23 January 1918: When the four story Bristol Hotel was built in 1904, the rest of the block was residential, either single family homes or residences that took in boarders. Commerce was rapidly coming to the block, however and by 1918, the corner building 1. at 720 Travis at Rusk was a saloon run by David Dorenfield while Merchant’s Café served customers at 718 Travis on the first floor with L. M. Dietrich’s furnished rooms on the second. 2. John L. Jones furniture store was the next building up Travis at 714-716 on the first floor as Mrs. Maud Nolan took in boarders on the second. 3. The 9-story Bristol Hotel Annex at 710 Travis was the brain-child of Jesse H. Jones, Houston’s premier developer of the day. He had already purchased the Bristol Hotel in 1906 with plans to improve and expand it. Despite the economic panic of 1907, he signed a contract in 1908 to build the luxury annex. That same year he financed the construction of the Chronicle Building two blocks up on Texas Avenue on the lot where Shearn Methodist was vacating, and new headquarters for the Texas Company [See Main at Capitol South; and Main at Rusk] one block over at 708 Main. 4. The Bristol Hotel had a rooftop restaurant and bar, and soon after its opening became a popular watering-hole. 5. Just past the hotel on the right at 812 Capitol was the home of Abraham Schulman (1863-1936), a Jewish immigrant from Minsk who managed the Texas Theater at 215 Main [visible, though not marked at Main at Commerce and Houston Land and Trust]. 6. On the next block past Milam Street was the James Furniture Company owned and operated by John William James (1882-1966) who had come from Hill County, TX to try his hand at the Houston business environment.
14 May 2019: 14 May 2019: This wall of banal urbanity reveals only 3 buildings, one only by inference. 1. 808 Travis: A tiny window façade detail and a bit of the street-level interface is all that can be seen of the iconic Neils Esperson Building, one of the most recognizable buildings in Houston (32 floors, 1927) which peeks in from the upper left; 2. 901 Rusk: The Gulf Building Annex, 16 floors, 1946/1949 reveals itself only by its shadow on the Bank of America Tower; 3. 808 Capitol: The rest of the view is dominated by the Bank of America Tower which now occupies the entire block bounded by Travis, Rusk, Milam and Capitol. The Bank of America Tower now occupies the entire block bounded by Travis, Rusk, Milam and Capitol. The lobby fronting Capitol Street here on street level from center to right is pedestrian-oriented space designed to bridge the gap between the streets and the nexus of an extensive tunnel system including lunch-time food court restaurants. The 35 story building was constructed from 2015-2019 on the demolished ruins of the 1906 Bristol Hotel Annex and the 18-story 1955 Houston Club Building, Jesse Jones’ last construction project in Houston. The Houston Club was the oldest gentleman’s club in Houston, established in 1894 and housed at various downtown buildings, including 1) The Mason Building (also called the Rusk Building and later the Houston Bar Center Building) from 1894 until 1904 [See Main at Rusk where the white-clad building was renovated 2018 / 2019 into the AC Hotel, 10 floors, 1917), 2) The Chronicle Building (1909-1923), 3) The Chamber of Commerce Building (1923-1955) before settling into its own building, 4) The Houston Club Building (1955-2012), demolished for the current structure, and 5) Houston Club now is headquartered on the 49th floor of the Shell Building.
10 June 2009: The buildings shown are associated with Houston Club at 811 Rusk, which was demolished by implosion in October 2014.
Postmarked: 1 January 1918; Hous[ton, Tex.] Log[an Branch]
To: Miss Anna Gragol [Gragd?]
R4 Box 18 c/o Ras Kopple
Message: Houston, Texas
Jan 23rd 1918
Well how are you getting alone by this time I am fine and dandy how is the weather in Ill hear its warm an nice did you get the letter i send you we might have to move pretty but its hard telling when or where they might take us across pretty soon Ill have to close as the lights are going out from W. J. write soon
Although the postmark is truncated on this postcard, comparison with an intact Logan Branch postmark proves that it was posted in the camp.
Although the identity of WJ cannot be established based on this postcard, he seems to be a little homesick and naturally worried about his future in the war trenches. He seems lonesome, and no doubt hungering for some female companionship. There were about 20,000 National Guard soldiers in the camp, the last arriving in late October three months earlier. Although WJ worried that they might soon leave for the trenches, the first soldiers didn't depart for another 6 weeks.
Anna’s identity is also unknown. WJ’s handwriting was hard to decipher, and since WJ’s spelling seems to be more phonetic than standardized, Anna’s last name could actually be quite different. He directs his postcard c/o Ras Kopple, and although no person by this name can be found in Geneseo, Henry county, there was a Rus Kepple who lived about 20 miles west in Coal Valley, Rock Island County, IL in 1920. Russell was the son of Peter William Kepple (1856-1911) and Susan Caroline Cobart (1862-1935), farmers in various areas not far from Geneseo. The family moved from Andover, Henry County, IL in 1900 to Minnesota about 1910, but returned to the area after Peter died in 1911, settling in Coal Valley. Samuel Russell Kepple was was born in 1896, so at the time of the postcard he was 22 years old and it is most likely WJ was about that same age, soldiering age, so to speak. Whoever WJ was, he was friendly enough with Russ Kepple to ask him to courier a letter to a friend.
What the future held for Anna and WJ in 1918 is not specifically known, but can be sketched out in general. The Swine Flu epidemic began to sweep across America in March of 1918, striking hard at the young people in the 20-40 age group which they represented. Officials undertook preventative measures, such as closing public gathering places, which severely disrupted the normal pace of life. Wearing masks was encouraged, and those caught spitting were arrested, a public health measure that fortunately changed behavior forever after. Soldiers fell sick in disproportionate numbers due to their communal life style, and at its peak late in the year, up to 40% of soldiers were sickened and many died. WJ almost certainly had left Camp Logan before the worst of the epidemic in September 1918 when there were about 700 cases of influenza and 110 deaths. For civilians in the Quad-Cities area around Illinois and Iowa casualties were high despite social distancing: Davenport, IA (270 deaths) and Rock Island (114) were likely underestimates. Modern medicine was challenged by the epidemic, and many public health measures now considered standard date from this period. Advances in warfare were unfortunately just as great, throwing armies of millions into deadly stalemate, shocking the world with deadly industrial killing power. Whether Anna survived the Swine Flu Pandemic and whether WJ survived that and World War I are uncertain.