Main at Preston - North
5 February 1908: On the left near corner was Hutchinson & Mitchell Clothing Store and Jerry L. Mitchell, jeweler. The sign "6" directs imbibers to the 66 Saloon, a popular watering-hole owned by Toulmin Cleveland (1859-1937) from Mobile, AL. The striking red brick Kiam Building was built in 1893 in the Romanesque Revival style for Ed Kiam and his clothing store. Upper floors served as offices for real estate agents, and various other professionals.The taller building in the distance on the left is the 6 story 1870 Commercial National Bank Building.
On the right, furthest back is the 8 story First National Bank Building built in 1904 diagonally across from the Commercial Bank. Closer in the greenish dome-like covering of Levy's protects customers gathering to enter or leave the store from Houston's frequent rainstorms (see Levy's Department Store for a view from there back towards this direction). On the corner of Preston in the Fox Building at the corner was Levy & Wolf Shoe Store at 317 Main and Spencer Drugs at 319 Main. Upper floors were offices of professional men, real estate agents, physicians and dentists, attorneys.
14 June 2004: The Kiam building on the left remains a touchstone to the past, and the block to the north is largely intact, but little else remains from the past on this stretch of Main Street. The five-story Rice Hotel was demolished in 1912 and has been replaced with the present structure of 17 floors. On the right the various businesses in first block north of Preston have been largely supplanted by the Harris County Administration Building [see Opera House in this series for another angle on this building], leaving only the historic Sweeney, Coombs and Fredericks Building on that block.
Metro train service had only been in operation for about six months when this photograph was taken from the southbound Preston Metro Station toward the north. At that time traffic was still getting used to the tracks when an 18-wheeler found itself in front of a honking train with nowhere to go. The driver would have to ride it out to the next intersection, the train conductor riding his tail all the way!
To: Rev. J. Kunc,
Postmarked: La Porte, Texas Feb 5, 1908
P. B. P. J. K.
musim vam door vednit ze jsem od vas pokledniei dostal avelice mne to testi. My jsme pa zas pustoli do zahra dy maley Alphonse manu pamaho. vas
Vajtec Bespalec begins his letter to Reverend Joseph Kunc with the Czech anagram P. B. P. J. K. "Pochválen Bud Pán Jezís Kristus" which signifies "Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ"a most appropriate gesture of faith to a friend and parish priest.
Msgr. Joseph Charles Kunc was born Nov 21, 1882 in Kvasiny, Bohemia and came to Texas as a seminarian in 1905. He was ordained in Galveston in 1907, settling first in LaPorte, where he filed his intent to become a citizen. In 1907 the Reverend moved to Caldwell, TX where he ministered the families in their own language until 1917, when he was given a three year assignment in Pittsburgh, PA. He finally found his way to East Bernard, TX where he was parish priest of Holy Cross from 1921 until 1951. He died in 1972 and is buried in a place of honor in the church cemetery.
Vajtec Bespalec was born 4 April 1860 in Bohemia and immigrated in 1884 with his wife Anna and infant daughter Eva. They settled in Austin County, TX, farming in the town of Industry. Their daughter Anna and son Vajtec, Jr. were born there; Eva married John Holecek and moved to Wharton. It is not clear who "Little Alphonse" was, but since Vajtec went by the name Albert to his English-speaking friends, Alphonse may have referred to his son, who would have been 14 at the time of the postcard. However, "Little Alphonse" might have referred to a much younger child. Eva Holacek's son John was an infant then, and Albert was yet to be born, so neither is likely to be "Alphonse." Nor is it clear why Vajtec was in La Porte to mail the postcard, since the family was firmly established in Austin County.
Vajtec died January 29, 1944 and is buried at Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Industry, TX, and was eventually surrounded by Bespalec relatives.