Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today, we’re covering a topic that is close to my heart. It’s not rooted in retail, but is retail adjacent; Houston Freeways. The book Houston Freeways was published 20 years ago by Oscar “Erik” Slotboom, a native Houstonian who at the time was residing in Austin. Slotboom’s ambition seemed simple: to document and write the histories of the freeways that had helped shape his hometown. Slotboom had already worked on detailing some of his earliest research online via the website TexasFreeway.com, which came online in 2000. When his book was published in 2003, Texas Freeway had grown by leaps and bounds. Slotboom retired his first website and began publishing on HoustonFreeways.com to focus on more current matters. This was also around the point where I found Texas Freeways, and my earliest concepts for preserving “niche” history began to form. Although I could not get my hands on a copy of the book, I was content to look at the photos online. In 2006, Slotboom, who had recently moved to Dallas, started another new site, DFWFreeways.info. With his time split between the two sites, the updates to HoustonFreeways began to grow infrequent but still occurred, such as the 2008 Five-Year Retrospective. At this time, DFW Freeways had grown tremendously, and Texas Freeways had been relaunched by an associate of Slotboom’s named Ron Jackson. Slotboom would continue to update his two websites, eventually publishing a DFW Freeways Book in 2014.
Slotboom’s methodology is one of the reasons behind HHR’s creation and, to put it lightly, has been a massive inspiration to my writing. In reading the work of Erik Slotboom and those he has inspired, it’s incredible to see many of his predictions that have come true (I would highly advise you to check out the Five-Year Update if you haven’t already). More recently, Slotboom has made PDF copies of both of his books available for free via the websites. Texas Freeway has also been relaunched again by a new operator in 2019, who has spent a reasonable amount of time updating the site’s backend to ensure it remains online. These websites speak volumes about the free availability of information, which is something I try to promote through HHR. It’s no exaggeration that without Houston Freeways, there would be Houston Historic Retail.