1939, Charles “Chaz” Hal-          private homes. So, in the mid
                                           1920’s, a fire alarm system was
bert decided that the area needed
                                           setup in the neighborhood, and
a civic club so he set out to recreate
                                           pull stations were installed at
the Sunset Heights Civic Club. He got      intersections every few blocks
residents from Milroy Place, the area      giving residents a way to call
between E 23rd and E 25th, Gostic,         the fire department.
the area east of Oxford and south of E     The box shown above had
23rd, and residents of Stude, the area     cables running from its base
east of Main below E 23rd. He reached      to the fire station. Each fire
out as far west as Nicholson St. He do-    box had a unique bell so the
nated a lot located on the 700 block of    firemen would know where to
E 24th where a club house was built.       go. The metal rod attached by
Sadly, Mr. Halbert died in 1941 after      a chain was used to break the
successfully reviving the civic club. As   glass window, open the box,
a memorial, the club members had a         and enable the person to pull a
                                           lever inside.
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                            29
plaque created and placed on the club house. His motto on the plaque
reads “To make Sunset Heights a better place in which to live.”
     SHCC members had been petitioning the city to purchase land for
a neighborhood park and so in 1945 the city purchased the land for
Halbert Park from a couple of home owners and the DePelchin’s Chil-
dren’s center. In 1951 the city made some improvements to Halbert
Park like the addition of a flag pole and new playground equipment
including a merry go round.
     By the late 1960’s the SHCC had once again disappeared, but in
1984, residents once again resurrected the civic club. There were nu-
merous abandoned properties in the neighborhood and people wanted
a civic club to address these issues. Back in action, SHCC members
were researching the ownership of one of the properties when they dis-
covered the lot where the civic club house used to stand. Although the

 What Ben Franklin discovered,
   Milgaro Electric delivers like no one else!
                                                 Top Service
                                                 Lower Rates
                                               Choosing the right
                                               electrcity company can
                                               be confusing when you
                                               are presented with
                                               many options. Milagro
                                               Electric, located right
                                               in the Sunset Heights,
                                               will be there for you in
                                               the ups and downs of
                                               the market. If energy
                                               prices go up you’ll get
                                               the best price, and if
                                               energy prices go down,
                                               we will let you know.
30                              The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
                                  You may have seen the Guinea Hen in
                                  the neighborhood and wondered who
                                  they belong to. There has been a little
                                  group of them in the neighborhood
                                  for a while. At last count there were
                                  only 3 or 4. Some suspect the Ike or a
                                  recent freeze reduced their number.
                                  No one knows where they came from,
                                  but they have been around for years.
                                  They are an unofficial mascot.
club house had been demolished the memorial plaque for Mr. Halbert
had survived. Once the civic club found out that years of taxes and
fines had not been paid for the property they were forced to sell the
land. The civic club salvaged the plaque and had it installed in Halbert
Park in 1985 as part of a park rehabilitation project. Olive DeMar, the
daughter of Charles Halbert was able to attend the ceremony. She was
the treasurer of the Sunset Heights Civic Club for many years in the
1940’s and 1950’s.

The East Sunset Heights Association forms
     The unofficial beginning of the East Sunset Heights Association
took place in May, 2002 when several neighbors who lived on the east
side of North Main concentrated their efforts to improve the area be-
tween Airline and North Main which had been deteriorating for years.
The official boundaries are E 23rd, Airline, 610 North Loop and North
Main. Buster & Sharon Pendley, Holly Hughes, Chuck Shoults, Juan
Arroyo, and Gary & Dorothy Hester called neighbors and knocked on
doors to invite residents to the first meeting; it was a huge success, and
the association was of-
ficially formed in Octo-
ber, 2002. The purpose
of the organization
is to encourage and
promote the enhance-
ment of the East Sunset
Heights community.
     In the early years
of the association,
speakers from the vari- A billboard announcing the recognition of the
                         East Sunset Heights as a community star.
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                          31
ous departments of the City of Houston attended the ESHA meetings
educating members about what could be done to improve the neigh-
borhood through the existing City Ordinances and the Police Depart-
ment. In October, 2004 the East Sunset Heights Association was recog-
nized with five other Houston civic associations as Community Stars of
Houston. The mayor held a banquet, presented ESHA with an award,
and the city placed a billboard displaying the association’s name on
Yale Street to recognize ESHA’s effort to change the neighborhood.
     ESHA continues to improve the neighborhood today, welcoming
and encouraging neighbors to attend the meetings, organizing neigh-
borhood events, and most importantly bringing neighbors together to
build a stronger community. ESHA’s motto, displayed in its newsletters,
has always been “It’s All About The Neighborhood”

Sunset Heights Civic Club Today
      The club’s recent efforts have been focused on Halbert Park. In
2007 the SHCC adopted Halbert Park via the City of Houston Adopt
A Park program. Since then, the
civic club has worked with the
city’s Parks Department to install
and maintain a doggie waste bag
dispenser, an information shelter,
and a butterfly garden. The SHCC
was awarded a $3000 2009
Neighborhood Matching Grant
which was used to resurface the
tennis court and install a new
32                             The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration

The Sunset Heights actively seeks to beautify our local park with ongoing
improvement projects such as the information shelter, left, and the
butterfly garden shown during construction right.
bench during the summer of 2010. Halbert Park continues to be a
focal point for the neighborhood and is the location of the centennial
celebration on September 25th, 2010. SHCC joined forces with ESHA
to assist the Houston Heights Association in the creation of the North-
ern Heights constable program which started this past July.

The Future
     The Sunset Heights Civic Club
has been around since the begin-
ning of the neighborhood, and
while activities have sometimes
slowed, it has always rebounded.
The original charter, by Charles
Halbert, was simple:“To make Sun-
set Heights a better place in which
to live”. He did not limit the orga-
nization to the strict boundaries of
the neighborhood when recruiting
volunteers. Rather, people living in close proximity to each other all
had a vested interest in the area and the organization welcomed them
     The Sunset Heights neighborhood has multiple organizations
that represents its residents. In addition to support from the SHCC and
ESHA organizations which have collaborated on things like Yard of the
Month, National Night Out, and the Centennial Celebration, the Hous-
ton Heights Association and Greater Super Neighborhood organiza-
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration   33
34                           The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration
tions also help to improve the neigh-
borhood. These organizations will
continue to work together to improve
Sunset Heights in the years to come.
You are invited to be a part.

      Civic Club
  Calendar of Events
  •	 Sept	23rd	SHCC	
     monthly	meeting	@
     the	Brethren	Church

  •	 Oct	5th	National	
     Night	Out	

  •	 Oct	12th	ESHA	
     quarterly	meeting	
     @14	Pews	on	Aurora

  •	 Oct	28th	SHCC	final	
     monthly	meeting	@
     the	Brethren	Church
The Sunset Heights Centennial Celebration                           35

  Defend yourself from the IRS
  IRS Mediators Corp.®
  www.IRSmeds.com                                    713-402-6151
 We were born out of the real world, line
 management experience. We put ourselves
 in your shoes.

 Our services are affordable and effective for
 mid-sized businesses, agencies, school
 systems, and non-profit

  3200 Southwest Frwy, 33rd Floor Houston, Tx 77027
      Stay up to date in your ‘hood!

                                                 •Complete Auto Repair
                                                       •Audio Systems
                                                         •Window Tint

   (713) 869-6040

   6408 N Main
   Houston, TX 77009
                                                                      Join your
                                            Join us
                                                                      civic club
                                          25th                          today!
                                     for an all day event.         Look inside for more information.
                                     A parade, a festival, a        Annual memberships start at just
                                                                  $15 and supports the Sunset Heights
                                       cookout! Oh my.            Community. Come to a meeting to see
                                                                           what it’s all about.
Celebrate the centennial of the Sunset Heights                    -- to make Sunset Heights a better
                               To sponsor this event or get              place in which to live
     years                           involved, visit
 Sunset Heights Celebration

To top