Houston travel reveals a city that only people with great insight would have chosen to be a future center of commerce, industry and the good life. In a Gulf Coast environment similar to nearby Louisiana and the city of New Orleans, the land was barely above sea level, crisscrossed with bayous and the swamps they created. The area’s position on the map also made it a target of many hurricanes, which is still the case today.
Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, two brothers and New York real estate developers, had the great insight needed to found Houston. Their Houston travel began when they landed at the spot where White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou joined. They then purchased more than 6,600 acres during 1836; the same year Texans won their independence from Mexico.
Just 4 months earlier, General Sam Houston led the Texan army at the decisive Battle of San Jacinto and captured the Mexican General Santa Ana, who was also the president of Mexico. The battle site is in nearby La Porte, Texas, just outside Houston. The Allen brothers decided to honor General Houston by naming the city they hoped to build after him. Less than a year later, the Texas legislature incorporated the settlement and designated it as the new republic’s temporary capital.
Even with this recognition, Houston was barely more than a street or two with a few houses and small stores; and, like many Texas towns, following independence, was prone to lawlessness, which made it unattractive to families and businesspeople. The few entrepreneurs who were trying to develop commerce in Houston took action, however, and by 1840, this backwater village started moving forward. The Texas Congress took the first step to make Houston a shipping port when it provided funds during 1842 to dredge Buffalo Bayou.
After Texas gained U.S. statehood during 1846, Texas and Houston experienced a large influx of German immigrants. With their education and capital, they were the catalyst for many new businesses and family neighborhoods. Mexican immigrants were attracted to the jobs that became available during the 1850s when the railroads came to Houston. These workers and their families were the first to establish the vibrant Mexican community that contributes to Houston’s cultural diversity today.
During The Civil War, Galveston, which had become the area’s seaport, was blockaded, which added to the economic hardship the War was causing throughout the South. Following the end of the War, more dredging of the bayous began to make Houston more attractive as a major seaport on the Gulf. This work resulted in it becoming a U.S. port of entry during 1870. Development of the Houston/Galveston area as a shipping port continued, with the U.S. Congress appropriated funds for an even more ambitious project to transform Buffalo Bayou into a deep-water port. This would allow the largest commercial and passenger vessels to bring business and people eager for Houston travel. During Reconstruction, many of the freed slaves of Houston and Texas would make the city a permanent home, helping to foster the growth of Houston’s African-American community that flourishes there today.
At the turn of the century, two natural events would forever change Houston’s history. First the great Galveston Hurricane hit that city during September 1900, killing approximately 8,000 citizens and destroying much of the city. This prompted developers and capitalists to focus on Houston for new opportunities. Then, with the discovery of oil during 1901 in Beaumont, Texas, Houston would become the center of this new industry because of its railroads. This would result in the rapid growth of Houston during the early 20th century into a much larger city. Before the beginning of the First World War, many of the largest companies in the oil business would choose Houston as their headquarters, including Humble Oil, which is known today as ExxonMobil.
Although World War I wasn’t much of a boon to Houston, the Second World War gave the city a significant boost, as oil companies expanded to include oil refining and petrochemical production. The war also drove the opening of steel, munitions and shipbuilding businesses. With all this commercial activity, Houston added the banking industry to its “portfolio” of businesses following the war. As America began the exploration of space, NASA chose the Houston area to become the home of the Manned Spacecraft Center during 1962, which was later renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Houston was also the home of another technological marvel, the Astrodome, which opened during April 1965. It was the first multi-purpose domed stadium.
During the later half of the 20th century, Houston experienced booms and busts primarily because of fluctuations in the oil industry. The Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970s drove much greater growth, but the collapse of oil prices during 1986 caused a recession. Houston entered the 21st century with the economic strength and cultural diversity to become the largest city in Texas and the fourth largest in the U.S., and an attractive destination for people from around the world who enjoy Houston travel.
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