Who Was Shelley, and Why Is Her Name Inscribed Over the Front Door of My Hyde Park Fourplex?

shelley-montrose

Hyde Park resident Michael Draper writes: “I live at Maryland and Yupon and my fourplex has the name Shelley inscribed above it. Down the street at Rudyard’s/Next Door Bar it had a similar inscription that read LALA. There are many others including Axelrad and more. My question is what purpose did these serve?”

“Were they family names and perhaps a trend during home construction of that era or is there another purpose? Every amount of research I’ve done had yielded no answers….It is an interesting feature and partially a reason I decided on this property to rent.”

Photo: Michael Draper

The Writing On The Walls

10 Comment

  • I used to live in a Brownstone named Elberta. I’m not sure what these names represent.

  • I’ve seen little apartment complexes in midtown with names over the doors too. Or at least I did in the mid-2000s; not sure if they are still there. Certainly seems like it was just a 30s-and-40s trend for owner-landlords to put their names on their buildings. But there could be more to it, I admit.

  • Apartment buildings used to have names. Last decade, J. R. Gonzales of the Bayou City History blog left us a Christmas present of a link to a 1924 guide to Houston: http://blog.chron.com/bayoucityhistory/2007/12/a-gift-for-bayou-city-history-readers/ I’m at work and can’t test the divshare link, but all signs indicate that it should still work.

    At the back of the guide is a sort of Yellow Pages for its times, and one of the sections is “Apartments”. I don’t see Axelrad or Shelley or LALA, probably because they were newer than 1924, but I do see Underwood Court and Windward Court, a pair of buildings that used to molder in Midtown until they were torn down several years ago, and Carlton, which still existed the last time I checked. It helps to know that some of the streets were renamed; for example, the Carlton was listed at 804 McGregor, but you can find it on Google Street View at 804 Winbern.

    It would be nice to have a similar guide from about 1940 or so to pick up the ones that were built in the 1930s. There seems to have been a lot of Montrose/Midtown/Fourth Ward building going on in those days.

  • a friend used to live in “Geraldine” on Hawthorne. Always liked that the fourplex had a name.

  • Perhaps they were a fan of the poet. At any rate I’m sure they’ll all be torn down soon, for like a CVS or some apartment complex of dubious design, I wouldn’t get too attached.

  • Thanks for the link, Googlemaster. My workplace also has this blocked, but I’m looking forward to downloading this when I get home!
    .
    Here’s a link that rehashes what Googlemaster said. The buildings featured are also apartment fourplexes. http://mikeshistoricbuildings.blogspot.com/2011/10/three-riverside-sisters.html

  • Houses used to have names too, although it seems to have dropped out of fashion outside a few affluent communities in the US. However, the tradition is still strong in the UK, where many houses and apartment blocks do not have street numbers.

  • If you really want to research this topic, there is no better resource than the Houston Metropolitan Research Center; the staff there is amazing and they love a challenge like this.

    http://www2.houstonlibrary.org/hmrc/services.html

  • CJ: I love the Geraldine building. I tried to buy it one time. My house is a few doors down and I have apt complexes on both sides of it.

  • In greater Third Ward, the names over the doorways of those 1930’s-era apartments and 4-plexes are indeed those of the proud builders, some of whose descendants still live in Houston. The Jewish names are from when the neighborhood between LaBranch to the west and Ennis to the east was more ethnically mixed than today. Several built by Greenfield (Miz Brooke Smith’s ancestor) and Axelrad are still standing. Buildings with sweetly old-fashioned names for ladies seem more prevalent in Montrose, with at least one in Norhill as well. And then there are, or were, some named after their location, such as the WEST-MUL on Westheimer @ Mulberry, and the delightful MAR-MUL around the corner on Marshall @ Mulberry.