Main at Preston - North
5 February 1908: 1. 402-404 Main: On the left near corner was Hutchinson & Mitchell Clothing Store and Jerry L. Mitchell, jeweler; 406 Main: The sign "6" directs imbibers to the 66 Saloon, a popular watering-hole owned by Toulmin Cleveland (1859-1937) from Mobile, AL; 2. 320 Main: The striking red brick 5-story 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; 3. 302-312 Main: This block of three story buildings held professional offices on upper floors, including the YWCA offices, and on lower floors, Emil Lipper’s clothing store at #308, Benson’s pawn shop at #306, and at Congress Street at #302-4, Krupp & Tuffly Shoe Store, a long-time Houston institution owned by Mattie Marie Tuffly (1862-1945), widow of Louis John Tuffly (1851-1907); 4. 917 Franklin: The Commercial National Bank Building, 6 floors, 1870; 5. 201 Main: First National Bank Building, 8 floors, 1904, maintaining offices of many professional men, including in 1908, Will C. Hogg (philanthropist son of the former governor) and Wm. F. Cleveland (one of Houston’s preeminent businessmen); 6. 309-313 Main: Levy Brothers Dry Goods store, with prominent greenish awning to protect entering customers (see Levy's Department Store for a view from there back towards this direction). Levy’s was led by Abraham Morris Levy (who got his start as a clerk in the William L. Foley’s dry goods store on Travis, see Cotton Exchange) and his brothers, Haskell and Hyman, who all lived in a palatial home at 2016 Main, now the address of one of Houston’s early high rise apartment buildings;
7. 317 Main: The Fox Building, with Levy & Wolf Shoe Store on the first floor, and offices of professional men, real estate agents, physicians and dentists, attorneys on upper floors. Levy & Wolf was owned by Jonas Levy (no relation to Abraham Levy of Levy Brothers Co.) and his nephew Charles S. Wolf. Nine months after this postcard was sent, a young shoe clerk at Levy & Wolf, Jules Hohenthal Wolf, the brother of Charles S. Wolf, would send another postcard in this series: Paul Building.
14 June 2004: 1. 320 Main: The Kiam Building remains a touchstone to the past, 5 floors, 1893; 2. 302-312 Main: This block of three story buildings to the north of Kiam’s is largely intact, and as in 1908 there are still professional offices on upper floors. Emil Lipper’s clothing store at #308 is now The Nightingale Room, Benson’s pawn shop at #306 are bars El Segundo and High and Dry, and at the corner of Congress Street, the Sterne Building burned in 1916 and was replaced by Sam Sterne's daughter, Pauline Sterne Wolff, with a modernized structure within the same general contours [LINK Congress at Travis]. Krupp and Tuffly clothing and shoe store moved to 901 Main at Walker after 1928 into an ornate 4 story building developed by Jesse Jones. The corner building is now occupied by Boomtown Coffee; 3. 220 Main: Hotel Icon (Union National Bank building), 12 floors, 1910 (renovated 2003); 4. 917 Franklin: Commercial National Bank building, 6 floors, 1870; 5. 101 Main: UH Downtown Commerce Street Building [LINK Houston Land and Trust], formerly the site of Harley Hotel, 9 stories, demolished in 1991, replaced by the current building, 4 floors, 2005; 6. 201 Main: Franklin Lofts, a residence (First National Bank building), 8 floors, 1904, followed by several additions and expansions; 7. 301 Main: Sweeney, Combs & Harris Building (see Sweeney, Coombs and Fredericks Building) , 3 floors, 1889; 8. 1001 Preston: Harris County Administration Building [see Opera House in this series for another angle on this building], 10 floors, 1978.
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. The message is in Czech and seems to say that Vajtec was glad to receive the Reverend’s last communication, and adds the cryptic comment that they have let go of little Alphonse again to help him.
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.