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Houston’s History

Known for its diversity, culture, and traffic, Houston has a rich history, a thriving economy, and a very promising future. To understand where Houston may be heading in the years to come, it’s important to know how this city started and what’s shaped it into the prosperous metro it is today. To that end, here’s a brief rundown of Houston’s history, highlighting some of the most notable moments that have defined this city over the past 200 years.

Early Houston History

Named for Sam Houston, the City of Houston first came on to the scene in 1836 when Sam Houston won the Battle of San Jacinto, securing independence for Texas. Officially founded on August 30, 1836, the City of Houston first spanned about 6,600 acres close to Buffalo Bayou. The next year, Houston became the capital of the Republic of Texas.

While Austin would claim the title of the Republic’s capital within a couple of years, that didn’t stop Houston from continuing to grow in the area, population, and prominence in the years to come.

Houston History: 1840 to 1900

Many of the city’s fundamental institutions came on the scene in the 1800s while the geographic, political, and social landscape of the U.S. was also changing dramatically.

The timeline below highlights some of the most important moments in Houston’s and Texas’s history in the earliest years, before the 20th Century:

  • 1841: The Houston Police Department (HPD) is established.
  • 1844: A steamboat travels to Houston for the first time ever, making its way via the Buffalo Bayou.
  • 1846: Texas joins the United States, becoming the 28th state to join the Union.
  • 1853: The first railroad starts operating in Houston.
  • 1861: Harris County, including Houston, votes to leave the Union, officially joining the Confederate States on March 2, 1861.
  • 1870: Houston rejoins the Union and becomes the second most populous city in Texas.
  • 1882: Along with New York, Houston becomes one of the first cities to develop an electric power facility.
  • 1897: The first paved road, Franklin Street, is constructed in Houston.
  • 1899: The first public park opens in Houston. This would eventually become the site of Sam Houston Park.

Houston History: The 1900s

As Houston moved into the 20th Century, everything from advancements in the industry and the discovery of oil to nuclear power, world wars, horrific weather events, and more have influenced Houston as we know it today.

Here’s a timeline featuring some of Houston’s most notable moments in the 1900s:

  • 1908: The City of Houston enacts its first speed limit.
  • 1909: HPD officers start enforcing local speed limits and riding motorcycles for the first time.
  • 1912: The first classes begin at Rice University.
  • 1926: Houston sees its first natural gas pipeline.
  • 1941: The loop system is developed as a way to revolutionize Houston’s transportation infrastructure.
  • 1948: Land annexations nearly triple Houston’s  area, taking it from roughly 744 mi.2 to about 216 mi.2
  • 1955: The population in Houston surpasses 1,000,000 people.
  • 1962: Houston becomes a new home for NASA, with the Manned Spacecraft Center opening.
  • 1970s: The Houston Galleria opens, and well over 200 major corporations relocate their headquarters to Houston, TX. Among them is Shell Oil Company.
  • 1983: The Harris County Toll Road Authority is established.
  • 1992: Houston hosts the Republican National Convention.

Houston History: The 2000s

With the turn of the century and the rise of the digital age, Houston has continued its inspired evolution, with some of the more noteworthy events of the past two decades or so featured in the timeline below:

  • 2000: Minute Maid Park, home to the Astros (MLB), opens its doors.
  • 2003: The Rockets (NBA) new home at Toyota Centre opens.
  • 2004: Superbowl XXXVIII takes place in Houston, with the New England Patriots defeating the Carolina Panthers 32 to 29.
  • 2005: Hurricane Katrina causes tens of thousands of folks to evacuate southern Louisiana and arrive in Houston.
  • 2012: Dynamo (MLS) sees its future home open its doors, with the Grand Opening of the PNC Stadium.
  • 2015: An international terminal opens for the first time at Hobby Airport.
  • 2017: Super Bowl LI takes place in Houston, with the Patriots beating the Atlanta Falcons in overtime, with a final score of 34 to 28.
  • 2020: The pandemic shuts down many Houston businesses and events, with many not returning for a year, if at all.

What Will the Future of Houston Look Like?

While many experts predict more growth and exciting changes for Houston in the coming years and decades, there’s no way to really know what the future will bring. One thing that is certain, though, is that you can always turn to an experienced Houston personal injury lawyer when you need answers about your rights and legal options after an accident.


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