West End Park (Houston)

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West End Park
New York Yankees at Houston Buffaloes in West End Park in 1914.jpg
West End Park in 1914 during a game between Houston and New York
Location 601 Andrews Street
Houston, Texas
Coordinates 29°45′18″N 95°22′28″W / 29.75493°N 95.37443°W / 29.75493; -95.37443Coordinates: 29°45′18″N 95°22′28″W / 29.75493°N 95.37443°W / 29.75493; -95.37443
Owner Houston Buffaloes (1905–1928)
Houston Board of Education (1928–1940s)
Capacity 2,500
Record attendance 8,300
Surface Grass
Construction
Broke ground 1905
Opened April 1, 1905
Renovated 1908
Closed 1940s
Tenants
Houston Buffaloes (STL, TL) 1905–1927
St. Louis Cardinals (MLB/spring training) 1906–1908
St. Louis Browns (MLB/spring training) 1909–1910, 1915
New York Yankees (MLB/spring training) 1914
Rice Owls football (NCAA) 1912, 1915
Houston Board of Education (UIL) 1928–1940s

West End Park was a baseball park in Houston from 1905 to the 1940s. It was the primary ballpark for the city when it was constructed, and the city's first venue for Negro Major League games.[1][2][3] From 1909 through 1910 and again in 1915, it also served as the spring training facility of the St. Louis Browns (known today as the Baltimore Orioles) as well as the 1914 New York Yankees of the American League and the 1906 through 1908 St. Louis Cardinals of the National League in Major League Baseball. After its use by its primary tenant, the Houston Buffaloes of the Texas League, the ballpark was sold to what is now known as the Houston Independent School District for its use until it was demolished.

Contrary to its name, the ballpark's location was not in West End, Houston, as that area had not yet been specifically designated as "West End", and the current municipal recreational park of the same has no relation to the ballpark. Instead, West End Park was located in the freedmen's town area of the Fourth Ward, with its entrance at Andrews and Heiner Streets. It was bounded by Andrews Street (third base line), Heiner Street (first base line), and Howe streets (left field fence). Today, the Interstate 45 “Pierce Elevated” passes over the area where the ballpark was, from Andrews Street to the Bagby Street exit.[1][4]

History[edit]

Planning and construction[edit]

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Section of a map of Houston from 1913, showing the location of the park. (Select the image to view the full map.)

Construction of a new ballpark in Houston became necessary after the redevelopment of Herald Park into a residential neighborhood during the 1904 season.[5] While a temporary ballpark was used to host the rest of games for that season, poor transportation availability made travel difficult, and a new ballpark in the Westmoreland neighborhood was announced to be finished for 1905.

On January 9, 1905, the Houston Buffaloes organization was given authorization by the Houston City Council for construction to begin on West End Park.[6] During construction, a sandy soil was used for the field, so as to absorb moisture more easily.[7] By March 15, the ball park's construction was nearly completed only lacking paint on the grandstand and field preparation.

Regular use[edit]

West End Park opened on April 1, 1905 as an unnamed park with an exhibition game between Houston and the Baton Rouge Cajuns of the Cotton States League.[8] Despite a large attendance for the game, Houston lost by a score of 0–2.

The ballpark later received its name through a contest conducted by a committee consisting of the Houston Chronicle sports editor, the Houston Post baseball editor, and South Texas League President Bliss P. Gorham. The suggested name chosen would allow its submitter to receive a season ticket to the new park.[9] Ultimately, John T. Schulte of 1018 LaBranch Street was chosen as the winner through a unanimous committee vote on April 16, 1905.[10][11] Other names considered included "San Jacinto Park", "Dick Dowling Park", "San Felipe Park", "Washington Park", and "Gorham Park" among others.

West End Park received major renovations in late 1908 when the Houston Buffaloes ownership increased capacity to the grandstand, added sidewalks and other pavement, and introduced a new grass diamond.[12] During their annual festival, the No-Tsu-Oh Carnival Association had originally erected the stands at the ballpark as a temporary measure, but they were soon purchased by the Buffaloes to expand the grandstand.[13] Other materials used for renovations, such as fences and more bleachers were purchased from nearby Marmion Park.

On December 5, 1911, the grandstand of West End Park was destroyed by a fire. The losses were estimated to exceed $5,000.[14] The grandstand roof was blown off several years later when a storm hit Houston on November 25, 1915.[15]

Post-Houston Buffaloes[edit]

On January 5, 1927, Sam Breadon, then owner of the team, announced that he wanted to purchase land from the City of Houston to construct a new ballpark.[16] On January 18, it was announced that the location had been purchased in the East End.[17] Houston's new ballpark, Buffalo Stadium was then constructed for the 1928 season, and the Buffaloes moved from West End Park to the new stadium.

On August 1, 1928, the Houston Board of Education officially purchased the park from the Houston Baseball Association for $100,000 for use as school athletic fields.[18] The park continued under the same name and continued to be used for secondary school, amateur and collegiate athletics, and for Negro league baseball games.[19]

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, most of the land occupied by the ballpark was cleared or paved over when Heiner Street was extended and the Gulf Freeway was connected to downtown.

Other uses[edit]

The Sells Floto Circus used the West End Park grounds for their show when they came to Houston in September of 1907.[20]

American football[edit]

The Rice Owls playing football at West End Park in 1915

West End Park was often used as a site for American football games. In 1908, the ballpark was the host of what was dubbed the "state championship" in high school football with a game between Houston High School and San Antonio High School.[21] This championship preceded the formation of the University Interscholastic League (UIL) that governs Texas high school extracurricular activities today.

From 1908 through 1911, the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies played football games at West End Park during Houston's annual No-Tsu-Oh festival.[22] On Thanksgiving of 1910, Texas A&M played Tulane there.[23] West End Park was also the venue of the inaugural football game of the Rice Owls against Houston High School in 1912.[1][24][25][26] Rice later hosted Notre Dame, Texas A&M, and LSU in football competitions at the ballpark in the 1915 season.[27][28] In 1929 the first edition of the Prairie View Bowl, which was the first bowl game played by historically black colleges and universities, took place at the ballpark between the Prairie View A&M Panthers and Atlanta Lions.[29]

Transportation access[edit]

West End Park was served by the Houston Electric Company's San Felipe line, which provided street car access during its time.[30] With transfers from Houston's Union Station and Grand Central Station, this allowed for direct public transportation using interurban lines such as the Galveston–Houston Electric Railway and Houston North Shore Railway.[31]

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • "Baseball in the Lone Star State: Texas League's Greatest Hits," Tom Kayser and David King, Trinity University Press 2005

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Workers of the Writer’s Program of the Works Projects Administration in the State of Texas; Harris County Historical Society, Inc. (1942). Houston, a history and guide. Houston: The Anson Jones Press. pp. viii,219. OCLC 1651513. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  2. ^ "Texas League Ballparks since 1907". MiLB.com. Minor League Baseball. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  3. ^ "Stars Beat Kansas City Monarchs, 6-5". Galveston Daily News (Houston: W. Richardson). April 13, 1937. p. 9. OCLC 192107297. 
  4. ^ J. M. Kelsen (1913). Houston Street Guide (Map). Houston. Section F4. "BALL PARK"
  5. ^ "New Ball Park". Galveston Daily News. June 19, 1904. p. 4. 
  6. ^ "Houston's New Ball Park". Galveston Daily News. January 11, 1905. p. 3. 
  7. ^ "Houston's New Ball Park". Galveston Tribune. March 15, 1905. p. 8. 
  8. ^ "The Locals Couldn't Bat". Houston Chronicle. April 2, 1905. p. 10. 
  9. ^ "What's In A Name? A Season Ticket". Houston Chronicle. April 1, 1905. p. 10. 
  10. ^ "West End Park Now the Name". Houston Chronicle. April 16, 1905. pp. 12, 16. 
  11. ^ "The Park Named". Houston Post. April 16, 1905. p. 17. 
  12. ^ "Houston Fans". Galveston Daily News. February 15, 1909. p. 4. 
  13. ^ "Pitcher Hornsby Signed". Galveston Daily News. December 5, 1908. p. 4. 
  14. ^ "Grandstand is Burned". Galveston Daily News. December 6, 1911. p. 9. 
  15. ^ "Houston Still is Wondering". Galveston Daily News. November 27, 1915. p. 1. 
  16. ^ "Card Boss to Build New Park for Buffs". Galveston Daily News date=January 6, 1927. p. 8. 
  17. ^ "Buffs to Have New Ball Park". Galveston Daily News. January 19, 1927. p. 8. 
  18. ^ "School Board Votes to Buy Ball Park". Houston Chronicle. July 10, 1928. pp. 1, 18. 
  19. ^ "Baseball Park Purchased for Athletic Field". Galveston Daily News (Houston: W. Richardson). July 11, 1928. p. 11. OCLC 192107297. Retrieved 2012-05-07. 
  20. ^ "Attracted a Crowd". Galveston Daily News. September 30, 1907. p. 5. 
  21. ^ "For State Championship". Galveston Daily News. November 19, 1908. p. 4. 
  22. ^ Barron, David (November 20, 2011). "UT-A&M rivalry came to an end once before". Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  23. ^ Vance, Mike. Houston's Sporting Life: 1900-1950. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 9780738579740. 
  24. ^ "Rice Football Team, 1912". Rice History Corner, Gleanings from the Rice University Archives. January 6, 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  25. ^ "Rice football at West End Park". Rice History Corner, Gleanings from the Rice University Archives. January 10, 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-05. 
  26. ^ "Rice’s First Football Hero". Rice History Corner, Gleanings from the Rice University Archives. Retrieved 2012-05-06. 
  27. ^ "Notre Dame Ends Season by Defeating Plucky Rice Team". Galveston Daily News. November 28, 1915. p. 1. 
  28. ^ "Prairie View Students Fill Carnival Program". Galveston Daily News. November 8, 1915. p. 3. 
  29. ^ "Inside Hotlanta and The SIAC". Onnidan Online. November 22, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  30. ^ Houston Electric Company (1927). "Peak Extent of Streetcar System" (JPG) (Map). Houston. http://www.cg-publishing.com/railroads.jpg. Retrieved March 11, 2014.
  31. ^ "Houston North Shore Railway". The Handbook of Texas. Texas State Historical Association. June 15, 2010. Retrieved March 11, 2014. 
Preceded by
Harrisburg Park
Home of the
Houston Buffaloes

1905 – 1927
Succeeded by
Buffalo Stadium