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Houston, Texas, United States of America, North America

Founded: August 30, 1836
Location: Eastern Texas, Galveston Bay coastal prairie, United States, North America
Flower: Bluebonnet (Texas state flower)
Time Zone: 6 am Central Standard Time (CST) = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: 64.7% White, 19.2% Black, 0.3% American Indian, 3.9% Asian, 22.9% Hispanic, 11.9% Other
Elevation: 41 feet (12m)
Latitude and Longitude: 29°46N, 95°W
Coastline: 51 mi (82 km) northwest of the Gulf of Mexico
Climate: Maritime climate, tropical almost year round. Hot, humid summers and very mild winters.
Annual Mean Temperature: 48°F (9°C) in January to 88°F (31°C) in August
Seasonal Average Snowfall: Almost nonexistent
Average Annual Precipitation: 45 in (1,145 mm)
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Standard US
Monetary Units: Standard US
Telephone Area Codes: 713, 281
Postal Codes: 77002, 77336, 77338, 77339, 77346, 77357, 77365, 77373, 77375, 77388, 77396, 77401, 77429, 77447, 77449, 77450, 77469, 77478, 77484, 77489, 77493, 77504, 77506, 77520, 77530, 77532, 77536, 77546, 77547, 77571, 77573, 77587, 77598

1. Introduction

Houston, also known as the Bayou City, is located near the Gulf of Mexico on the coastal prairie of Galveston Bay in eastern Texas. For its city population, it is the largest in the Southern and Southwestern United States, and the fourth largest in the nation. Texas' largest entertainment complex, the Bayou Place, is located in Houston. Finished in 1997, Bayou Place is the cornerstone of urban renewal in the 1990s, costing in excess of $23 million, with the massive size of 150,000 square feet. Yet, Bayou Place is only one part of a revitalization and diversification project for a city that reached depression levels just a decade ago.

2. Getting There


Two major interstate highways intersect in the downtown area: I-10 and I-45. Other important highways include I-90 and US-59, which converge on Houston from the north-east. US-290 approaches the city from the northwest and State Highway 288 from the south. While State Highway 8 forms an outer ring around the city, I-610 raps around the center of Houston, delineating its own neighborhood, the Inner Loop. As of the year 2000, the total highway system contains 16 freeways and toll roads.

Bus and Railroad Service

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) operates Houston's bus transit service. Its extensive system, with more than 900 buses that run more than 100 routes, operates in the inner city and most surrounding areas. METRO also has taken on community responsibilities by providing curb-to-curb service for elderly and disabled commuters, and coordinating carpooling among drivers.

Railroad service is limited, but passenger service, via AMTRAK, is accessible along the New Orleans to Los Angeles route. Greyhound Bus Lines service is also available.


Houston has the fourth-largest airport system in the United States and the sixth largest in the world, with approximately 2,000 flights entering the city daily. The city has two major international airports and several other regional air facilities. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport (on the north side of the city) and the William P. Hobby Airport (located southeast of downtown) provide passenger service by all major international and domestic carriers. The METRO bus system offers express transportation to most Houston sites of interest from both airports.

Houston Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 1,702,086
Area: 1,600 sq km (617.5 sq mi)
Nicknames: The Bayou City, The Real Texas

Metropolitan Area

Population: 3,365,000
Description: Designated as a Primary Statistical Area (PMSA) by the U.S. government
Area: 4,920 sq km (1,900 sq mi)
World population rank 1: 82
Percentage of national population 2: 1.2%
Average yearly growth rate: 1.2%
Ethnic composition: 64.7% white; 19.2% black; 0.3% American Indian; 3.9% Asian; 22.9% Hispanic; 11.9% other

  1. The Houston metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of the United States' total population living in the Houston metropolitan area.


The Port of Houston serves 200 steamship lines while it connects Houston to 250 ports worldwide. Ships enter the 84-kilometer (52-mile) inland Houston Ship Channel through Galveston Bay on the Gulf of Mexico to reach the port's 100 wharves. The port itself is second nationally in foreign tonnage and third in total tonnage handled. As foreign trade makes up the majority of its cargo, it is within the largest Foreign Trade Zone in the United States. More than half of the port's export tonnage includes agricultural products. It is the number-one wheat exporter in the world and is also strong in rice and cattle exporting. Other exports include plastic materials, organic chemicals, petroleum products, fertilizers, and machinery. The Port of Houston is an essential U.S. distribution point, linked to 22,526 kilometers (14,000 miles) of commercially sailable intracoastal channels.

3. Getting Around

Houston's transit system, METRO, has made great strides in the world's largest network of transitways. However, automobiles still cause traffic headaches in Houston travel. METRO's efforts have been accelerated by long traffic delays, especially during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Houston boasts the third-largest taxi cab fleet in the United States, with more than 2,000 vehicles in operation.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

The METRO bus system is affordable and reliable. Riders can travel at a low one-way local fare, and the on-time performance record stands at 95.3 percent. The system is flexible and offers express service to the downtown shopping area and to several major medical, business, and shopping centers in the area. METRO also offers a new trolley system that provides free transportation within the downtown area.


Several driving and walking tours of the Houston area are available through the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tours are also available through Tourworks Houston and Old Town Spring Tours. Churches may be toured by special appointment. Whether walking or driving, visitors will want to be sure to see Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Houston Zoological Gardens, all located in the picturesque Museum District. Moody Gardens, Space Center Houston, and Sam Houston Park are also main sites of interest. Gourmet dining can be found in the Montrose area, known for some of Houston's finest restaurants. Sightseers may also want to check out Enron Field, the home of the Houston Astros baseball team.

4. People

Houston is the fourth most populous city in the United States. In 1995, city of Houston population statistics registered at 1,702,086. In the metropolitan area, the population count stood at 3,710,844. Home to 68 international consular offices and more than 100 different nationalities, Dallas Morning News' Texas Almanac lists the Houston metropolitan area racial composition as 64.7 percent White, 19.2 percent Black, 3.9 percent Asian, 0.3 percent American Indian, and 11.9 percent other; regardless of race, 22.9 percent of the total population were Hispanic, an ethnic rather than racial distinction.

5. Neighborhoods

Houston is basically divided into four major areas: Inner Loop, North Houston, Northeast Houston, and South Houston. Each area is representative of the city's diverse population and living styles. Neighborhoods are grouped into one of these areas according to geographic location.

The Inner Loop

The Inner Loop is a miniature version of the greater Houston area. It is easily noticeable as I-610 defines the area's boundaries. Housing in the neighborhoods of the Inner Loop is diverse, ranging from apartment buildings and small houses to mansions, condominiums, and townhomes.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Houston Cairo Rome Beijing
(United States) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 3,365,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1836 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $72 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $40 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $2 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $114 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 1 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Houston Chronicle Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 550, 763 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1901 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

The River Oaks neighborhood is by far the most exclusive in the Houston area. Situated south of Memorial Park, River Oaks was founded by Mike and Will Hogg, the sons of James Hogg, former Texas governor. The neighborhood has abundant white-columned mansions, complete with painstakingly tended gardens and even separate maids' quarters. This neighborhood is in fact so exclusive that deed restrictions on houses forbid the use of "For Sale" signs. In this neighborhood, houses are sold starting at $400,000. To keep up the prestige, the neighborhood's streets are named after notable golf and country clubs from across the country.

The South Main neighborhood's most notable institution is the Texas Medical Center, which keeps 51,000 Houstonians employed in 41 different departments. A smaller division of South Main is Boulevard Oaks. Appropriately named, the section has gained notoriety for its beautiful old oak trees, originally planted in magnificent geometric patterns along the streets. One particular street became internationally recognized when The New York Times labeled it one of the most marvelous streets in the country.

North Houston

North Houston has more defining characteristics than other areas, with its older smaller neighborhoods completed in the 1930s and 1940s. Where young people once left the area in droves, now many professional couples are attracted by the relatively easy downtown commute and the many tree-lined streets. This area symbolizes neighborhood renewal, not through new concrete and steel but through housing renovation in the old neighborhoods.

The Woodlands neighborhoods are appropriately named, with a quiet and spacious atmosphere complete with an abundance of greenery. Housing in the Woodlands, though almost all constructed in the 1970s, is characterized by the use of brick, and some of the houses have up to two acres of land. There is also a 1,000-acre Research Forest set aside especially for nonprofit and academic research institutes and industry.

The small town of Conroe is situated about 56 kilometers (35 miles) from Houston. In the late 1800s, Isaac Conroe built a sawmill in the area, and it was consequently named after him. By 1903 the town became the county seat, and by 1930s Conroe became emblematic of Texas itself. It was during this time that oilman George Strake unearthed "black gold," the discovery that really put Conroe on the map. Conroe is notable for its many available country properties. Some plots are so large (24 to 40 hectares/60 to 100 acres or more) that horses and other livestock are permitted.

Northeast Houston

Northeast Houston allows for small-town rural living only minutes away from the big city. It is especially attractive for its recreation areas, including Lake Houston and several golf courses.

Known as Hunter's Paradise to early settlers, Humble (pronounced "Umble") was named after P. S. Humble, a settler who in the mid-1800s operated a ferry across the San Jacinto River. Though there is spacious, rural living in Humble, it is only minutes away from Houston by way of Highway 59. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport employs a large number of Humble residents.

Sitting on heavily wooded territory ten kilometers (six miles) east of Humble is Atascocita. Coming from the Spanish word for "obstruction," Atascocita was once employed as a stronghold of the Spanish government against the French. The area is characterized by both large country-club homes and meticulously planned subdivisions, offering smaller houses.

South Houston

The south Houston area is located along I-45, nicknamed the "Gulf Freeway." This area developed around rice farms, orange and fig orchards. In the 1930s, oil field development allowed many residents to work in the Texas City area. Today, South Houston is one of the quickest expanding areas in the entire region.

Clear Lake is home to the third largest boating center in the United States, the NASA Johnson Space Center, various computer and petrochemical industries, and Hobby Airport is only a few miles away. Originally an agricultural and fishing locale, the federal government's decision to locate NASA's Space Center in Clear Lake helped its development tremendously. Twenty-seven percent of the area's population is employed by aerospace-related companies, and recreation and tourism account for more than 25 percent of the work force. Space Center Houston opened in October 1992. Situated on a 16-hectare (40-acre) visitor center, the $70 million complex depicts the history and future of manned space flight through a visual timeline. Walt Disney created various programs and hands-on exhibits for Space Center Houston, including Imagineering, which allows visitors to experience the inner workings of the manned space program. New housing construction is constant in Clear Lake. Waiting lists have been established because of the extreme shortage of homes and apartments, and occupancy rates are close to 100 percent.

Southwest Houston

The southwest area of Houston (encompassing part of Harris and all of Fort Bend County) is one of the most expansive areas. Home to several manufacturing and electronic firms, Fort Bend is notable as one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Between 1980 and 1990, the population of the county increased more than 50 percent. In fact, the county was ranked with the top ten fastest growing counties in America in 1994.

The communities of Alief and Sharpstown experienced major growth spurts in the 1960s and 1970s. Brick tract homes are prevalent in the area, being small and mid-sized, but the importance of the area is its plurality. In the Alief-Sharpstown area, many cultural and ethnic influences are evident, including African American, Asian, and Hispanic communities.

Imperial Sugar, the state's oldest company, is located in an area appropriately named Sugar Land. Still in operation, the sugar refinery is located in the city's old business district. Residents of Sugar Land are recreation-oriented with three highly ranked golf courses. The George Observatory, the largest publicly used observatory, is located nearby, along with Brazos Bend State Park.

First Colony was the first Anglo settlement in what was once Hispanic Texas, hence its name. Led by William B. Travis early in the 1830s, 300 colonists settled north of what is now Richmond, on the banks of the Brazos River. The area's fertile soil was historically the basis of sugar cane, cattle, and rice cultivation. Today, First Colony is representative of the growth of greater Houston. Many of the homes in the master-planned community are new, most of them less than ten years old.

6. History

In the 1820s, American settlers began driving into Texas. At the time, it was in the best interest of Texas territory owner, the newly independent Mexico, to allow these American immigrants to settle. In 1824, a New Yorker named John Richardson Harris (d. 1829) established the town of Harrisburg, today within the corporate limits of southeastern Houston. Harris was looking for a waterway location, easily reachable by ocean and land traffic. He established his claim at the confluence of Buffalo and Bray's Bayous, a prime navigational area. By 1826 the settlement became a lively naval trading post, but by 1829 Harris had died of yellow fever, and his heirs quickly became deeply embroiled in litigation over the prosperous estate. The brothers Augustus C. and John K. Allen, themselves New Yorkers, arrived in Texas in 1832 and quickly took interest in the Harrisburg estate. However, the immense cost for the land and the legal fight over the Harrisburg property at the time stifled the Allen brothers' plans.

In the 1830s, American immigrants changed their names to "Texicans," yet quickly began to feel oppressed by Mexican forces. The Texicans, feeling abused by the dictates of Mexico City, simultaneously declared Texas an independent republic and at war with the government of Santa Anna in 1836. During the Texas revolution, the Allen brothers served as supply agents for the Texan cause, and Harrisburg temporarily held the Texan government. Yet when Santa Anna (17971876), the so-called "Napoleon of the West," reached Harrisburg, he entered a flaming hulk. The residents of Harrisburg evacuated and torched their town after hearing the news that Santa Anna was approaching. The angry Mexicans then finished the job. The complete destruction of Harrisburg was a sad development for many residents, especially the Harris family, but to the Allen brothers it was a new opportunity.

Immediately planning another town nearby, the Allens decided on a site at the head of tide on Buffalo Bayou. They knew that pioneer Texans needed outside supplies and that the easiest way to get them was by water. Though other waterways in the region were rather shallow and often congested with debris, Buffalo Bayou was wide and clear. It had substantial banks and was deeper than the others. Yet, the Buffalo Bayou was on a desolate stretch of prairie; alligators slithered through the bayous; Indians stalked the woods; mud and mosquitoes were a constant nuisance; and yellow fever menaced the populous. To smite the obstacles in their path, the brothers named the town for Sam Houston and even prematurely planned a capital and congressional building. Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas, moved his capital from Columbia to Houston. In 1837, Houston was incorporated with a population of 1,200, and the capital remained there until Austin became Texas' permanent seat of government in 1839. As a result of substantial pressure by Texans, the Republic officially disbanded and became the twenty-eighth state of the United States in July, 1845.

Houston grew as a settlement despite the numerous problems that emerged. Rainfall was heavy, and drainage was poor. Fires and floods ravaged the city, and differing epidemics scourged the populous. From the late 1830s to the late 1850s, the railroad became important both as a means of travel for Houstonians and for shipment of goods. The Civil War (186165) was at first a benefit to Houston. The flour mill continued to produce; cartridges were manufactured at the court house; and there was considerable local production of drugs, leather goods, candles, and printer's ink. However, in the end, the Civil War was devastating to the city, not just in the amount of human lives lost from Houston, but in the destruction of railroads. One railroad did manage to avoid destruction, the Houston and Texas Central, which the military preserved for their exclusive use. After the Civil War, Houston continued to grow through the expansion of commerce.

Manufacturing (particularly by means of lumber taken from surrounding forests) was important, but like elsewhere on the frontier, it took a backseat to other commercial activity. By 1870, Houston had 9,000 citizens, which marked it as the third-largest city in Texas. At that time, Houston was primarily a distribution center with inadequate means of transportation. Therefore, attempts were made in the following decades to deepen the Houston waterway in order to allow for bigger ships to reach port, yet this had varying success. The discovery of oil in 1901 at Spindletop, near Houston, helped Houston's economy by acting as a catalyst for the eventual construction of oil refineries, pipe lines, and a large petrochemical industry. Reshaping the Buffalo Bayou into a shipping channel helped shipping to grow immensely as it hastened to suit the dissemination of oil and oil products between 1915 and 1929. Houston's rapid growth during these years changed the physical characteristics and architecture to suit the growth of manufacturing. By the 1930s this partnership allowed Houston to surpass San Antonio's population and become the largest city in the then-largest state in America.

Despite the American Depression in the 1930s (and afterwards), transportation facilities in Houston continued to improve. The most dramatic transportation improvement had to do with air travel. Following World War II (193945), the petrochemical industry in Houston grew even more. A major development for the city had to do with a choice by the federal government. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) chose to place their new Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston in 1961. As the United States entered into a space race with the Soviet Union, Houston found itself the home of famous astronauts and engineers, world-famous surgeons and the Astros baseball team. The first word in a message sent from the moon gave the city recognition as it echoed across the globe: "Houston, Tranquillity Base here, the Eagle has landed."

Scientific advances introduced new methods of transportation in Houston, but they also destroyed old methods as well. The old Union Station in Houston ushered in and out approximately 40 trains a day in the 1950s. By the late 1960s, the passenger trains numbered only about three a day in Houston. Air travel, busses, and automobiles replaced the old train system.

The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 troubled many Americans at the gas pumps, where lines were long, and gasoline prices skyrocketed. Yet, for Houston this event was a miracle. With the sharp rise in oil prices, stock prices doubled and tripled, dumping massive amounts of capital into Houston. Skyscrapers designed by world-class architects dramatically changed Houston's skyline and became monuments to Houston's investment in "black gold." In 1983 alone, 155 office buildings were completed. Industrial workers flocked to Houston to be a part of this massive growth as companies expanded. In many ways Houston became a one-industry town. By the late 1980s, the chemical industry produced about 50 percent of the total United States output. Yet with the major energy companies placing their headquarters in Houston, and thousands of energy-related businesses in the area, the city was set for a decline.

During the 1980s, the city reached depression levels as the economy continued to spiral downward. The answer lay in diversification. Shifting away from reinvestments in the oil market, Houston revitalized in the 1990s with capital in its entertainment, recreation, medical, and aerospace industries.

In the late 1990s, Houston gained recognition not only as the capital of the international energy industry, but also as home of the world's largest medical center. It has become one of the country's premier visual, architectural, multicultural, and performing arts centers. It has greatly expanded its shopping areas and malls as well. Most important, however, has been Houston's urban growth and population surge. In 1995, the population had reached 3,710,844, the nation's fourth-largest city in metropolitan polls.

7. Government

Houston is the official seat of Harris County, operating under a mayor-council form of government. In 1992, the total number of City employees was 21,045.

8. Public Safety

Several public safety programs operate out of Houston's City Hall. The Office for Public Safety and Drug Policy employs the Office of Anti-Gang Activities, responsible for developing city initiatives to reduce gang and youth violence. Houston Crackdown coordinates and supports community volunteer projects in alcohol and drug abuse. The Mayor's Office administers the Crime Victims' Assistance Program, referring crime victims to legal and counseling services. In the year 2000, the City of Houston began sponsoring a new non-emergency service number: 311. The 311 program is designed to handle service requests, such as pothole repairs, and alleviate 911 non-emergency calls.

9. Economy

Since the economic recession of the 1980s, Houston has been one of the nation's leaders in high-growth private enterprise. A major international and corporate business center, there are 15 Fortune 500 companies located there. Although energy has been the primary growth catalyst in Houston's economy since oil was discovered in 1901, the Houston of the 1990s is a city no longer dependent on the energy industry.

Over 220,000 jobs were lost during the economic recession of the 1980s. However, even during the recession's oil and gas crisis, energy technology, expertise, and resources stayed in the area. Houston remained a leading city in energy production and home to more than 5,000 energy-related companies. Today it is the home of major U.S. energy firms in every sector of the energy business. Yet, even with all the expertise and resources in the energy field, Houston has managed to diversify its economy enough to break its total dependence the energy industry and branch out to other fields.

Houston has taken center stage as the primary player in manned space-flight with NASA's Johnson Space Center. Originally opened in 1962, the $761 million complex became the national focal point for manned space flight. Today, the complex remains a crucial center of technological development, pumping almost $3.7 million per working day into the economy of Houston, and employing nearly 17,000 people.

High-technology and medicine companies have also grown as Houston has climbed out of its recession. A $25 million Institute of Biosciences and Technology was constructed by Texas A & M University, and the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston was constructed out of state funds. The Texas Medical Center also ranks Houston as a prime location for the development of modern high-technology medicine in the United States. The Center has 39 institutions that occupy over 223 hectares (550 acres) and employ more than 50,000 people. Houston's total health employment exceeds 100,000. The development of high technology and medicine have strengthened Houston's economy and made it a national leader in these fields as well.

Houston has emerged as a world leader in the chemical industry. Over 45 percent of the basic chemicals that are used by downstream chemical ventures are manufactured in Houston. Approximately 80 inorganic (most notably, about half of the nation's synthetic rubber) and 300 organic products are produced near Houston. Home to four of the nation's ten major liquid gas pipelines, the world's most developed pipeline network with specialty and derivative chemicals, Houston is a major manufacturing center.

In terms of tonnage handled, the Port of Houston is the eighth largest in the world. Served by hundreds of different steamship lines, Houston is connected to 250 ports worldwide. Boasting the largest Foreign Trade Zone in the United States, the Port of Houston owes more than half of its cargo to foreign trade. More than half of the Port's export tonnage can be attributed to agricultural products.

10. Environment

Houston is situated in the Texas Coastal Plains region, which rises from sea level to about 305 meters (1,001 feet). Near the Gulf Coast, these lands are marshy; however, as they stretch inland, they become flat, low prairies and at Houston form a fertile crescent that is well suited to farming and grazing for fine-breed cattle.

An inland port city, Houston is linked to the Gulf of Mexico, 82 kilometers (51 miles) southeast, by the Houston Ship Channel and Intracoastal Waterway at Galveston. Access to water transportation, raw materials, and natural gas and oil reserves have made the Coastal Plains the most densely populated part of the state and the center of Texas industry, with Houston as the hub.

Within Houston city limits, the Mayor's Office of Environmental Policy employs the Brownfields Program. This program is designed to facilitate reuse of eligible properties identified as Houston "brownfields," including abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial or commercial properties with environmental contamination. Qualifying sites are chosen based on which will generate the greatest potential employment opportunities and most evident community benefits.

11. Shopping

With a wide variety of malls and specialty stores, shopping in Houston can be an overwhelming experience. A little planning is necessary to determine which shopping area is best suited for any given shopping spree.

The center of the city's downtown shopping district is Foley's, the oldest department store in Houston. A well-noted shopping area, the Post Oak Galleria is for the posh shopper. The Highland Village Shopping Center is also distinguished in nature, though it is still expanding.

A well-rounded retail area is Rice Village, which offers over 325 stores, ranging from national chains to more quaint local businesses. Houston's oldest shopping district is River Oaks Shopping Center, which has more than 65 shops.

A particularly strong market is antiques and collectibles. Designer showrooms and antique stores characterize the Upper Kirby District, noted for its Gallery Row, which is a focal point for many local Houston artists. Another area for antique dealers is Houston Heights Antiques Co-op, though the Antique Center of Texas is much larger. For more of an open-air experience in shopping, there is the Old Town Spring and Galveston's Strand that offer not only antiques but art galleries and smaller shops.

In addition to these shopping centers, the Houston area has over 30 different malls. The Bayou City definitely offers one of the largest concentrations of shopping areas in the country.

12. Education

The nation's largest school district, the Houston Independent School District, covers 808 square kilometers (312 square miles) and encompasses 230 different schools. With 10,000 teachers on the job, total enrollment in 1992 stood at 194,512, and more than 8,000 students were reported to graduate annually. Specially developed programs are available. The district offers gifted, multilingual, pre-kindergarten, special needs, and vocational occupational programs. There are also more than 300 private schools in the community as well.

One of America's leading collegiate academic centers, Houston boasted 230,000 college students in 1992. There are more than 30 universities, private, junior, and public colleges. The largest school is the University of Houston while the oldest is Rice University. Another major academic center is Texas Southern University. Noteworthy medical training programs are offered at the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Baylor College of Medicine.

13. Health Care

Houston is home to the world's largest medical complex. There are 51 hospitals in a city noted as a world leader in medicine. At the Texas Medical Center alone, there are more than 3.5 million patients treated by a staff of over 50,000. Within the Center itself, there are 41 major organizations. Seventy health organizations operate ambulances while sharing four helicopters for emergency transportation. Houston's medical community is widely known for its contributions in the areas of cancer research and therapy, trauma and cardiac care, and innovative medical treatment. Its most widely known institutions include St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Texas Children's hospital.

14. Media

Television stations serving the Houston area (excluding cable television programming) include three network affiliates, five independents, and the nation's first public broadcasting television station. The city has over 50 am and FM radio stations that broadcast everything from the news to blues. Houston has two primary daily papers, the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle. Other noteworthy newspapers are the Houston Press and the Houston Business Journal Weekly.

15. Sports

Houston's professional baseball team, the National League Astros, and their professional NFL football team, the Oilers, both play in the Astrodome. The National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets play at the Summit. Houston's collegiate teams also field most major sports. Professional golf plays to spectators of the Houston Open, and professional tennis can be seen at the Virginia Slims Tennis Tournament. Gulf Greyhound Park, the world's largest pari-mutuel greyhound racetrack, and the Sam Houston Race Park for horseracing are available for racing fans as well.

16. Parks and Recreation

Houston hosts a vast parks system. Hermann Park encompasses the Houston Zoo, a children's zoo, a planetarium, a natural science museum, a garden center, and an IMAX Theater. Memorial Park offers herb gardens, an arboretum, and a botanical hall. Sam Houston Park, with six historical buildings, is located downtown, and Tranquility Park is located in the Houston Civic Center. The Harris County Park system includes the Mercer Arboretum and Bay Area Park, and Armand Bayou Park and Nature Center, offering a wilderness preserve and farm.

17. Performing Arts

Houston lore says that in June 1838 the city's first theatrical performance was given amidst a true-to-life drama. Then-President Sam Houston was late to the performance, and in his absence the town gamblers took his seats. After ignoring an appeal to vacate the seats, the sheriff entered with soldiers who lined up against a wall. The gamblers quickly lined up on the other side. President Houston arrived in time to halt the showdown by giving an executive order for the soldiers to lower their arms. The gamblers then exited, giving a dramatic flare to the first theater performance of Houston.

Houston's performing arts scene has been growing steadily since the 1950s, centered in the Theater District where musical theater, opera, music, dramatic theater and ballet coexist.

Musical theater especially draws large crowds in the city. There are two notable organizations that host musicals in the District. The Theater Under the Stars produces popular musicals. The Houston Broadway Series, a division of Pace Concerts, shows a selection of the best hits on Broadway each season, including musicals, plays, and solo performances.

The Houston Grand Opera offers classical opera pieces so often that it is not unusual to catch two different operas in the same weekend.

Both classical and modern music are also popular in the Houston arts scene. Da Camera of Houston is acclaimed for its classical music and unconventional performances, but for mainstream music lovers it also features string ensembles, solo recitals, and jazz groups. The Houston Symphony is renowned for superb concerts of contemporary and classical music.

The Society for the Performing Arts' productions do not easily fit into the classification of theater alone. For instance, the Houston Ballet boasts a permanent company as part of the Society. The Alley Theatre won the 1996 Special Tony Award for outstanding regional theater and attracts an ever-increasing crowd. The Ensemble Theatre, the oldest and largest professional African-American theater in the southwest, moved into their remodeled theater in 1997. The Ensemble is noted for their diverse selection of historical and contemporary works. Mixing of dance, music, theater, and more, the Society brings an eclectic accent to Houston's performing arts scene.

18. Libraries and Museums

There are more than 3.4 million books in collection at the two main library systems in Houston, which together comprise 52 branches. The Houston Public Library system consists of 33 branches and the Clayton Library for Genealogical Research. In addition to its downtown library, it boasts a 30,936 square-meter (333,000 square-foot) facility, housing over two million volumes. An additional 23 branches and two bookmobiles make up the Harris County Public Library system. There are other specialized libraries in Houston as well, ranging from medical to legal subjects.

As for museums, the list of specialized museums in Houston's Museum District continues to grow. Of importance is the Holocaust Museum Houston, which continues to educate people in the Houston area about the European pogrom. Another notable museum is the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which houses a museum, IMAX Theater, planetarium, butterfly tropical rainforest, a satellite facility, and a Challenger Center. Built in homage of the city's health industry, the Museum of Health and Medical Science features an interactive walking tour through a huge-sized body. Hands-on learning is encouraged for both educational and entertainment purposes. The facility holds two theaters as well.

19. Tourism

The largest city in Texas, as well as the fourth-largest city in the United States, Houston is a popular tourist destination for both foreign and domestic visitors. Offering something for everyone, the Bayou City hosts wildlife preserves, the world's richest rodeo, leading fine and performing arts institutions. It is the capital of the international energy industry, home to the world's largest medical center, headquarters for America's manned space flight program, and home to the two-time world champion Houston Rockets.

With more than 38,000 hotel rooms around the city, accommodations can be found to meet any budget or interest. Special packages are available for almost any penchantrecreation, relaxation, romance, entertainment, special events, sports, or family vacation.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Confederate Heroes Day
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Houston-Tenneco Marathon

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo
Mardi Gras! Galveston

Texas Independence Day
St. Patrick's Day Parade

San Jacinto Day
Houston International Festival

Cinco De Mayo Celebration

Emancipation Day/Juneteenth Celebration

Independence Day/Freedom Festival

Lyndon B. Johnson's Birthday
Houston International Jazz Festival
Justin World Bull Riding Championship

Fiestas Patrias

Mid-September to November

Greek Festival
Texas Renaissance Festival.

Thanksgiving Day/Bank United's and Foley's
Thanksgiving Day Parades
Mayor's Downtown Houston Holiday Celebration

Christmas Boat Lane Parade

21. Famous Citizens

Augustus C. (18061864) and John K. (18101838) Allen, founders of the city of Houston.

Monroe D. Anderson (b. Tennessee, 18731929), founder of Anderson, Clayton and Company in 1904, which became one of the world's biggest cotton brokerage firms by 1930.

William L. Clayton (b. Mississippi, 18801966), founder of Anderson, Clayton and Company.

Hugh Roy Cullen (18811857), oil contractor, benefactor of the University of Houston.

Joseph S. Cullinan (b. Pennsylvania, (c. 1861c. 1937), founder of the Texas Company and anti-Ku Klux Klan-ner.

Ltn. Richard "Dick" William Dowling (b. Ireland, 18381867), Civil War hero.

Sam Houston (17931863), famous general, noted as victor of San Jacinto battle, first President of Texas Republic, had city and monument named after him.

William Marsh Rice (b. Massachusetts, 18161900), businessman, established Rice Institute.

22. For Further Study


Houston Real Estate Information. [Online] Available at neighborhoods (accessed on January 5, 2000).

Houston's history. [Online] Available at (accessed on January 5, 2000).

Visitor Information. [Online] Available at (accessed on January 5, 2000).

Government Offices

Houston City Hall
901 Bagby St.
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 2472200

Mayor's Office
901 Bagby St.
City Hall, 3rd Floor
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 2472200

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
801 Congress
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 2273100

Harris County Historical Society,
P.O. Box 27143, Houston, TX
(713) 6551912


Official Guide to Houston, Fall 1997
Published by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
801 Congress
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 2273100


McComb, David G. Houston: the Bayou City. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969.

McMurtrey, Larry. Terms of Endearment. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975.

Schmittroth, Linda and Mary Kay Rosteck, eds. Cities of the United States, 2nd ed. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1994.

Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State. New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1947.

Winningham, Geoff & Reinert, Alan. A Place of Dreams: Houston, An American City. Houston, TX: Rice University Press, 1986.

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Houston: Economy

Houston: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Energy has been the primary factor in the Houston economy since oil was first discovered in the region in 1901. Even during the oil and gas bust era of the 1980s and the recession of the early 2000s, the expertise, technology, and resources remained in the area, providing the crucial base required to meet current national and international market demands while laying the groundwork for future growth. Houston is home to major U.S. energy firms in every segment, including exploration, production, oil field service and supply, and development. About 3,600 energy-related companies lie within the Houston area, including 600 exploration and production firms and 170 pipeline companies. Given the existence of these firms, and the technically trained and experienced work force, Houston no doubt will remain the center of the energy industry in the United States.

During the last decades of the twentieth century, Houston's dependence on the upstream energy industrywhich comprises oil and gas exploration and production, oilfield equipment manufacturing and wholesaling, and pipeline transportationmade it particularly vulnerable to economic downturns determined by energy prices, the national economy, and the value of the dollar against foreign currencies. In order to insulate itself from further economic distress, the city began diversifying into downstream energy (refining and chemicals manufacturing) as well as industries unrelated to the energy sector. In 1981 upstream energy represented 68.7 percent of the job market, while downstream energy represented 15.6 percent and diversified sectors represented 15.7 percent. By 2004 upstream energy's percentage was reduced to 31.4 percent while downstream energy increased to 17 percent and diversified industries nearly quadrupled to 51.6 percent.

Houston is also a world leader in the chemical industry, with nearly 40 percent of the nation's capacity for producing the basic chemicals that are used by downstream chemical operations. The Houston-Baytown-Huntsville area is home to 405 chemical plants employing roughly 36,000 people. With an extensive infrastructure that includes the world's most elaborate pipeline network, Houston is a key production center for derivatives and specialty chemicals. Nearly every major chemical company operates a plant near Houston, including BASF AG, Bayer Corp., Chevron Phillips Chemical Co., E. I. du Pont de Nemours Co., ExxonMobil Chemical Co., and Shell Chemical LP.

Through more than a quarter century of manned space flight, Houston has played an important role in space exploration. The Johnson Space Center of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) is the focal point of the U.S. manned space flight program. It has primary responsibility for the research, design, development, and testing of the space shuttle, and also selects and trains astronauts and controls manned space flights. Opened in 1962, the 1,620-acre Johnson complex is an international powerhouse of technological development, employing approximately 17,000 engineers, scientists, and administrative personnel.

Financial services are a key component to Houston's economy. The finance/insurance/real estate sector represented 15.4 percent of the Houston region's gross area product in 2003. A number of major financial corporations are headquartered in the city, including American National Insurance Co., real estate firm Century Development, and AIG Retirement Services. Situated near the center of a twenty-county coastal prairie agricultural region, Houston is a major international agribusiness center emphasizing the marketing, processing, packaging, and distribution of agricultural commodities. The city also has a strong presence in computer software, electronics, engineering, and nanotechnology.

Items and goods produced: computer software, containers, processed foods, petrochemicals, steel, industrial gases, oil and gas field equipment, synthetic rubber, cement

Incentive ProgramsNew and Existing Companies

Local programs

The City of Houston offers four types of tax abatements to attract new businesses. Economic development tax abatements are offered to certain types of businesses to encourage investment and job creation. Redevelopment abatements are extended to new development within Tax Abatement Districts or Enterprise Zones, while residential abatements are restricted to Enterprise Zones. Brownfield abatements encourage the redevelopment of brownfields, areas where environmental contamination exists in the soil, surface water, or ground water.

The city also attracts investments in Tax Increment Rein-vestment Zones. These zones usually cover portions of the inner city, raw land in suburban fringe areas, or major activity center under decline. Several types of incentives are offered to businesses investing capital and creating new jobs in these areas, and can include capital costs, financing costs, real property assembly, relocation costs, professional services, and administrative costs.

State programs

The state of Texas offers a number of incentive programs to attract new and expanding businesses to the state. The Texas Economic Development Act of 2001 encourages large-scale manufacturing, research and development, and renewable energy by offering an eight-year reduction in property taxes. Other property tax incentives are offered to companies owning certain abated property and those that are located in specified areas known as reinvestment zones. The Texas Enterprise Zone Program offers sales and use tax refunds to companies that create jobs in certain economically distressed areas of the state. Other sales and use tax refunds are extended toward manufacturing machinery and equipment, with agricultural products and semiconductor components targeted in particular. Research and development expenditures may be qualified for franchise tax credits, as can businesses creating jobs or injecting capital into "strategic investment areas."

Job training programs

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) provides workforce development assistance to employers and jobseekers across the state through a network of 28 workforce boards. Programs for employers include recruitment, retention, training and retraining, and outplacement services for employees. TWC also administers the Skills Development Fund, a program that assists public community and technical colleges create customized job training for local businesses.

The Houston Community College System (HCC) is the city's leading vehicle for ongoing training and business development. With five regional colleges, HCC has quality, cost-effective training programs conveniently located throughout the Houston area. HCC staff members also can customize training programs to meet a company's specific needs and conduct those classes on site. The HCC Workforce Development Division oversees 67 degree and certificate programs, including accounting, biotechnology, computer science technology, international business, and real estate.

Development Projects

Two of Houston's biggest initiatives in the early 2000s were to improve the general quality of life and address the traffic situation. These goals were encompassed by Project Houston Hope, under which the city will begin to reverse the downward spiral of distressed neighborhoods by eliminating abandoned property, building affordable housing, attacking the problem of crime, collecting unpaid property taxes, and improving water, sewer, road, and educational services. Improvements to the timing of most of Houston's traffic lights eased traffic congestion and shortened commute times by 10 to 20 percent in 2004.

Houston also took steps to increase its trade infrastructure. Union Pacific Corp. committed $1.5 billion to railway improvements in the Houston-Gulf Coast region. The U.S. government and the State of Texas agreed to the construction of Interstate 69, which will connect Houston with the northeastern U.S. and Canada. An investment of $1.7 billion in George Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport, and Ellington Field will improve air connections for passengers and cargo by 2006. Several projects, including construction of new facilities and a channel deepening and widening, are underway at the Port of Houston.

Economic Development Information: Greater Houston Partnership, 1200 Smith, Ste. 700, Houston, TX 77002; telephone (713)844-3600; fax (713)844-0200; email

Commercial Shipping

The Port of Houston is the world's sixth largest port. It ranked first in the nation in total foreign tonnage handled in 2003, and second in total tonnage. More than 6,300 ships called on the port that year, moving 190 million short tons of cargo. This 25-mile long complex is served by the port authority and more than 150 private industrial companies. The port is also the site of Foreign Trade Zone #84, at which foreign goods can be temporarily stored or processed without an import duty. Two major railroads and 150 trucking lines connect the port to the rest of the continental United States, Canada, and Mexico. Major commodities traded at the port include chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, machinery, motor vehicles, and iron and steel. The Port of Houston Authority is undertaking a number of projects, all scheduled for completion by the end of 2005, to increase and improve the capacity of the port. Among these projects are a deepening and widening of the Houston Ship Channel and a $1.2 billion expansion of its container facilities.

Houston is the international air gateway to the Southwest. George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the 11th largest international air cargo gateway in the nation, shipped 355,000 metric tons in 2004. The William P. Hobby Airport is primarily a domestic passenger airport, though 5,725 cargo tons passed through it in 2003.

Houston is one of the nation's busiest rail centers, with more than 700,000 rail cars passing through the system each year. In addition to links with the three airports, the Port of Houston, and local highways, the rail system is linked with the local trucking industry by six intermodal terminals. The Houston area is served by more than 1,100 trucking firms.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Houston lags just behind the national rate for high school graduates. According to the 2000 census, 76.3 percent of Houston adults completed high school, compared to 80.4 percent for the United States. However, its concentration of college graduates exceeds the national average, with Houston at 26.6 percent and the U.S. average at 24.4 percent.

The Texas Workforce Commission reports that between 1990 and 2005, the service industry accounted for 87 percent of all job growth across the Gulf Coast. Among the fastest growing sectors were computer systems design; architectural and engineering; arts, entertainment, and recreation; employment services; education; and health care and social assistance. The commission projects that the service industry will also be one of the fastest growing sectors throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, second only to professional occupations. Between 2000 and 2010, professional and related occupations will experience a job growth of 28.9 percent, and service occupations will grow by 24.3 percent. These will be followed by management, business, and financial occupations (19 percent) and construction and extraction occupations (16.3 percent). The slowest growing sector will be farming, fishing, and forestry occupations, with a growth of only 9.8 percent. Overall, the labor force is expected to grow by 22.4 percent.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Houston metropolitan area labor force, 2003 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 2,095,800

Number of workers employed in . . .

natural resources and mining: 63,400

construction: 158,300

manufacturing: 188,900

trade, transportation and utilities: 440,900

information: 37,300

financial activities: 124,500

professional and business services: 293,000

educational and health services: 233,600

leisure and hospitality: 178,000

other services: 86,300

government: 291,700

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $17.16

Unemployment rate: 5.5% (December 2004)

Largest downtown employers Number of employees
Shell Oil Co. 5,744
Harris County 4,750
Exxon Mobil Corp. 4,420
City of Houston 4,000
JPMorgan Chase 3,000
Continental Airlines Inc. 2,824
Foley's 2,500
U.S. Post Office 2,314
CenterPoint Energy Inc. 2,199
U.S. Government 2,100

Cost of Living

Historically, the cost of living has ranked lower in Houston than in most major U.S. cities because residents pay no state or local income tax. Housing in general is extremely attractive in Houston; low housing costs are the main reason Houston's overall living costs in 2004 were about 24 percent below the nationwide average for places of all sizes and run 45 percent below the average for metropolitan areas with a population of more than two million.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Houston area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $186,722

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 90.3 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: none for personal; $2.50 per $1,000 taxable capital for corporations

State sales tax rate: 6.25% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

City income tax rate: none

City sales tax rate: 2.0% (of which 1.0% goes to transit authority)

Property tax rate: $0.655 per $100 assessed valuation

Economic Information: Greater Houston Partnership, 1200 Smith, Ste. 700, Houston, TX 77002; telephone (713)844-3600; fax (713)844-0200; email Texas Workforce Commission, 101 E. 15th St., Rm. 651, Austin, TX 78778-0001; telephone (512)463-2236; email

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Houston: Recreation

Houston: Recreation


As the nation's fourth largest city, Houston offers a wide selection of recreational opportunities, ranging from professional football, basketball, and baseball to permanent companies in opera, ballet, theater, and symphony. Houston's retail offerings are world class, with several major shopping malls and urban entertainment centers. With mild annual temperatures, abundant lakes, rivers, and wildlife areas, and more than 400 parks, Houston is also very much an outdoor city.

A principal point of interest is the Johnson Space Center, which offers self-guided public tours every day except Christmas. A unit of the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA), the center features a museum, tours of the Mission Control Center, and viewing of samples returned from the Moon. Space Center Houston allows visitors to "experience" manned space flight, explore shuttle and skylab facilities, and operate the simulator.

The historically minded may be interested in the San Jacinto Battleground State Historical Park, the world's tallest masonry structure. It houses documents, art, and memorabilia, and is a permanent berth for the battleship USS Texas, a veteran of both world wars and the only surviving dreadnought of its class.

Hermann Park includes the Houston Zoological Gardens, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the first desegregated public golf course in the nation. Among other parks offering sightseeing opportunities are Memorial Park, featuring an arboretum, herb gardens, and a botanical hall; Sam Houston Park, with seven historical buildings located downtown; and Tranquility Park, in the Houston Civic Center. In the Harris County Park system attractions include Armand Bayou Park and Nature Center, with its wilderness preserve, nature trails, working turn-of-the-century farm, and scenic Armand Bayou boat tours; Mercer Arboretum, featuring gardens, a wilderness preserve, and nature trails; and Bay Area Park, featuring a marsh walkway. Moody Gardens on Galveston Island features a tropical setting with white sand beaches, penguins, and a discovery pyramid.

Arts and Culture

Houston ranks second only to New York City by number of theater seats in a concentrated downtown area. Moreover, it is one of only a handful of cities in the country to feature permanent dance, theater, symphony, and opera companies. The Wortham Theater Center, a $75 million complex housing the Houston Grand Opera and the Houston Ballet, is the centerpiece of Houston's vital cultural community. That community is supported by a one percent hotel tax dedicated to the city's arts, which have become nationally prominent. The city also features Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, home of the Houston Symphony and Society for the Performing Arts; the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, the home of Theatre Under the Stars and the SFX Broadway Series; and the Alley Theatre, one of the oldest resident professional theater companies in the nation.

Other famed theater groups include Stages Repertory, Main Street Theater, A.D. Players, De Camera of Houston, Theatre LaB Houston, Opera in the Heights, and the Ensemble Theatre, one of the nation's most respected African American theaters.

The Houston Symphony was formed in 1913 and performs more than 200 concerts each year in Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, plus summer concerts in Miller Theatre. Among other musical groups are the acclaimed Houston Grand Opera; the Houston Opera Studio, an international apprenticeship center; the Houston Youth Symphony; and the orchestras of four local universities. The Houston Ballet, a professional company, performs at home and abroad. Other dance companies include the Delia Stewart Dance Company, the Discovery Dance Group, Allegro Dance Group, Chrysalis Dance Company, City Ballet of Houston, Cookie Joe and the Jazz Company, and Several Dancers Core.

With 15 world-class museums, Houston is the fourth largest museum district in the nation. The Houston Museum of Natural Science, located near Hermann Park, features the Burke Baker Planetarium, the Wortham IMAX Theatre, and the Cockrell Butterfly Center, as well as exhibits in space science, geography, oceanography, medical science, and Texas wildlife. The Museum of Fine Arts-Houston is the sixth largest museum in the United States and houses more than 27,000 works from antiquities to the present. It also features the Bayou Bend Collection of American decorative arts, housed in the historic home of local philanthropist Ima Hogg and surrounded by 14 acres of gardens. Houston also boasts the world-famous Menil Collection, 15,000 pieces representing twentieth-century, medieval, and Byzantine art, antiquities, and tribal art. The Contemporary Arts Museum exhibits modern works and is free to the public.

Other facilities include Children's Museum of Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, Art Car Museum, National Museum of Funeral History, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, American Cowboy Museum, the Moody Mansion & Museum, Museum of Health & Medical Science, Museum of Printing History, and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, repository for the only intact Byzantine frescoes in the Western Hemisphere. Among the area's galleries are Farish Gallery and Sewall Art Gallery, both on the Rice University campus, and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, on the University of Houston campus.

Arts and Culture Information: Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, 901 Bagby, Ste. 100, Houston, TX 77002; telephone (713)227-3100; toll-free: 800-4-HOUSTON

Festivals and Holidays

Houston celebrates with countless festivals throughout the year. A Grande Parade is held downtown each January in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. The late-winter Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo commands Reliant Stadium and draws a crowd in excess of 1.8 million over three weeks. Spring is welcomed by the Budweiser Original Zydeco Jamm Festival, an outdoor celebration featuring zydeco music and Cajun-Creole cuisine. April brings the Houston International Festival, a multicultural event spanning 20 city blocks and attracting more than one million visitors across 10 days of performances, art expositions, and open-air markets. The Texas Renaissance Festival is held for eight themed weekends in October and November, while later in November Houston gathers for Washington Mutual's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In December Moody Gardens presents a Festival of Lights, the Heritage Society holds a Christmas Candlelight Tour, and lighted boats are displayed in the Christmas Boat Parade on Clear Lake.

Ethnic celebrations are held throughout the year. They include the Greek Festival, Bayou City Cajun Festival, Japan Festival, Asian Pacific Heritage Festival, Cinco de Mayo Celebration, Scottish Highland Games & Celtic Festival, Fiestas Patrias, Houston Turkish Festival, Festa Italiana, and the Texas Championship Pow Wow. Texans' love of a variety of cuisines is apparent from Houston's numerous food celebrations, such as the Clear Lake Crawfish Festival, Houston Pod Chili Cook-Off, Bayou Boil, and the Pasadena Strawberry Festival, held 20 minutes southeast of Houston. Celebrations of arts are nearly as frequent. Spring brings the Dance Salad Festival, which presents dancers from the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa, followed by the Houston International Film Festival. ArtHouston, Houston International Jazz Festival, Houston Shakespeare Festival, Bluegrass Festival, and Caribbean Luau are held in succession between mid-summer and early autumn.

Some events celebrate the unusual, and others are held just for fun. The Houston Comedy Festival features 20 performances across 8 days in April. Galveston Island hosts the FeatherFest, a birding celebration coinciding with the annual spring migration of nearly 300 species. Each May corporate and community teams race 40-foot dragon boats in the Dragon Boat Festival. Ballunar Festival Liftoff, presented by the Johnson Space Center each August, features a weekend of hot-air ballooning, sky-diving exhibitions, and food and entertainment. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy's Blue Angels thrill spectators with aerial acrobatics each October in the Wings Over Houston Airshow.

Sports for the Spectator

After losing the Oilers to Tennessee in 1996, Houston regained a National Football League (NFL) franchise when the Houston Texans took the field in 2002. Their home is the 69,500-seat Reliant Stadium, featuring the world's first retractable roof in the NFL. Reliant also hosted Super Bowl XXXVII in February 2004, at which the New England Patriots beat the Carolina Panthers. The Houston Astros, a franchise of the National League of Major League Baseball, play home games at Minute Maid Park. This park was christened Enron Field upon its completion in 2000, then renamed Astros Field when Enron Corp. went bankrupt in 2002, and later that year took its current name in a $170 million, 28-year naming deal with Minute Maid Co., which has been headquartered in Houston since 1967. The Toyota Center opened in September 2003, and is home to the Houston Rockets, of the National Basketball Association; the Houston Comets of the Women's National Basketball Association; and the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League. Houston Energy, a franchise of the Women's Professional Football League, play their home games at Rice Stadium.

Collegiate teams participate in most major sports by Houston-area academic institutions. Football is particularly notable, with Rice University in the Western Athletic Conference, the University of Houston in Conference USA, Texas Southern University in the Southwest Athletic Conference, and Houston Baptist University in the Trans America Athletic Conference. Horse racing can be enjoyed at Sam Houston Race Park, while dogs race at Gulf Greyhound Park. More than 150 of the world's best golfers vie for a $5 million purse in the Shell Houston Open Golf Tournament each April.

Sports for the Participant

Harris County and the City of Houston's 429 parks embrace 43,700 land acres and 12,200 water-covered acres. They offer such attractions for the recreation-minded as seven 18-hole golf courses (plus dozens of non-municipal public and private courses), 43 swimming pools, 236 tennis courts, 174 baseball/softball fields, 124 football/soccer/rugby fields, 164 basketball courts, 80 hiking and cycling trails, 55 community recreation centers, and Lake Houston. Cullen Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the nation, boasts a velodrome equipped for Olympic cycling events. A driving range is available at Memorial Park, fishing is enjoyed at Eisenhower Park, and a three-story man-made mountain graces Herman Brown Park. Harris County parks include Clear Lake Park, with boating and fishing; Alexander Deussen Park, with boating, fishing, and camping on Lake Houston; Bear Creek Park, with an aviary on Addicks Reservoir lands; Bay Area Park, with canoeing; and Tom Bass Regional Park, offering fishing. Houston lies within an hour of 70 miles of Gulf Coast beaches; deep-sea fishing on the Gulf is available through charter companies.

Annual events invite participants of all athletic levels. In March the Tour de Houston attracts competitors in a 20- or 40-mile bike race. For many, the Tour de Houston is a warm-up for the BP MS 150 Bike Tour. Held each April, it is the largest non-profit sporting event in Texas, drawing 12,000 riders and raising more than $47 million in the last two decades to combat multiple sclerosis. Also held in April is the Running of the Bulls, a 5K run attracting 2,500 participants. The Hoopla Streetball Tournament, a weekend of three-on-three basketball games as well as other family attractions, is also held in the spring. The Buffalo Bayou Regatta, Texas' largest canoe and kayak race, is held each October.

Shopping and Dining

The 375 stores and restaurants of The Galleria, the fifth largest shopping center in the nation, are visited by more than 20 million shoppers each year. Katy Mills Mall houses 200 retail outlets in 1.3 million square feet of space. Uptown Park is a European-style shopping center featuring unique wares. The largest market on the Texas Gulf Coast is Traders Village, a collection of 800 dealers sprawled over 105 acres each weekend. Early 2005 brought the grand opening of Market Square Market, an outdoor marketplace held each Saturday in historic Market Square Park. Antiques and collectibles shoppers seek out Antique World II, Trader Village-Houston, and the Houston Flea Market, while those seeking Western gear head to Stelzig of Texas and The Hat Store.

With more than 6,100 restaurants and 600 bars and nightclubs in the Houston area to choose from, diners can enjoy a great variety of menus and cuisines. Gulf seafood, such as oysters, shrimp, lobster, and fish, is a regional specialty; other regional specialties include Texas beef, barbecue, Southwestern mesquite-grilled food, Tex-Mex and Mexican fare, and traditional Southern dishes like catfish and chicken-fried steak. Ethnic and international establishments in the Houston area offer the cuisine of 35 countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Morocco, and India.

Visitor Information: Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, 901 Bagby, Ste. 100, Houston, TX 77002; telephone (713)227-3100; toll-free; 800-4-HOUSTON

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Houston: History

Houston: History

Early Days Full of Perils

Inhabited by cannibals, visited by Spanish explorers and missionaries, a base for pirates, former capital of a fledgling nation, and site of a battle that ultimately added millions of acres to the United Statesall of this can be said for the rich and varied history of the Houston area.

Amerinds, descended from the early races of mankind that crossed into North America via the Bering land bridge, are known to have occupied the southwestern United States many thousands of years before Christ. As these tribal groups fanned out across North and South America over thousands of years, a primitive culture evolved along what is now the upper Texas coast. The first recorded meetings between Europeans and the native populations of eastern Texas are found in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century accounts of Spanish explorers. These accounts are not particularly pleasant, for the natives of the Gulf Coast region that one day became Houston were notorious cannibals of the small Atakapan and Karankawa tribes. These were ferocious tribal groups, described by the Spaniards as bloodthirsty and barbaric.

The Europeans chose to move on, and despite Galveston Bay's relative attraction as a safe harbor, the upper Gulf Coast of Texas remained largely unsettled by the Spanish, who came to control virtually all of the American Southwest by the early eighteenth century. The area now known as Houston remained a malarial coastal prairie, dotted by marshes and bayous, and home to a few remaining Karankawa.

In the aftermath of the War of 1812, various Caribbean buccaneers, notably Jean Lafitte, established short-lived settlements on Galveston Island, just south of present-day Houston. Local legends persisting to this day in Houston's southeastern suburbs along Galveston Bay, tell of buried pirate treasure, placed there by the crafty Lafitte.

War Breaks Out with Santa Ana

By the 1820s settlers from the United States were moving into Texas, then owned by the newly independent nation of Mexico. It was in Mexico's interest at the time to allow these settlements. Later, as the American emigrant population grew, so did Mexico's troubles in Texas. By the 1830s the former Americans, calling themselves Texicans, were eager to form their own government and felt abused by dictates from Mexico City. Disputes emerged as a full-blown war with the Mexican government of General Antonio Löpez de Santa Anna in 1836.

That year the area now encompassed by Houston came foursquare onto the national stage. In April, following the massacres of Texas troops at San Antonio's Alamo, General Sam Houston, leading the main body of the Texas resistance, intercepted a courier and learned of military dispositions planned by Santa Anna, the "Napoleon of the West." Houston, stalling for time, veered away from the superior Mexican force until, at the San Jacinto River near present-day Houston, he used the intercepted information to deploy his small army in an advantageous position. The two armies fought a light skirmish on April 20. Santa Anna, accused by historians of having become contemptuous of Houston, bided his time before pressing home the attack. On the afternoon of April 21, while the Mexican troops prepared for what they expected would be a major engagement the next morning, Houston attacked. By the end of the day, the future of Texas was sealed as Santa Anna lost and Houston won.

Houston Incorporated

In August a settlement named for the hero of San Jacinto began to take shape along the Buffalo Bayou. By the end of the year, even as the town was still being laid out, Sam Houston, by then the first president of the Republic of Texas, moved his capital from Columbia to the town named in his honor. Houston was incorporated in 1837. The capital remained there until 1839, when the town of Austin became Texas's permanent seat of government.

Oil, Port, and Space Center Spur Development

As a settlement, Houston grew slowly but steadily in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1870, with 9,000 citizens, it was the third largest city in Texas behind San Antonio and Galveston. Located 50 miles inland, Houston lagged behind the two larger cities as a transportation center, although even then it was a major steamboat and rail terminus. Houston was mainly a distribution center, and manufacturing of paper products made use of the abundant lumber in the nearby pine forests of east Texas.

Three events, spread out over the first 60 years of the twentieth century, transformed the quiet community into the Southwest's largest metropolis. The first was the discovery of oil at Spindletop, near Houston, in 1901. Vast fortunes were made in the oil business, and Houston quickly began to accumulate the financial power it had once seen displayed by its neighbor to the southGalvestonknown in the nineteenth century as the "Wall Street of the South." The second major development came in 1914, when a colossal project began to reshape the Buffalo Bayou into a ship channel, navigable by more than shallow draft riverboats.

The combination of the new port with Houston's position as a major petrochemical center enabled the city to surpass San Antonio's population in the 1930s, becoming the largest city in what was then the nation's largest state. After World War II the petrochemical industry and Houston grew even more rapidly, but Houston remained a large city with a small-town flavor.

A third major development changed that small-town flavor in 1961, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration chose Houston as the site of its new Manned Spacecraft Center. Suddenly, the quiet little city was home to oil tycoons and glamorous astronauts, world-famous surgeons, and a professional baseball team called the Astros. Eight years later the electric phrase, "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed," made the city's name the first human word spoken from the surface of a heavenly body other than Earth.

Oil-Dependency Hurts Economy

When the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 precipitated a world energy crisis, oil prices rose and earnings doubled and tripled, and so did stock in Houston. New towers of commerce, many designed by world-class architects such as Philip Johnson and I. M. Pei, rose up to forever change the face of Houston's central business district. Companies expanded, venture capital looked for ways to spend new-found wealth, and Houston's population shot up as northern industrial workers, eager for a share of the opportunity, flocked to the city.

Houston became in many ways a one-industry town, with both oil and chemical production feeding one another through the petroleum distillation process. By the mid-1980s Houston was the headquarters for 8 of the 10 largest energy companies, and some 5,000 businesses related to energy were located either in Houston or within 100 miles of the city. The chemical industry in Houston accounted for almost 50 percent of the total U.S. production capacity by 1987, with more than 200 refining and processing plants in the Houston area. But by then the oil market had slumped.

Since the heady days of the oil boom, Houston's importance on the national scene has been largely economic. Reacting to the oil slump, civic and industrial leaders, intent on decreasing the city's reliance on the ups and downs of oil, were determined to build on Houston's strengths. Out of mutual interest, closer ties between the leaders of Houston's three major industriesoil, medicine, and aerospacewere forged in concert with city government and an aggressive chamber of commerce. Houston's story became one of diversity and new growth. The goal of diversification has proven successful, and Houston can count technology, finance, insurance, real estate, and manufacturing among the industries in which it plays a leadership role.

Historical Information: The Heritage Society Research Library, 1100 Bagby, Houston, TX 77002; telephone (713)655-1912; fax: (713)655-7527; email Houston Public Library, Texas and Local History Department, 500 McKinney St., Houston, TX 77002; telephone (832)393-1313

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HOUSTON. The city of Houston, Texas—fourth largest city in the United States, world petroleum and petrochemical capital, national corporate center, and major international port—has long been noted for its aggressive

business leadership and impressive record of economic growth. Houston's phenomenal development ranks as one of the most astonishing examples of urban growth in United States history.

In 1836, only John and Augustus Allen, the visionary New Yorkers who founded the city on the coastal prairies of southeast Texas, fifty miles inland from Galveston Island, glimpsed Houston's potential. Hampered by its location on Buffalo Bayou, a scarcely navigable, sluggish little stream, Houston was overshadowed in importance by the seaport of Galveston. Southeast Texas itself was only a peripheral area of the Deep South whose long-dominant urban entrepôt was New Orleans.

Named after Sam Houston, hero of the fight for Texas independence, the city served briefly as capital of the Texas Republic (1837–1839), but its future did not lie in becoming a seat of government. Like other southern inland cities Houston specialized in rail development, serving as a railhead for Galveston and as a collection and shipment point for cotton and other agricultural goods produced in the region. Before the Civil War, Houston became a regional railroad center with five rail lines fanning out in all directions. Postbellum expansion linked the city to the national rail network in 1873.

After the Civil War, Houston businessmen determined to make Houston a major port city. Buffalo Bayou was difficult to navigate even for small boats, so Houston boosters began a drive to dredge a navigable channel toward the Gulf of Mexico. Charles Morgan, a Gulf Coast shipowner, headed the project, which resulted in the opening of a twelve-foot-deep waterway to Clinton. Houston entrepreneurs enlisted federal assistance to resume the ship channel project in 1881 until the waterway cut through Galveston Bay and Buffalo Bayou to a turning basin above Harrisburg in 1914. The Houston Ship Channel, subsequently widened and deepened, made Houston a major inland port.

Houston was spared the fate of Galveston, which was completely destroyed by a hurricane in 1900. With the elimination of its rival to the south, the path was clear for Houston to develop into the dominant urban center in southeast Texas. The cornerstone of the city's bid for regional dominance and national prominence was set with the advent of the Texas oil boom that followed the discovery of oil at nearby Spindletop in 1901. The oil boom led to the formation of three of the world's major oil companies: Texaco (originally the Texas Company), Gulf, and Exxon (originally Humble). Houston became the national capital of an integrated industry consisting of energy business headquarters, drilling operations, producing wells, pipelines, refineries, and port facilities. The Houston Ship Channel developed into a major world petrochemical industry corridor.

The city's extraordinary growth, interrupted by the Great Depression of the 1930s, resurged with the onset of World War II. As wartime industrial production expanded

into the South, Houston shared in the largesse by acquiring numerous new defense plants and contracts in the petroleum, petrochemical, and shipbuilding industries. These new and expanded industries acted as a catalyst for postwar growth. Postwar Houston experienced rapid urban population and spatial growth. The city, having incorporated several surrounding suburbs in the late 1940s, surpassed New Orleans in population in 1950. The Bayou City was on its way to becoming a major national metropolis. By 1984, it had surpassed Philadelphia as the nation's fourth largest city behind New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

In the 1960s, the emergence of the economic phenomenon known as the Sunbelt witnessed enhanced economic diversification and growth. Houston's private and public leaders could boast of many accomplishments. Securing the Manned Spaceflight Center (later the Johnson Space Center) in 1960 was a defining achievement of the period.

The oil boom of the 1970s brought even greater prosperity, but collapsing oil prices in the 1980s produced Houston's most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. A return to former prosperity in the 1990s meant greater population, spatial and economic growth, and also created a movement toward greater economic diversification that included such fields as business services, medical research, health services, international banking, and tourism.

Houston was still the fourth most populous city in the United States in 2000. With 1,953,631 people, it is part of the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area, the nation's tenth most populous CMSA, with 4,669,571 people in 2000.

The only major American city to eschew zoning as a planning tool, Houston is generally regarded as one of the best examples of a private enterprise city in a nation where the public sector receives its cues from business leadership. Nevertheless, it has managed to adapt well to new political trends. In 1981, the city's voters elected Houston's first woman mayor, Kathryn J. Whitmire; in 1997 they chose its first African American mayor, Lee P. Brown.


Angel, William D., Jr. "To Make A City: Entrepreneurship on the Sunbelt Frontier." In The Rise of the Sunbelt Cities. Edited by David C. Perry and Alfred J. Watkins. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1977.

Johnston, Margurite. Houston, The Unknown City, 1836–1946. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991.

Kaplan, Barry J. "Houston: The Golden Buckle of the Sunbelt." In Sunbelt Cities, Politics and Growth Since World War II. Edited by Richard M. Bernard and Bradley R. Rice. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983.

McComb, David G. Houston, The Bayou City. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969.

Parker, Robert E. and Joe R. Feagin. "Military Spending in Free Enterprise Cities: The Military-Industrial Complex in Houston and Las Vegas." In The Pentagon and the Cities. Edited by Andrew Kirby. London: Sage Publications, 1992.

Conrad L.Rein

See alsoPetrochemical Industry ; Petroleum Industry ; Texas .

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Houston: Education and Research

Houston: Education and Research

Elementary and Secondary Schools

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is the largest in Texas and the seventh largest in the United States. In 2002 HISD was named the nation's top-performing urban school district by the California-based Broad Foundation, due in part to its success in narrowing the achievement gap between economic and ethnic groups.

The following is a summary of data regarding Houston's public schools as of the 20032004 school year.

Total enrollment: 211,157

Number of facilities elementary schools: 183

middle schools: 34

senior high schools: 32

other: 28 charter schools, 114 magnet programs, and 18 combined-level schools

Student/teacher ratio: 17:1

Teacher salaries (20042005)

minimum: $34,068

maximum: $62,774

Funding per pupil: $7,589 (20012002)

More than 52,000 students are enrolled in the area's 211 private and parochial schools.

Public Schools Information: Houston Independent School District, Hattie Mae White Administration Bldg., 3830 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX 77027-5802; telephone (713)892-6391

Colleges and Universities

Houston's 289,000 college students make it one of the nation's leading academic centers. Forty-one public colleges, universities, and institutes dot the Houston landscape. The oldest is Rice University, while the largest is the University of Houston, with three campuses in the immediate Houston area. Other major educational centers include Texas Southern University, University of St. Thomas, and Houston Baptist University. The city also has three law schools and abundant medical training, including the Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center. The Houston Community College System is one of the city's largest, enrolling 33,821 students in 2002.

Libraries and Research Centers

Houston has two major public library systems: the Houston Public Library system and the Harris County Public Library system. In addition to the central Houston Public Library downtown, a 333,000-square-foot facility with a capacity of 2 million volumes, the Houston Public Library system encompasses 38 branches along with the Clayton Library for Genealogical Research and the Parent Resource Library in the Children's Museum of Houston. Its collections include the Greenberg Collection, Texas and Local History Collection, U.S. Government Documents, and the Video Library. The system also includes the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, a cooperative project formed in 1976 with Rice University, Texas Southern University, and the University of Houston. Housed in the Julia Ideson Building, this collection makes available the documentary, oral, and visual evidence of Houston's past, including African American, Mexican American, architectural, photographic, jazz music, and oral history components.

The Harris County Public Library maintains 26 branches and 2.3 million items in its collection. Specialized libraries and research centers in Houston range from numerous medical and legal facilities to a library run by the American Brahman Breeders Association.

NASA's Johnson Space Center coordinates a great deal of development and design work for the U.S. Space Station. The University of Houston's 24 research entities include the Texas Learning & Computation Center, the Institute for Space Systems Operations, the Environmental Institute of Houston, Center for Materials Chemistry, Center for Public Policy, and Center for Immigration Research. Rice University conducts more than $40 million in grant research annually in such fields as computing, nanotechnology, laser technology, robotics, groundwater management, toxic chemical clean-up, global warming, material science, astronomy, space physics, and biomedical engineering. The Houston Advanced Research Center combines the facilities of nine major universities in translating scientific advances into practical applications. Between 2000 and 2004, the Texas Medical Center committed $3.5 billion to research in such areas as cardiovascular, cancer, cell biology, and genetics. Baylor College houses a major center for AIDS research.

Public Library Information: Harris County Public Library, 8080 El Rio, Houston, TX 77054; telephone (713)749-9000. Houston Public Library, 500 McKinney St., Houston, TX 77002; telephone (832)393-1313

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Houston, city (1990 pop. 1,630,553), seat of Harris co., SE Tex., a deepwater port on the Houston Ship Channel; inc. 1837.


The fourth largest city in the nation and the largest in the entire South and Southwest, Houston is a port of entry; a great industrial, commercial, and financial hub; one of the world's major oil centers; and the second busiest tonnage-handling port in the United States (after New York). Houston has numerous space and science research firms; electronics plants; giant oil refineries; high-tech and computer-technology industries; one of the world's greatest concentrations of petrochemical works; steel and paper mills; shipyards; breweries; meatpacking houses; and factories manufacturing oil-drilling equipment, clothing, glass, and seismic instruments. More recently, Houston has become a major center of finance with a large number of banks, many of them foreign. The Texas Medical Center is the world's largest hospital complex and a leading medical research facility. Houston is served by two international airports and Ellington Field, a joint use civil and military airport. Cruise ships began sailing from the port in 1997. Because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the city is subject to hurricanes.

Points of Interest

The city is the seat of Rice Univ., Texas Southern Univ., the Univ. of Houston, the Univ. of St. Thomas, Dominican College, Houston Baptist Univ., Baylor College of Medicine, and the Univ. of Texas Health Science Center. Its many parks include the large Hermann Park, which has a zoo, a museum of natural science, and a planetarium. Houston has several notable art museums including the Museum of Fine Arts and The Menil Collection, the Space Center Houston museum, and a children's museum. The Wortham Theater Center houses the opera and ballet companies; the city's Alley Theatre is one of the country's foremost repertory companies. The civic center includes the Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall; the massive George R. Brown Convention Center, one of the nation's largest; and the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, home of the symphony orchestra. The city is also home to the Astros (baseball), Texans (football), and Rockets (basketball) professional sports teams.

Other tourist attractions include the Galleria, a huge enclosed mall noted for its luxury stores; Old Market Square; and Sam Houston Historical Park, which contains restored homes (built 1824–68) and reconstructed buildings. The San Jacinto battlefield is in nearby Pasadena.


Harrisburg (now part of Houston) was settled in 1823, and Houston itself, founded in 1836 by J. K. and A. C. Allen and named for Sam Houston, was promoted as a rival to Harrisburg and soon served (1837–39) as capital of the Texas republic. In the course of the 19th cent. Houston grew from a muddy town on Buffalo Bayou to a prosperous railroad center. However, its phenomenal expansion came after the digging (1912–14) of a ship channel on Buffalo Bayou and Galveston Bay, linking it to the Gulf and making it a deepwater port. The development of the coastal oil fields poured quick wealth into the city; the natural gas, sulfur, salt, and limestone deposits also in the area laid the basis for its great chemical production.

Shipbuilding during World War II spurred further growth; and the establishment (1961) nearby of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Manned Spacecraft Center (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973) brought the aerospace industry. In 1948 several suburbs were incorporated into the city, and it spreads wide across the prairie. In 1981, Kathryn J. Whitmire became the city's first woman mayor. Its first African-American mayor, Lee P. Brown, was elected in 1997. Houston benefited from high oil prices in the 1970s but suffered in the 1980s as oil prices collapsed. Since the early 1980s, Houston has made efforts to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil. Houston hosted the 1992 Republican national convention.


See J. E. Buchanan, Houston (1975); D. G. McComb, Houston: A History (1981); J. R. Feagin, Free Enterprise City: Houston in Political and Economic Perspective (1988).

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Houston: Population Profile

Houston: Population Profile

Metropolitan Area Residents

1980: 2,753,000

1990: 3,321,926

2000: 4,177,646

Percent change, 19902000: 25.8%

U.S. rank in 1980: 9th (CMSA)

U.S. rank in 1990: 10th (CMSA)

U.S. rank in 2000: 10th (CMSA)

City Residents

1980: 1,595,138

1990: 1,654,348

2000: 1,953,631

2003 estimate: 2,009,690

Percent change, 19902000: 18.0%

U.S. rank in 1980: 5th

U.S. rank in 1990: 4th (State rank: 1st)

U.S. rank in 2000: 6th (State rank: 1st)

Density: 3,371.7 people per square mile (2000)

Racial and ethnic characteristics (2000)

White: 962,610

Black or African American: 494,496

American Indian and Alaska Native: 8,568

Asian: 103,694

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 1,182

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 730,865

Other: 321,603

Percent of residents born in state: 53.4% (2000)

Age characteristics (2000)

Poplation under 5 years old: 160,797

Poplation 5 to 9 years old: 154,638

Poplation 10 to 14 years old: 139,691

Poplation 15 to 19 years old: 138,762

Poplation 20 to 24 years old: 161,754

Poplation 25 to 34 years old: 354,444

Poplation 35 to 44 years old: 305,738

Poplation 45 to 54 years old: 235,249

Poplation 55 to 59 years old: 79,055

Poplation 60 to 64 years old: 59,438

Poplation 65 to 74 years old: 93,086

Poplation 75 to 84 years old: 53,439

Poplation 85 years and older: 17,540

Median age: 30.9 years

Births (2002)

Total number: 44,869

Deaths (2002)

Total number: 14,532 (of which, 318 were infants under the age of 1 year)

Money income (1999)

Per capita income: $20,101

Median household income: $36,616

Total households: 718,897

Number of households with income of . . .

less than $10,000: 83,410

$10,000 to $14,999: 49,047

$15,000 to $24,999: 105,887

$25,000 to $34,999: 104,792

$35,000 to $49,999: 117,451

$50,000 to $74,999: 116,362

$75,000 to $99,999: 57,368

$100,000 to $149,999: 49,446

$150,000 to $199,999: 16,419

$200,000 or more: 18,715

Percent of families below poverty level: 16.0% (44.8% of which were female householder families with related children under 5 years)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 149,247

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Houston: Communications

Houston: Communications

Newspapers and Magazines

Houston's major daily, the Houston Chronicle, is joined by four smaller-circulation dailies and by the weeklies Houston Business Journal and Houston Press, an alternative paper. Campus newspapers include the Houston Cougar (University of Houston), the Thresher (Rice University), and the UHCLidian (University of Houston-Clear Lake).

Television and Radio

Eight television stations broadcasting from Houston include five network affiliates, a public broadcasting affiliate that was the nation's first public broadcasting television station, and two independents. Cable television programming is also available in the Houston area. The city's 18 AM and FM radio stations broadcast programming ranging from news, Spanish-language, and Christian talk shows to top-forty, polka, rhythm and blues, jazz, and country music, university, and public radio.

Media Information: Houston Chronicle, 801 Texas Ave., Houston, TX 77002; telephone (713)220-7171

Houston Online

City of Houston Home Page. Available

Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Available

Greater Houston Partnership. Available

Harris County Public Library. Available

The Heritage Society. Available

Houston Chronicle. Available

Houston Independent School District. Available

Houston Public Library. Available

NASA Johnson Space Center. Available

Texas Workforce Commission. Available

Selected Bibliography

James, Marquis, The Raven: A Biography of Sam Houston (Nor-walk, Conn.: Easton Press, 1988)

Landphair, Ted, and Carol M. Highsmith, Houston: Deep in the Heart (Houston, TX: Houston International Protocol Alliance, 2000)

McMurtrey, Larry, Terms of Endearment (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975)

Winningham, Geoff, and Alan Reinhart, A Place of Dreams: Houston, An American City (Houston, TX: Rice University, 1986)

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Houston: Transportation

Houston: Transportation

Approaching the City

With two major airports and several regional air facilities, Houston ranks as a central transportation hub. Nearly 45 million passengers passed through the Houston Airport System in 2004. Passenger service is provided by all major domestic and international carriers at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport on the north side of the city, and by most major domestic carriers at the more centrally located William P. Hobby Airport about seven miles south of downtown. Ellington Field serves approximately 80,000 private and corporate passengers each year.

Houston is the crossroads for Interstate Highways 10 and 45. Other major highways serving Houston are I-610, US-59, US-290, US-90, SH-288, SH-225, Hardy Toll Road, Beltway 8, and SH-99. Amtrak passenger rail service to Houston is available on the Miami-Houston-Los Angeles routes. Greyhound and Kerrville Bus Company offer regular motor coach service. Visitors can now arrive in Houston via the ocean, as Norwegian Cruise Lines launched service from the Port of Houston in November 2003.

Traveling in the City

Automobiles constitute one of Houston's principal transportation headaches, although an ambitious transit program offers the hope of unsnarling some of the major traffic problems. An extensive commuter bus system operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) provides service in the inner city and most outlying areas with a fleet of 1,595 buses covering 1,285 square miles of service area; in 2001 approximately 120 million passengers rode these buses. In 2004 METRO began operating a light rail system. Initially the line runs a 7.5 mile route through downtown Houston, but is scheduled to expand to 20 miles by 2012 and to 80 miles by 2025.

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Houston: Introduction
Houston: Geography and Climate
Houston: History
Houston: Population Profile
Houston: Municipal Government
Houston: Economy
Houston: Education and Research
Houston: Health Care
Houston: Recreation
Houston: Convention Facilities
Houston: Transportation
Houston: Communications

The City in Brief

Founded: 1836 (incorporated 1837)

Head Official: Mayor Bill White (since 2004)

City Population

1980: 1,595,138

1990: 1,654,348

2000: 1,953,631

2003 estimate: 2,009,690

Percent change, 19902000: 18.0%

U.S. rank in 1980: 5th

U.S. rank in 1990: 4th (State rank: 1st)

U.S. rank in 2000: 6th (State rank: 1st)

Metropolitan Area Population

1980: 2,753,000

1990: 3,321,926

2000: 4,177,646

Percent change, 19902000: 25.8%

U.S. rank in 1980: 9th (CMSA)

U.S. rank in 1990: 10th (CMSA)

U.S. rank in 2000: 10th (CMSA)

Area: 601.69 square miles (2000)

Elevation: Ranges from sea level to about 50 feet above sea level

Average Annual Temperature: 68.8° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 47.84 inches

Major Economic Sectors: services, finance/insurance/real estate, trade, government

Unemployment rate: 5.5% (December 2004)

Per Capita Income: $20,101 (1999)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 149,247

Major Colleges and Universities: Rice University, University of Houston, Texas Southern University

Daily Newspaper: Houston Chronicle

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Houston: Geography and Climate

Houston: Geography and Climate

Houston lies near the Gulf of Mexico and sprawls westward from the shores of Galveston Bay on the coastal prairie of eastern Texas. Major waterways include the San Jacinto River, part of which is encompassed by the man-made Houston Ship Channel, and an intricate network of meandering creeks and bayous, the largest of which are Buffalo Bayou and Bray's Bayou. The climate is humid and semitropical in the summertime, with an average annual temperature of about 69 degrees. Houston's winters are mild, although freezing sometimes occurs, and its summers are potent. The threat of severe weather, especially hurricanes that form when northern cold fronts collide with moisture-laden Gulf coast weather systems, is taken seriously by the local population. Houston has been directly hit by two hurricanes in the last forty years, Carla in 1960 and Alicia in 1983, and has been threatened by many others. With Alicia, Houston became the nation's largest city to have endured the passage of a hurricane's eye directly over its downtown area.

Area: 601.69 square miles (2000)

Elevation: Sea level to about 50 feet above sea level

Average Temperatures: January, 51.8° F; July, 83.6° F; annual average, 68.8° F

Average Annual Precipitation: 47.84 inches

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Houston: Introduction

Houston: Introduction

During the late 1970s Houston epitomized opulence, glitter, and opportunity. The city's major industry, petrochemicals, rode the crest of a boom "in the oilpatch," as Houstonians say. Get-rich-quick growth became a predominant feature across the sprawling landscape of the city. By 1982, however, a national recession, coupled with a wildly fluctuating oil market and devaluation of the Mexican peso, changed Houston's outlook from boom to bust. Unemployment and the local economy reached depression levels by 1985, prompting a painful retrenchment. Houston's recovery and subsequent expansion are the result of the growth of energy independent industry and diversification. Optimism is back in Houston as the city looks to new opportunities in high-technology and service industries. As a result of the boom, and despite the bust, Houston's consolidated metropolitan area now exceeds 8,700 square miles and the population has more than doubled from the 1960 level. Now the nation's fourth largest metropolitan area, with nearly 4.2 million people, Houston is looking up again and approaching the future with confidence.

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Houston: Health Care

Houston: Health Care

With more than 85 hospitals within the metropolitan area, Houston is a world leader in medicine and boasts the world's largest medical complex. Approximately 5.2 million patientsmore than 10,000 of them foreignare treated each year in the Texas Medical Center alone, a centralized facility begun in 1943. The facility's 42 nonprofit and government institutions include 13 hospitals and two specialized patient facilities. It comprises Texas Children's Hospital, Methodist Hospital, and St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, as well as the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which was ranked as the best hospital for cancer treatment by U.S. News & World Report in 2004, along with top 10 rankings in the fields of gynecology, urology, and ear, nose, and throat. Houston's medical community is known for its major contributions in the areas of cardiac care, cancer research and therapy, trauma care, and innovative medical treatment. Some of Houston's other major hospitals include the Menninger Clinic and TIRR: The Institute for Rehabilitation & Research.

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Houston City and port in se Texas, USA, connected to the Gulf of Mexico by the Houston Ship Canal. Founded in 1836, it was capital of the Republic of Texas (1837–39, 1842–45). Its greatest growth came after the building of the canal (1912–14), as the coastal oil fields provided a rich source of income and Houston developed as a deep-water port. The largest city in the state, it is a major cultural centre with five universities, a symphony orchestra, and many art galleries and museums. It is also a leading industrial, commercial, and financial centre, with vast oil refineries and a massive petrochemical complex. Industries: space research (the Johnson Space Center is nearby), shipbuilding, meat-packing, electronics, chemicals, brewing, sugar and rice processing, synthetic rubber, printing and publishing. Pop. (2000) 1,953,631.

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Houston: Convention Facilities

Houston: Convention Facilities

The $165-million expansion of the George R. Brown Convention Center was completed in late 2003. Encompassing 1.8 million square feet in total, the center nearly doubled its exhibition space to 853,500 square feet and now features 105 meeting rooms. Adjacent to the Brown Convention Center is the new Hilton Americas-Houston. In addition to more than 1,200 guest rooms, this convention hotel offers 91,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including 26,000- and 40,000-square foot ballrooms and 30 meeting rooms. Reliant Center, home to the Houston Texans, offers 1.4 million square feet of convention and meeting space.

Convention Information: Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, 901 Bagby, Ste. 100, Houston, TX 77002; telephone (713)227-3100; toll-free; 800-4-HOUSTON

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Houston: Municipal Government

Houston: Municipal Government

Houston, the Harris County seat, has a mayor-council form of government. The mayor, 14-member city council, and city controller are elected concurrently to two-year terms. The mayor serves as the chief executive, the council as the legislature, and the controller as the financial manager.

Head Official: Mayor Bill White (since 2004; current term expires 2006)

Total Number of City Employees: 21,621 (2004)

City Information: City of Houston, 900 Bagby, PO Box 1562, Houston, TX 77251-1562; telephone (713)837-0311

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Houston an inland port of Texas, linked to the Gulf of Mexico by the Houston Ship Canal. Since 1961 it has been a centre for space research and manned space flight, and is the site of the NASA Space Centre.

It is named after Samuel Houston (1793–1863), an American politician and military leader who led the struggle to win control of Texas and make it part of the US.

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"Houston." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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Houstonbaton, batten, fatten, flatten, harmattan, Manhattan, Mountbatten, paten, patten, pattern, platen, Saturn, slattern •Shackleton • Appleton •Hampton, Northampton, Rockhampton, Southampton, Wolverhampton •Canton, lantern, Scranton •Langton, plankton •Clapton •Aston, pastern •Gladstone •Caxton, Paxton •capstan • Ashton • phytoplankton •Akhenaten, Akhetaten, Aten, Barton, carton, Dumbarton, hearten, Parton, smarten, spartan, tartan •Grafton •Carlton, Charlton •Charleston • kindergarten •Aldermaston •Breton, jetton, Sowetan, threaten, Tibetan •lectern •Elton, melton, Skelton •Denton, Fenton, Kenton, Lenten, Trenton •Repton •Avestan, Midwestern, northwestern, Preston, southwestern, western •sexton •Clayton, Deighton, Leighton, Paton, phaeton, Satan, straighten, straiten •Paignton • Maidstone •beaten, Beaton, Beeton, Cretan, Keaton, neaten, Nuneaton, overeaten, sweeten, uneaten, wheaten •chieftain •eastern, northeastern, southeastern •browbeaten • weatherbeaten •bitten, bittern, Britain, Briton, Britten, handwritten, hardbitten, kitten, Lytton, mitten, smitten, underwritten, witan, written •Clifton •Milton, Shilton, Stilton, Wilton •Middleton • singleton • simpleton •Clinton, Linton, Minton, Quinton, Winton •cistern, Liston, piston, Wystan •brimstone • Winston • Kingston •Addington • Eddington •Workington •Arlington, Darlington •skeleton •Ellington, wellington •exoskeleton •cosmopolitan, megalopolitan, metropolitan, Neapolitan •Burlington • Hamilton • badminton •lamington • Germiston • Penistone •Bonington • Orpington • Samaritan •Carrington, Harrington •sacristan • Festschriften •Sherrington • typewritten •Warrington • puritan • Fredericton •Lexington • Occitan • Washington •Whittington • Huntington •Galveston • Livingstone •Kensington •Blyton, brighten, Brighton, Crichton, enlighten, frighten, heighten, lighten, righten, tighten, titan, triton, whiten •begotten, cotton, forgotten, ill-gotten, misbegotten, rotten •Compton, Crompton •wanton • Longton •Boston, postern •boughten, chorten, foreshorten, Laughton, Morton, Naughton, Orton, quartan, quartern, shorten, tauten, torten, Wharton •Alton, Dalton, Galton, saltern, Walton •Taunton • Allston • Launceston •croton, Dakotan, Minnesotan, oaten, verboten •Bolton, Doulton, molten •Folkestone • Royston •Luton, newton, rambutan, Teuton •Houston • Fulton •button, glutton, Hutton, mutton •sultan •doubleton, subaltern •fronton • Augustan • Dunstan •tungsten • quieten • Pinkerton •charlatan • Wollaston • Palmerston •Edmonton • automaton • Sheraton •Geraldton • Chatterton • Betterton •Chesterton • Athelstan •burton, curtain, uncertain •Hurston

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