22 January 1911: From the corner of Pease looking up Main Street toward the north the Savoy Apartment Building dominates the scene. Built in1906 in an area convenient to downtown with a transportation grid of streetcars, private coaches, and soon enough, automobiles., the seven story residence represented a new style of multistory urban living, and was the first public building in Houston to be wired for electricity. Prior to that time the neighborhood of large homes was the prime residential neighborhood of Houston’s business elite.
The home at the corner with the porch facing Main Street was the residence of James Appleby, a retired railroad man who came to Houston from New York at 19 years old, apprenticed as an railroad machinist, and rose through the ranks to become chief payroll clerk. Under the administration of Mayor H. Baldwin Rice [mayor 1896-1898 and 1905-1913] he was chairman of the departments of police and fire. He married Harriet Bremond, daughter of Paul Bremond, a founder of Galveston and Red River RR, later to become the Houston and Texas Central RR. Bremond was the namesake Bremond Street in Houston’s Midtown, for the town of Bremond in East Texas. Harriet Appleby’s sister married William Marsh Rice, founder of Rice University, thus linking Appleby to the founding fathers of Houston itself, the Allen Brothers [Rice’s second wife was Julia Elizabeth Baldwin, daughter of Horace Baldwin, brother to Charlotte Baldwin Allen]. The taller 2-story home farther up the street next to Appleby’s was the home of Joseph Cary, owner of a medical, dental and surgical instruments company.
May 20, 2005: 1. The Savoy 7 floors 1906 here showing the unattractive cladding used to "modernize" the facade - Four years after this photograph was taken the Savoy began to fall onto the street below, and was demolished in September 2009 [see Savoy - Ethel & Myrtle for a later view in which the Savoy is destroyed and the Savoy Field Hotel [next], which has been renovated 2013-2015 into The Holiday Inn Downtown Houston]; 2. Savoy Field Hotel, 17 floors, built in 1966, but here derelict for decades; 3. Travis Tower [Conoco Building], 21 floors, 1955; 4. Reliant Energy Plaza, 36 floors, 2003; 5 J. P. Morgan Chase Tower [Texas Commerce Tower], 75 floors,1982; 6. One City Center [First National Bank Building], 32 floors, 1961; 7. 1010 Lamar [Younan Square], 20 floors, 1980; 8. First City Tower, 49 floors, 1981; 9. First City Financial Center [1301 Fannin] ,25 floors, 1984.
Postmarked Houston, Tex. Jan 22 1911 7-- PM
To: H. Benneman
1909 Indian Ave
"I have struck a fine job here & am getting along fine they were afraid I would not stay, so they sent on for my family paying all expenses. they leave NY. Feb 11-11 Looks good (hey)
Cargill Co Houston Tex"
The Savoy brought a greater density to the neighborhood, but otherwise represented people of the same social class as those in the adjoining homes. Tenants Included: Edmund F. Bushby, manager of S. Marshall Bulley & Son, cotton exporters; Alexander C. Cairns, 2nd vice-president and treasurer at Weld-Neville Cotton Co. and 2nd vice-president and treasurer at Magnolia Warehouse & Storage Co.; Algernon S. Cale of Cale-Lane Oil Co. [LINK] purveyors of Pennsylvania oils and greases; William Christian, independent cotton factor and commission merchant; offices of Cravens & Cage (James Cravens and Rufus Cage), Insurance for fire, tornado, accident, liability and automobiles; Charles C. Crawford, Jr., manager A. M. Lockett & Co., Babcock & Wilcox Co., contracting mechanical engineers for pumps, condensers, and meters; Lawrence H. Dimmitt, general agent for Central Coal and Coke Co.; John M. Dorrance, cotton exporter; William Stamps Farish, Jr., oil producer from the Spindletop Oil strike in Beaumont, soon to become founding member (with Ross Sterling, R. L. Blaffer, and Harry Weiss) of Humble Oil and Refining Co., later to become Standard Oil, then Exxon, Exxon Mobil, brother to Stephen Power Farish (namesake for Farish Hall at the University of Houston); John W. Lewis, attorney; Mark Lowd,, manager of Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation; Leonard W. Macatee, one of the sons in W. L. Macatee & Sons, dealers in fire brick; Austin W. Pollard of Heard & Pollard, cotton buyers and exporters; Harry P. Radcliffe, real estate agent; Daniel Ripley, cotton broker and Galveston steamship agent; John W. Sanders, vice-president of the Houston Cotton Exchange and Board of Trade, vice-president Merchants Compress Co.; Edwin R. Spotts, attorney, president Magnolia Motor Co., Land Slide Oil Co. (possibly namesake for Spotts Park, unconfirmed; Adolph C. Swanson , president The Mexico Co., Mexican real estate; Alexander J. Swasy, clerk, Pierce-Fordyce Oil Assn.; William H. Taylor, real estate and loans; J. Lewis Thompson, director Union National Bank, president and general manager, Thompson Lumber Co.
Publishing and printing in the early years of the 20th century employed many more workers than computerized production methods now require. Newspapers text was typeset with hot-lead Linotype machines, and images were offset onto rubber rollers replacing more labor intensive lithographic stones. Professional Linotype operators and lithographers were highly trained, very well paid, and much in demand across all of America. They tended to be among the most mobile of citizens as they moved from city to city in search of higher wages and more technologically advanced publishers.
As one of these essential practitioners, John Henry Doebele was recruited from Brooklyn to work at Cargill, one of the largest printing firms in Houston. Jack seemed almost giddy as he bragged about how the company was bringing his family out west at their expense. This family to be brought south consisted of his wife Mayme, her mother Mary Wendell, two sons (George, 11 and Richard, 8) and two daughters (Mary “Mayme” 10 and Jennie, 6). They settled into a home at 1214 Bethje in the suburb of Brunner, what was then a suburban community on the edge of town out Washington Street near Shepherd and Memorial.
Despite Jack’s optimism, the move did not bring good fortune to the family. While in a rush to prepare the Saturday mid-day meal on January 18, 1913, Mayme stoked the cook stove fire with kerosene, a solvent her husband would have employed to clean lithography stones and much used in the day. The can exploded in her hands, dousing her entire body in flames. The family rushed to put out the fire, but she had suffered fatal injuries and died that night in agony, fully conscious of what was happening to her. She was buried in German Cemetery on Washington in an unmarked grave.
Two months and twenty days later Jack remarried to Johanna A. Dingelstedt, daughter of Otto Dingelstedt and Annette Boller, immigrants from Germany. Johanna’s nephew August was also a lithographer at Cargill, and the two families were neighbors about 6 blocks from each other in Brunner. The Doebele family remained in Houston for a few years, and after 1920 moved to Dallas where he continued his profession. Johanna died in 1924 at the age of 47 of cancer of the liver and stomach and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas. Jack died in 1931 at 57 of apoplexy (stroke) and chronic Bright’s Disease (a kidney condition) and is also buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas.
The recipient of the postcard, H. Benneman of El Paso has not been identified.