Friday, February 05, 2010

Who Should Have a Historical Marker in Houston?

OK, so Lightnin' Hopkins is getting his own historical marker up on Dowling later this year. That's good--well-deserved. Lightnin' makes me proud to be a Houstonian. As Slampo says, he deserves even bigger official kudos. But Slampo follows up with the fact that historical markers tend toward the highly respectable and avoid the disreputable demimonde that are undeniably part of our history. These markers also tend to whitewash their subjects (but it's hard to blame them for that, usually). I'd go even further and say that historical markers tend to be seriously boring objects about mostly pretty boring subjects. On one hand, I don't have a problem with the boring bits of history--after all, lots of important parts of history are basically pretty boring.

But I'd like to see more exciting people, places, and events from Houston's history on historical markers.

So I throw it out to you--what persons, places, or events from Houston history should be "honored" (or at least recorded) on a historical marker? You can see a list of already existing markers here.

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Blogger Slampo said...

Briefly scanning this list, I'm moved to wonder who or what doesn't have his, her or its own marker ... It looks like the waterfront has been covered. (I didn't see Dewey "Folks Gotta Eat" Compton, the former county ag extension agent (?), but I did see Compton Cemetery ("Straight Into Compton"), where his ancestors may be resting. I don't know how long gone you have to be to be eligible, but they pass these markers out like Halloween candy. I've got at least 3 direct forebears and an equal number of outer-orbital ancestors in E. Texas who are so commemorated, and these all were due to the the manically obsessive effort of a late aunt who made their recognition her post-retirement mission ... and one of the claims made on one marker is a bit of a far stretch, at least from what I can tell from the available record.

I don't know what the appropriate memorialization of Lightnin' Hopkins would be, but ... maybe a portion of a street, like Dowling, or South Main headed to Fort Bend, like how part of 59 is named after Lloyd Bentsen but nobody calls it that. It's the thought that counts.

2:13 PM  
Blogger  Robert Boyd said...

That's why I think renaming part of a street is a bad idea. I have no objections to it in practice, but I tend to think people just keep calling old things by their old names. I still say "Intercontinental" instead of "Bush." In New York, people still say "6th Ave." instead of "Avenue of the Americas." No one is going to start calling some portion of Dowling "Lightnin' Hopkins Way" just because the city officially designates it so. (Besides, Dowling itself is named after a colorful and interesting Houstonian--Dick Dowling, Civil War hero and proprietor of the Bank of Bacchus, an early Houston saloon.)

The best monument for an artist (like Hopkins) is that the art still lives on. But beyond that, a new thing--like naming a new school or park after him, or a big, visible monument--like a statue--would be best. But that's me.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Slampo said...

Yeah, I suppose "Lightnin' Hopkins Boulevard" would just be an invitation to drive fast, like "Buffalo Speedway," but if it took hold hipsters from France, Italy and across the globe would come here just to get a snap of the street sign (econ. development bonus). Still, a park would be best, since LH was all about recreatin', and "Discovery Green" is a suck-a-trocious name. How about designating the entire Discovery Green space the "Lightnin' Hopkins District," then put a district-designating marker in the shape of a Kool 100 w/LH's picture atop all the nearby street signs ... You gotta get busy on this, Boyd. Time's a'wastin'.

1:36 PM  
Blogger  Robert Boyd said...

Who was on the committee (and you know it was a committee) that came up with the name "Discovery Green"? I want to slap each of them individually.

I didn't think about the tourists posting with the signs--that's a good argument if favor of having a Lightnin' Hopkins Way. Do it in front of Project Rowhouses so they have something else to do when they stop their rentals to pose.

I still favor a huge David Adickes head of Lightnin'--with the cigarette, though. No pussing out on the smokes the way the post office did with the Robert Johnson stamp.

2:23 PM  
Blogger  Robert Boyd said...

"posing with signs" not posting.

2:31 PM  

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