The unimposing concrete panel of
civil engineering art at the foot of Caroline Street, scarcely reveals
the importance of this particular drainage to the town of Houston. The
simple, yet engaging, circle and square storm sewer outlet is all that
remains of the large ravine that extended up Caroline Street.
A number of ravines cut through the Houston town site in 1837. Most
prominent among these was the large gully at the lower end of Caroline
Street. The size of the ravine decreased significantly south of
Congress Avenue, and it continued to gradually narrow until it
disappeared between Prairie Avenue and Texas Avenue. As the gully
flowed toward the bayou, it curved to the east near Commerce Avenue and
cut through Block 6 (Houston town plat) before dropping into Buffalo
Bayou near the end of Austin Street.
The Dry Gully, as it was sometimes called, varied from twenty to forty
feet deep and was a significant barrier separating the business
district from the residential neighborhood of Quality Hill to the
east. As a result, bridges were built across the gully at
Franklin Avenue and at Congress Avenue. An 1852 painting by Thomas
Flintoff shows St. Vincent Church situated near the corner of Franklin
Avenue, just west of the wooden bridge across the Caroline Street gully.
James L. Glass, a noted local historian and map maker who has studied
the history of Houston from 1836 to 1839, the Caroline Street gully may
have played a pivotal role in the layout of the town of Houston. On the
sixty-two block rectangular plat of the town, the east-west streets of
Houston were laid out at angle of North 55 degrees West while the
north-south streets were at an angle of South 35 degrees West.
Supposedly, the streets were offset from a true north-south alignment
in order to conform to the curvature of Buffalo Bayou and to assure
"maximum wharfage and commercial opportunities." However, the Caroline
Street gully was a significant topographic feature of the land where
the Allen brothers wanted to locate their town. By aligning the plat of
the streets to the gully, the Allens were able to maximize the number
of available town lots for sale. Any other alignment meant that several
blocks would have been cut diagonally by the gully and many lots would
After the Civil War, mayor Horace Taylor set out to revitalize the City
after a period of neglect due to war. Among the civic projects, which
included adding new shell to the streets and the posting of street
signs with names on street corners, was the installation of a culvert
in gully at Caroline Street and Congress Avenue. By 1873, the drainage
south of Commerce Avenue had been filled in, and only the ravine
winding through Block 6 remained. Block 6 was undeveloped as late as
1907, but by 1924, a major sewer outlet had been constructed at the end
of Austin Street and Block 6 was covered with the tracks of the
International and Great Northern railroad tracks.
Today, Block 6 lies vacant and is used as a parking lot. From the
street level, no trace of the historic gully is evident.