Katy’s most recognizable landmarks are its rice dryers. Their future is uncertain, mostly because their condition is difficult to access and some lack city services. Whatever becomes of them, the dryers remain a visible reminder of an important chapter in Katy history.
Theodore B. Tucker modified the design of a grain dryer in California to build the first rice dryer in Katy. Opened in 1940, that dryer was located at the southeast corner of Avenue B and Hwy. 90. Fellow farmers were skeptical but quickly appreciated the very successful venture.
Rice farming was very successful, and large crops required more dryers. Rollie Robertson built a rice dryer adjacent to the Tucker dryer in 1943. The following year, Roy Morrison, J. V. Cardiff and B. Ray Woods built the first rice dryers made of concrete in Texas. The Katy Division of the American Rice Growers erected a dryer in 1947.
Fire destroyed the Tucker and Robertson dryers in 1954. The other dryers on the north side of the railroad tracks remained busy. When it opened in 1966, the J. V. Cardiff & Sons rice dryer was the tallest in the country (177 feet), and it took 122 hours to pour the concrete to build the structure.
At one time, the dryers processed rice for 300 area farmers who harvested 75,000 acres of rice. When all of the dryers were operating, locals could hear the hum of the giant fans for miles around. As rice fields were lost to new development, the dryers closed. The last harvest was processed in 2005.
A few of the dryers are now used for industrial and storage purposes. No Label Brewery has made good use of the old Ray Woods dryer.
While they will never process rice again, the dryers are still historically important. We hope the owners will keep this part of our history standing for many years to come.
Carol Adams is the author of HISTORIC KATY: An Illustrated History
Category: Katy Texas History