An outside shot of the Astrodome

photo by: Bukowsky18, Flickr

October 22, 2015

The History of the Astrodome in 8 Cool Items

The Houston Astrodome is many things: a place for sports and a place of romance, an architectural wonder and a community space. It holds a place in our collective history and in our individual memories. From its roles as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” to a place of refuge after Hurricane Katrina, the history of the Astrodome has many stories and many faces.

Astrodome Memories, a project of Houston Public Library in partnership with Houston and Texas archives and Astrodome fans, seeks to capture the breadth of this history by pulling together resources from archives as well as from the community. Here are just a few examples of the memories shared.

Construction, Astrodome roof nearly complete.

photo by: George T. Kirksey

Temporary towers, supporting the nearly finished roof of the Astrodome, are visible in the framework.

Construction, after temporary towers were removed.

photo by: Owen Johnson

A view of the inside of the construction site, after the temporary towers were removed.

Construction Pictures

Photo 294 (above) shows earlier construction of the Astrodome before the roof was complete. Temporary towers held the roof up until it was completed. Photo 102 is after the towers were removed. Warren Giles was the National League President at the time. Roy Hofheinz (fondly referred to as the Huckster) was the County Judge and the Mayor of Houston all before the Dome was built. He spearheaded funding of the project.

Click here for a half-hour film that goes into detail about the construction.

Architects and engineers enjoy the last Astros game in the Astrodome

photo by: David Morris

Left to right: Ken Zimmerman, S.I. Morris, and Israel Naman enjoy one of the last Astros games in the Astrodome.

Architects and Engineers Enjoying One of the Last Astros Games in the Astrodome

All of the major architectural and engineering firms working on the dome were local, and the leaders remained friends: Ken Zimmerman, S. I. Morris, and Israel Naman. Zimmerman and Morris were lead designers on the Astrodome project. Naman designed the air conditioning system that kept everyone cool and filtered the cigarette smoke.

Astrodome scoreboard

photo by: Viki Henson

The Astrolite screen, designed by Ed Henderson, was a major feature of the dome for nearly twenty years.

Astrodome Scoreboard

From the opening of the Dome in 1965 through 1983, Ed Henderson’s entertaining animations were featured centerfield on the “Astrolite” screen. We are processing Mr. Henderson’s large collection of animation stills and Astrodome memorabilia.

Sports History in the Words of Two Players

Bob Watson (Houston Astros 1966-79; General Manager 1993-94)

Bob Watson talked with Greg Lucas about what it was like to play baseball in the Astrodome and how it differed from playing in other stadiums.

Mac Haik (Houston Oilers 1968-71)

On August 1, 1968, Mac Haik scored the first pro football touchdown in an indoor stadium in the world at the Houston Astrodome. Here he talks about that experience.

Evel Knievel Film

Promoters sold more than 100,000 tickets for legendary stuntman Evel Knievel's two appearances at the Astrodome in 1971. Attendees got to see a demolition derby, a powder-puff derby, and then the main event: Evel Knievel jumping successfully over 13 cars.

The film was part of a home movie project of one of our partners, the Texas Archive of the Moving Image in Austin.

Double Wedding Before an Astros Game

Mario and Dominic Ortiz were two brothers who were avid Astros fans. On August 1, 1993, Mario married Halaine Worsham and Dominic married Terry Lopez in a double wedding before an Astros game. The brothers wanted to get married in the Astrodome to show their wives how much they loved baseball and what a big part of their lives it is. The women said yes anyway. Dominic threw out the first pitch for the game.

Hurricane Katrina

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana coast in less than 12 hours, killing more than 1,400 people. On August 31, FEMA and National Guard personnel began to evacuate the 20,000 people in the New Orleans Superdome on hundreds of city and school buses via Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, and Beaumont to Houston and the Astrodome.

Memory Wall

The Dome Mobile was launched on October 21, 2013 and made daily appearances at various locations around Houston through November 5, 2013 (Election Day). It represented an education partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Houston, Houston MOD, AIA Houston, and Houston Arts and Media. By the end of the tour, 920 tributes and memories had been collected from well-wishers on the 26’ x 8’ panel.

Oprah Winfrey visits hurricane refugees at the Astrodome.

photo by: Reliant Center Joint Information Center

Oprah Winfrey comforts an evacuee during her visit to the Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina.

The panel was donated to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center at the Houston Public Library where it was digitized for preservation and is accessible online.

The project will continue to post memories in all formats at at least until the end of 2017. Watch the Web site for future activities and events. In the spring of 2016 we will add an app allowing the public to post memories and memorabilia from home. We look forward to hearing from interested fans!

By: Astrodome Memories Staff

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