Uncovering Houston

A Celebration of Freedom on Lyons Avenue

I was flipping through some historical archives and came across some fascinating photos of a Juneteenth parade in Houston. The photos didn’t have a date or location attached to them, so I took it upon myself to give them one. Judging from the nature of the parade, this event would have occurred in any one of Houston’s three historically-Black neighborhoods: Third Ward, Fourth Ward (Freedmen’s Town), or Fifth Ward.

The businesses in the photo above were an excellent starting point. I found newspaper listings for a “J. Dyche Furniture Mart” at 2911 Lyons Avenue. Just to be certain, I checked listings for the “Hyman Furniture” also visible in the photo and found a location at 2919 Lyons Avenue.

Fifth Ward it is.

August 1955 advertisement in the Houston Chronicle
January 1955 advertisement in the Houston Chronicle

As for narrowing down the date, that has been a considerably trickier operation. J. Dyche Furniture Mart, according to city directories, opened a location on Lyons Avenue sometime between mid-1946 and mid-1947. “Store Closing” advertisements began appearing in December 1961.

December 1961 closing announcement for J. Dyche Furniture Mart’s Lyons Avenue location. Courtesy of The Houston Chronicle

As for Hyman Furniture, while I found city directory listings without an address dating to 1952, listings with an address began in 1955. Based off of this information, the photo was definitely taken sometime between 1952 and 1961. Factoring in the city directory’s listings (with address) for Hyman Furniture, we can possibly squeeze that time frame to 1955 and 1961.

In the photo of the parade above, a float with American flags can be seen in the background. The following two photos are closeups of the float in the same parade.

The image description states that this is a NAACP Youth Council float. It’s on a United States Marine Corps flatbed truck and is being driven by a man in uniform. Both the door and a sign hanging from the flatbed tell us that a local business by the name of, “Houston’s Own 1st Cargo Company” had a hand in either providing the truck, or the wooden pallets to make the float. We also see 3 women behind 4 uniformed men, presumably an Honor Guard. Even though the photos are in black and white, we can imagine that this procession was very patriotic and filled with red, white, and blue decorations.

These photos also give us another clue as to the time frame these photos were taken. Earlier, I gave a broad range of 1955-1961 based off of the businesses in the first photo. However, the American flag behind the 3 ladies only has 48 stars meaning that Hawaii and Alaska had not received statehood. Alaska and Hawaii received statehood in January and August of 1959. So, based off of this new information, the photo was taken between 1955 and 1958.

In typical Houston fashion, Lyons Avenue looks nothing at all like the first photo today. In fact, every thing is gone and I do mean every thing. Even taking into account Houston’s severe lack of historical preservation, I was still surprised at how differently the 2900 block of Lyons Avenue looks today.

The Lyons Avenue of the past is long gone and all that remains of it are the photos you see in this post.

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