Some Major Dates in Houston History.

"What do you say we buy some cheap boondocks land and then get the city to build a freeway that runs out to it?"

A couple of years ago, at my previous blog site on Chron.Com, we went through a daily review of Houston by the year from 1836 through 2000. We will not repeat the process here, but I thought it might be interesting to briefly recall some of the major events in Houston’s chronology by the year.

By now, everybody should know where it starts:

1836: On april 21st, General Sam Houston and his citizen army wins independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto.

1836: Two land-speculating brothers from New York, A.C. and J.K. Allen, purchase  land on and near the headwaters of Buffalo Bayou from Mr. Elizabeth Parrott, the widow of colonist John Austin. They pay $1.40 per acre for 6,642 acres. On August 3oth, They name the site “Houston” after their friend and hero, General Sam Houston.

1837: First Texas Republic President Sam Houston signs an act allowing Houston to incorporate as a city. For two years (1837-39), Houston serves as Capitol of the Republic of Texas at a site built at the corner of Texas and Main, the current location of the Rice Hotel Apartments and Lofts. The new city’s population is a cool 1,000.

1841: The Port of Houston is established.

1842: Due to building new threats of invasion by Mexico, President Houston moves the capitol back to the City of Houston from Austin. It will remain the capital through 1843 and then be moved back to Austin in 1844.

1845: Texas is admitted to the Union.

1846: Texas becomes the 28th state.

1860: Houston’s population is 5,000. The city is growing as a railroad center and struggling inland seaport via Buffalo Bayou.

1861: On February 2nd, Texas secedes from the Union to affiliate with those other states that are forming the Confederacy.

1861: On April 16th, led by F.A. Rice, a group of Houstonians meets in a 2nd floor room above J.H. Evans’ store on Market Square to form the original Houston Base Ball Club.

1870: Texas is readmitted to the Union. Houston’s population is now 9,332. Congress designates Houston as an official seaport via the ever-expanding new ship channel that has been deepened and widened through natural waterways from the city to the Gulf.

1877: Houston gets its its first telephone. It has a range of about one mile. Nobody is texting.

1882: The Houston Electric Company was organized to plan electricity service to the city.

1888: Houston’s first professional base ball club, the Houston Babies, begins play as a member of the new Texas League.

1889: Now known as the Houston Mudcats, the local base ball team brings Houston its first professional sports championship.

1897: The first “horseless carriage” appears in Houston. Contrary to urban legend, City Council did not call an immediate meeting to plan the construction of the Gulf Freeway.

1899: The first Houston city park (now called Sam Houston Park) opens downtown.

1900: The great Galveston hurricane sends refugees pouring north to Houston. Houston’s population is now 44,600.

1901: Discovery oil at Spindletop near Beaumont immediately positions Houston and its vast and fast growing shipping power into becoming the oil capital of the world.

1912: Rice Institute (now Rice University) begins classes.

1913: The Houston Symphony is formed.

1914: The 25′ deep Houston Ship Channel is formally dedicated and opened to the world.

1922: WEV goes on the air as Houston’s first radio station, broadcasting music and impromptu speeches.1922 Progamming sounds better when you remember that listeners of that era didn’t have to put up with great “intellects” like Jim Rome.

1923: The second National Bank site becomes Houston’s first air-conditioned building.

1924: The Museum of Fine Arts of Houston opens as the first art museum in Texas.

1926: Natural gas is piped into Houston for consumer use for the first time.

1927: The University of Houston is established as the “Houston Junior College.” Because of segregation, Texas Southern University is also formed by its original identity as the “Houston Black Junior College.”

1928: Houston receives its first air mail at the new Houston airport, a glorified cow pasture.

1928: On April 11th, the new $400,000 Buffalo Stadium opens as the new home of the Houston Buffs baseball club at a site about four miles east of downtown.

1928: Thanks largely to the influence of local mover-shaker Jesse Jones, the Democratic Party holds their National Convention in Houston.

1929: City Council rejects zoning, a condition which continues to characterize the growth patterns of our city in the 21st century.

1940: Houston adopts a bus system to replace its 60-year commitment to street cars and light rail.

1943: The Texas Medical Center is founded.

1947: The Alley Theatre is established.

1947: Engineering begins on plans for new Gulf Freeway. The state’s  first freeway is sold to the public as a “super highway” that will solve all our problems of commuting between downtown and the suburbs.

1949: KLEE-TV signs on the air as Houston’s first television station.

195o: Houston’s population has jumped to 596,000. Enthusiasm for growth is tempered by health threats that some believe are amplified by the intense heat of our summers. In 1950, the months of June through August produce over foo new cases of polio in children.

1953: Houston commits to artificial cooling. By 1953, Houston is named as America’s most air-conditioned city.

1953: KUHT-TV at the University of Houston is created as America’s first educational television station. KGUL-TV also opens as Channel 11. It will change its call letters to KHOU-TV in 1959 and remain on the air as Channel 11.

1954: KPRC-TV broadcasts the first television program in color over Houston airways. KTRK-TV also comes on the air as Channel 13.

1954: On May 27th, Bob Boyd of the Houston Buffs breaks a different kind of color barrier when he becomes the first black to integrate organized sports play in Houston as a professional baseball player. Segregation on Houston city buses also ends in 1954.

1955: The Houston Grand Opera Association and Ballet are founded.

1960: The Houston Oilers begin plays as members of the American Football League, winning the first championship season played by the new organization.

1962: Houston begins major league baseball play as the Houston Colt .45s.

1962: NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center is moved to the Houston area.

1962: Mayor Lewis Cutrer desegregates the use of all city-owned buildings.

1965: The Astrodome opens as the first domed stadium. The Colt .45s are renamed “the Astros”.

1969: Houston Intercontinental (now George H.W. Bush) Airport opens.

1969: “Houston” is the first word spoken from the lunar surface of the Moon.

1971: The San Diego Rockets of the NBA move to Houston to become the Houston Rockets.

1991: Houston’s population reaches 3,338,900.

1994: The Houston Rockets win the NBA title, bringing the city its first major national sports title.

1997: The Houston Oilers leave town when owner Bud Adams fails to extort the taxpayers into paying for the new stadium that he demands. Adams is universally urged to not let the back door hit him in the posterior on his way out to Nashville. Adams takes “Luv Ya Blue” and the Oiler team name with him.

2000: The Houston Astros begin play in their new downtown stadium. Originally called “Enron Field”, the identity of the venue has now been sanitized from the ensuing scandal that pretty much ruined the word “Enron” from the list of respectable names. The site is now called “Minute Maid Park.”

2002: Houston gets a new professional football team and begins NFL play under new owner Bob McNair at the new Reliant Stadium next to the old Astrodome.

2005: The Houston Astros win their first National League pennant under manager Phil Garner, but they fall to the Chicago White Sox in a four-game World Series.

That’s enough for this brief look at our city’s history. Obviously, we’ve also done other things since 1836, played a few other sports, and built some other important museums and industries. I simply do not have space for them all in one blog. If you’re really interested in Houston history, however, Google the heck out of the web. Or visit the mind-blowing Texana section of the Julia Ideson downtown library. It’s all over the place.

Meanwhile, enjoy the Tuesday sunshine. It’s supposed to rain again by Thursday.

5 Responses to “Some Major Dates in Houston History.”

  1. Tal Smith Says:


    I really enjoy your baseball columns, your historical essays and all your musings.

    One minor correction in today’s feature. The Astrodome opened in 1965 -not 1964. I know you know that. If this was years ago, we’d attribute the error to the typesetter.



  2. longball Says:

    1936 Houston celebrates it’s Centennial and Thanks again to Jesse H Jones the San Jacinto Monument is built by Bellows construction and is 11 feet taller than the Washington monument. Thus the saying is coined,
    “Everything is Bigger in Texas”
    Jesse Jones also would not allow any cornerstone to be places on the monument with politiciians’ names as he did not want to take away from the real heroes fo the Texas Revolution. Too bad we don’t still do that…..

  3. Bill McCurdy Says:

    Thanks, Tal!

    Yes it was a typo that caused me to first post 1964 as the date of the Astrodome’s grand opening. That’s been corrected now, thanks to you.

    Actually forgetting the Astrodome’s 1965 opening? For a lot of us, that would be like forgetting the year we were born.



  4. Tweets that mention Some Major Dates in Houston History. « The Pecan Park Eagle -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by GoForit1102, Sam Guerrero and Sam Guerrero, Sam Guerrero. Sam Guerrero said: Some Major Dates in Houston History. « The Pecan Park Eagle […]

  5. Will Howard Says:

    Bill, I’ve got a couple of files I made a couple of years ago that you may enjoy – Houston History websites and Houston Historical Depositoies. Contact me at willstexana {a t ] yahoo

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