(AK-1: dp. 9,000; 1. 392'; b. 50'9"; dr. 25'4"; s. 11 k.; cpl. 145; a. 4 3")
The first Houston (AR-1) was the former German freighter Liebenfels, built by Bremer Vulcan, Vegesack, Germany, in 1903. Operated by the Hansa Line, she arrived Charleston, S.C., in August 1914, and remained there until 1 February 1917, when her crew scuttled her. Finding her sunk and abandoned, U.S. authorities set about to raise the ship and took her to Charleston Navy Yard for refltting 20 March 1917. She commissioned as Houston (AK-1) 3 July 1917, Lt. Comdr. W. H. Lee, USNRF commanding.
Assigned to the transport service, Houston departed Charleston 11 July, loaded coal and oil at Hampton Roads and joined a convoy sailing from New York 7 August 1917. She arrived Brest 25 August and subsequently made four voyages to and from New York transporting such valuable cargoes as radio equipment, trucks, airplanes, and general supplies. Returning to New York 18 November, the ship was assigned to the Naval Overseas Transportation Service, and made four more voyages between the East and West coasts of the United States, departing on the first of these 15 December 1918 from New York. Until her return to New York 14 April 1921 Houston carried coal, ordnance, lumber, and general supplies between the coasts in support of the Navy's two-ocean operations.
Houston was next assigned to trans-Pacific duty. She sailed from New York 4 May, took on cargo at Philadelphia and Norfolk, and steamed by way of San Francisco, Pearl Harbor and Guam to Manila, arriving 22 October 1921. The ship departed Cavite 16 November, and arrived San Franeisco 11 January 1922. Houston decommisqioned 23 March 1922 and was sold 27 September 1922 to Frank M. Warren of Portland, Oreg.