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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

News Items From 1919

I've been reading issues of Texas Industrial and Commercial News, a weekly newspaper published in Sugar Land in the early part of the 20th century.  I've selected a few items of interest from the August 29th issue.  (I'll follow up next time with items from September.)  The quality of the images is spotty, so I've included transcriptions to aid readability.  However, I've included the images in case you want to check me.

This first item is about construction of the 'new' power plant, which still stands on the east bank of Oyster Creek near the water tower.  It's the light-colored, two-story, masonry building between Main Street and the creek.  It was officially completed in early 1920 (I think), but this article says Sugarland Industries was preparing the town for an upgraded electrical grid to be supplied by the new power plant.

One inference I'm making from this article is that the town and the refinery were already served by electrical power, which was supplied by an earlier plant inside the refinery complex, somewhere behind today's Char House.  I'm still trying to determine when electricity first arrived in Sugar Land.  My guess is that it was part of Edward Cunningham's new refinery built in 1893, although he may have built a power plant in 1888 when he introduced diffusion processing in his sugar mill.  (I've posted lengthy items about this project a few months ago.)

Town Wiring And Building On Power Plant Progresses

Work on the big power plant is progressing rapidly now.  Material is being unloaded in large quantities at the site.  A pile driver has been erected and the foundation will soon be going in.  Big poles are being set over town and new wiring installed.  The system is to be much larger in all aspects than the present equipment which the town has entirely outgrown.

A very early photo of the power plant. The view is toward the southeast, so Main St. is behind the building and Oyster Creek runs behind and to the right of the camera.  Note the Sealy Mattress smoke stack.  That building is hidden by the power plant.  It sat at the corner of Main and what is now Kempner Streets.
This next item is a blurb on renovations to the Imperial Inn, which stood roughly where Bayview intersects Highway 90A.  Here's a photo to help orient you.

You can see the Imperial Inn at the top center of this photo.
A closer view of the Imperial Inn.
And here's a view of it burning in 1946, or '47.  Mr. R. M. Laperouse took this photo when he noticed the fire.  He lived across the Creek from the Inn.  Buddy Wheeler (SLHS '59) told me he remembers this fire.  When he heard the siren, he rode his bicycle from The Hill to the tracks to watch the volunteer firemen battle the flames.  He was 5 or 6 years old.
I've mentioned this before, but the Imperial Inn was the old Thatcher Plantation House which sat out near Grand Central (just south of old Sugar Land) until 1908, when it was moved into town to serve as a hotel, restaurant, and town social center.  As you'll see from this brief article, the Brauner family, who managed the Inn, renovated it about 10-years later and were ready to reopen in early September.  (More about that next time.)  I know from early newspapers that the Inn was quite a hive of social activity.  

Tales of the Town
Imperial Inn To Open

Announcement of the opening of the Imperial Inn on September 10 will be noted in our advertising columns.  This commodious hostelry has recently been renovated and enlarged and with the new equipment it is expected that better service than ever before will be possible.  The manager announces that complete information will be published next week.

This next item is about the return of a WWI service man, Frank Loper.  He was discharged later than other local men, so he earned special mention.

Frank Loper Home

Frank Loper got his discharge on the 13th instant at Newport, R. I. and arrived at Sugar Land on the 18th since which time he has been learning the art of boiling sugar at the refinery.  Frank enlisted in 1917 in Houston and was sent to Pierce Island, S. C. and later Quantico, Va. for training.  He was with the 5th Brigade which was sent to Santiago, Cuba and was then sent to West Indies to quell the disturbance in Haiti.  After plenty of excitement his unit returned to the States in August 1918 to get ready for sailing across.  His unit embarked in September 1918 and landed at Brest where the expedition was split up, the Second Batallion going to St. Nizzarre (sic) and Nancy, the provisional unit going to Schleswig-Holstein.  This was Frank's unit and he says they just stalled around, doing picket duty and training and waiting and didn't get a single whack at the Boches.  He was later transferred to the 13th Batallion and in this reorganization on August 9th landed at Newport where four days later he got his discharge.

Frank is enjoying chicken dinners given by his friends here and says the boys who got home earlier have nothing on him even if they did have a barbecue and chicken spread on July 4.

Not long after his return, Frank got back to work and gave the newspaper editor a little demonstration of his skills.

Sugar Making Interesting

Mr. Loper, sugar boiler at the refinery, favored the editor with a demonstration of the process of refining sugar Thursday night.  He was operating the three big vacuum pans that turn out a total capacity of some 250 barrels of sugar at each filling.  It takes about an hour and a half to work a charge of liquor through these pans, where it is boiled and kept cool all at the same time till the granules have formed to exactly the desired size and hardness to make the best sugar in the world.  When the granulation is completed the batch is dropped by releasing the vacuum into a bin from which it is taken and washed and put through the sundry processes that turn it out ready to go into sacks and barrels.  It seems incredible that so many tedious processes can be given the raw sugar for such a trifling charge.  Refined sugar is only slightly higher than raw sugar and all that painstaking work must be done to make it ready for the table and at a charge per pound that would cause the butcher or shoe dealer to declare he couldn't possibly do it.

I'll have selections from the September 1919 issue next week.