The history of the M&M building is wrapped up in the history of transportation in Houston. The building was intentionally sited on the land that sits between White Oak and Buffalo Bayous, but it also sat at the closest meeting point between two great railroads, the Missouri Kansas Texas (MKT, nicknamed The Katy), and the Southern Pacific. MKT ran down from Dallas (and further north), to west of Houston and then roughly followed the north side of what is now Interstate 10, through Katy, TX (named for the railroad, most likely) and then into Houston. The Southern Pacific came in from Los Angeles and San Antonio, moving gradually northeast through Rosenberg and Stella (near present-day Stella Link). Both train lines were destined for the Ship Channel. The MKT was bought by the Union Pacific and its subsidiary MOPAC (Missouri Pacific) in 1988, and its line is now the White Oak bike trail. The Southern Pacific line was merged into Union Pacific in 1996 and still runs trains under the building every day.
In 1929, when the Merchants and Manufacturers building was constructed, the first floor had large loading docks all around its perimeter. In this way, they could load or offload freight from either the MKT, the SP, or the bayous. With further access to the tram line and car and truck traffic via the Main Street Viaduct, this building was truly at the center of industry. It’s probably safe to say that if the Great Depression hadn’t hit in October 1929, this building would have been a powerhouse of activity during the 1930s and 1940s. Instead it languished at below-capacity until 1967 when the South Texas Junior College took up residence within its halls.
MKT Station, located on the north side of the M&M building, where the Student Life Center currently resides, circa 1955:
Shot of the Union Pacific rolling past under the South Deck, today: