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Houston History


  • 1836--On Apr. 21, General Sam Houston's Texas army wins independence from Mex ico in the Battle of San Jacinto.

  • 1836--Houston founded on Aug. 30 by brothers Augustus C. and John K. Allen, who pay just over $1.40 per acre for 6,642 acres of land near the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou.

  • 1836--Allen Brothers call on Gail Borden (publisher, surveyor, and originator of condensed milk) and Thomas H. Borden to survey and map the site. Gail Borden laid out the town's streets 80' wide, with the principal east-west thoroughfare (Texas Avenue) 100' wide.

  • 1837--General Sam Houston, first president of the Republic of Texas, signs an act authorizing Houston to incorporate. Houston was capital of the Republic from 1837 to 1840.
  • 1837--The Laura is the first steamship to visit Houston.

  • 1840--On Apr. 4, seven Houston businessmen form the Houston Chamber of Commerce.

  • 1842--Texas' oldest newspaper, The Galveston Daily News, starts publication.

  • 1846--Texas becomes 28th state.

  • 1850--First census after Texas joins the Union counts 2,397 Houstonians. Galveston is the state's largest city.
  • 1853--Houston's first railroad--the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railroad--begins operations.

  • 1853--Texas Legislature appropriates $4,000 for Buffalo Bayou improvements.

  • 1858--City pays $2,500 for land and "good buildings" for a municipal hospital.

  • 1861--Houston and Harris County vote to secede from the Union. During the war, the closest fighting was at Galveston.

  • 1866--First National Bank founded.

  • 1868--First trolley cars (mule-drawn) appear; first gaslights installed.

  • 1870--Texas readmitted to the Union. 1870 census shows Houston's population up to 9,332. Harris County's has reached 17,375, ranking it second in the state.

  • 1870--Congress designates Houston a port; first survey of Houston's proposed ship channel conducted.

  • 1872--Congress makes its first appropriation--$10,000--for ship channel improvements.

  • 1874--Houston Board of Trade and Cotton Exchange organized.

  • 1875--First grain elevator built on Houston Ship Channel.

  • 1877--Houston's first free public schools established.

  • 1880--First telephone exchange created.

  • 1880--Houston gets its first arc light.

  • 1882--Houston Electric Light Co. organized. Houston and New York were the first cities to build electric power plants.

  • 1897--Automobile first appears in Houston as an advertising gimmick.

  • 1899--First city park opens. (This site--now Sam Houston Park--contains several of Houston's earliest buildings.)

  • 1900--A devastating hurricane and tidal wave strikes Galveston, costing some 8,000 lives and untold property damage.

  • 1901--Houston Left Hand Fishing Club purchases the city's first automobile.

  • 1901--Oil discovered at Spindletop. Spindletop, and later discoveries of oil at Humble in 1905 and Goose Creek in 1906, put Houston in the center of new oil and oilfield equipment development.

  • 1902--Congress appropriates $1 million for work on the Houston Ship Channel.

  • 1905--Houston has 80 automobiles.

  • 1910--A group of Houston businessmen headed by the Houston Chamber of Commerce proposes to Congress--and Congress accepts--a novel plan to split ship channel development costs between Houston and the federal government.

  • 1912--Rice Institute (now Rice University, one of the nation's premier universities) begins classes.

  • 1913--Houston Symphony established.

  • 1914--25' deep Houston Ship Channel completed and formally dedicated.

  • 1915--First deep water vessel, the S.S. Satilla, calls at Houston.

  • 1920s-1930s--Oil refineries proliferate along Ship Channel, taking advantage of inexpensive waterborne shipping.

  • 1921--Houston adopts ordinance dedicating tax monies to its library system.

  • 1923--Second National Bank becomes Houston's first air-conditioned building.

  • 1924--The Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, the first in Texas, opens.

  • 1926--Natural gas first piped into Houston.

  • 1927--Houston Junior College (now the University of Houston) established.

  • 1928--National Democratic Convention held in Houston.

  • 1929--City Planning Commission recommends that Houston adopt a zoning ordinance, but finds scant support.

  • 1930--Census ranks Harris County as state's most populous at 292,352.

  • 1932--First Houston Fat Stock Show & Rodeo (now Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo) held.

  • 1934--Intracoastal Canal links Houston to Mississippi River navigation system.

  • 1935--Braniff International inaugurates air service to Houston.

  • 1940s--Petrochemical complex develops, taking feedstocks from nearby refineries.

  • 1941--New master plan for Houston thoroughfares emphasizes a loop system.

  • 1943--Texas Medical Center founded.

  • 1947--Legislature establishes Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University).

  • 1947--Alley Theatre established.

  • 1947--Engineering begins on Gulf Freeway, Texas' first freeway.

  • 1948--Houston voters reject proposed zoning ordinance.

  • 1948--Dec. 31 annexation expands Houston's area from 74.4 to 216 sq.mi.

  • 1948--Port of Houston ranks second nationally in total tonnage.

  • 1949--KLEE-TV broadcasts first Houston commercial TV program.

  • 1953--KUHT-TV, the nation's first public broadcast TV station, goes on the air.

  • 1955--Houston Grand Opera Association and Houston Ballet founded.

  • 1955--Houston metro area population reaches 1,000,000.

  • 1962--NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center moves to Houston.

  • 1962--Houston voters reject proposed zoning ordinance.

  • 1965--First event held in Astrodome.

  • 1969--Houston Intercontinental Airport begins operations.

  • 1969--"Houston" is the first word spoken from the lunar surface.

  • 1971--Shell Oil Co. relocates corporate headquarters to Houston. More than 200 major firms moved headquarters, subsidiaries, and divisions here in the 1970s.

  • 1973--Arab oil embargo quadruples oil prices in 90 days, fueling Houston's 1973-1981 economic boom.

  • 1978--Voters approve and fund MTA.

  • 1982--Employment peaks at 1,583,400 in Mar. before onset of recession.

  • 1983--155 office buildings completed.

  • 1987--Trough of recession in Jan., with net recession loss of 221,900 jobs.

  • 1990--Houston recovery complete, with May job count above Mar. 1982 level.

  • 1990--Houston hosts 16th annual Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations.

  • 1991--Houston City Council mandates development of first zoning regulations.

  • 1992--Republican National Convention held in Houston.

  • 1993--Voters reject zoning in Houston for a third time (1939, 1962 & 1993)

  • 1994--Houston Rockets win NBA finals, bringing Houston it's first major sports championship. They repeat as champions in 1995.

  • 1997--Lee Brown is elected Houston's first African-American mayor.

  • 2001--Tropical Storm Allison dumps up to 37 inchesof rain on parts of Houston, causing the worst flooding in the city's history.

  • 2001--Enron files for bankrutcy after getting caught cooking its books. The Enron Scandal leads to the creation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

  • 2004--Super Bowl XXXVIII is played at Reliant Stadium.

  • 2005--Houston provides refuge to Hurricane Katrina victims fleeing New Orleans using the Astrodome for temporary shelter.

  • 2005--Houstonians attempt mass evacuation in anticipation of Hurricane Rita. Massive traffic jams ensue, and Rita turns east and hits the Texas-Louisiana border.

  • 2008--Hurricane Ike makes a direct hit on Houston and Galveston.



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