City of Southside Place
Southside Place is lesser known, however. Tucked away between Bellaire and West University, it has the feel of a small town where residents know each other and enjoy being part of a close-knit community. That is exactly what Edward Lillo Crain intended when he laid out his new subdivision in 1924.
Shortly after moving to Houston, Crain established his own real estate business and began to buy scattered lots in various subdivisions, building one or two small houses at a time. In 1917 he purchased the T.J. Williams House Manufacturing Co., which produced small bungalows ready to be assembled on-site with precut lumber and materials. Changing the company’s name to Crain Ready-Cut House Co., the fledgling entrepreneur expanded his operations by increasing the number and improving the quality of house designs and enlarging the catalogue through which the plans and materials were ordered. Crain’s next step was to develop entire subdivisions. His earliest developments were Cherryhurst in the Montrose area and Brady Home Addition and Pineview Place on the city’s East Side. For his next endeavor, Crain bought a soggy barren field on Houston’s south side. The tract had once been the location of the Harris County Poor Farm. Then outside the city limits, it could be reached only by driving out South Main to Bellaire Highway or traveling on County Poor Farm Road (later renamed Bissonnet). Crain attracted homebuyers by first building a swimming pool in a park-like setting. Then he added modern improvements, such as concrete curbs and gutters, gravel streets, concrete sidewalks, storm sewers and a sanitary sewer system. Since the land was totally bare of vegetation, Crain took the advice of Teas Nursery and planted a Chinese Tallow tree on each lot. They grew so well that Southside was often called the City of Tallows.
The section nearest Bellaire Boulevard was developed first due to its proximity to the streetcar line, popularly called Toonerville Trolley. This route ran from Houston to Bellaire, turning around at what is now Bellaire and Rice Avenue. Legendary stories abound of early residents meeting the trolley and giving the conductor their prescriptions and money to pay for them. On the return trip, the conductor delivered the medicine from the pharmacist.
Southside Place opened on Easter Day, 1925, with an egg hunt for children of the 500 visitors. Three houses had been completed: A colonial bungalow on Farber for $9,000; a Spanish bungalow, also on Farber, for $7,750; and an English bungalow on Elmora for $8,200. The subdivision’s deed restrictions required that homes on Bellaire, Farber and Garnet must be constructed of brick, stone or stucco. Frame buildings were required to receive at least two coats of paint at the time of construction. The houses were sited for good cross-ventilation with an abundance of windows. They were all assembled in place, using precut materials and traditional construction methods. As the developer, Crain had the privilege of naming the streets. Edloe was named for his son, E.L. Crain Jr., by merging the first and last syllables of their shared first and middle names. According to Marks Hinton in “Historic Houston Streets: The Stories Behind the Names,” Garnet was Crain’s birthstone; Elmora was named for Crain’s secretary of many years; Jardine recalled one of Crain’s favorite places, the Tuileries Gardens in Paris; and Auden was named by combining the names of W.D. Haden and D.T. Austin, from whom Crain had bought the property.
In 1934 Southside Place residents incorporated as a city. It has its own elected officials, water system, taxing system and fire and police departments. In 1946 Southside Place fought being annexed by West University Place. This small enclave obviously preferred to maintain its small town image — something it has proudly achieved for 85 years.