Photo courtesy of Library of Congress. In , the network of railroads to and from Houston was greatly expanded. The O.
Gray Company created the map below, showing the different rail lines radiating out in all directions from the center of Houston. Houston had become the trans-shipment point for the Texas cotton business. Following the Civil War, Texas became the leading cotton-producing state in the country. Several large spinning mills were constructed in Houston and vicinity to take advantage of this plentiful, raw resource.
Figure By , Houston is connected to the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston and the Columbia on the Brazos River, east to New Orleans, and inland to San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and various other points serving as connections and transshipment points. Courtesy: Library of Congress. A side business that also developed was that of cotton oil and meal.
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For every pound of cotton that was cleaned and carded, there was a yield of two pounds of seed. At the same time that cotton production was at its peak, the clearing of land for lumber which enabled the increase in cotton acreage was occurring with timber as a commodity in high demand in other parts of the United States. Houston situated in an intermediate position with the vast timber lands of Texas east of her parallel, and the vast expanse of country where that timber can and will be utilized west of the parallel, must become the great central depot for the lumber trade of Texas.
Brady, 51; in McComb, In , ,, [board] feet of lumber was harvested from Texas timber lands. John Henry Kirby and Jesse H. Jones were two Houstonians who made their fortunes in the Texas timber trade during this period McComb, While the two commodities of cotton and timber were still producing large amounts of employment and wealth, a new and even more profitable commodity arrived on the scene. With the wildcat strikes at Spindletop and other locations in the Beaumont and East Texas areas, the rise of the oil economy took off with a vengeance.
The driller on duty at the time, Allen W.
Hamill, recorded the experience through an oral history project at the University of Texas Archives: At about feet or a little over in, why the drilling mud commenced to boil up through the rotary, and it got higher and higher and higher up through the top of the derrick and with such pressure, why, the drill pipe commenced to move up.
It moved up and started to going out through the top of the derrick. Well, we three boys then sneaked back down to the well after it quieted down and surveyed the situation. I heard—sorta heard something kinda bubbling just a little bit and looked down there and here this frothy oil was starting up. But it was just breathing like, you know, coming up and sinking back with the gas pressure. And it kept coming up and over the rotary table and each flow a little higher.
Finally it got—came up with such momentum that it just shot up clear through the top of the derrick.
The Cheek Family
Allen W. While the earliest oil strikes were primarily shipped in rail cars to refining facilities, soon the network of oil pipes that has become ubiquitous as a way to move oil from field, to refinery, to ships, to consumers were constructed across the landscape. The volume of drilling, discovery, and refining quickly overwhelmed the process of shipping in rail cars, so that oil pipelines became a necessity in the growth of the industry. Associated with all of this industrial expansion were the large suppliers of pipeline, machinery, and tools that grew in size as the oil industry exploded.
Hughes drilling bit was invented by a millwright by the name of Granville A. He patented the idea and created an industrial supply giant that was inherited by his son, Howard Hughes, Jr. Hughes, Jr. Hughes became a recluse in later life and died in Barlett, Donald, and James B. Changes in transportation and industry patterns Once industries associated with cotton began to decline, the city rapidly expanded into the area that had been occupied by cotton mills along the rail lines, and the neighborhoods of Montrose and Houston Heights were platted and constructed.
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Within two years Dec. Figure This map shows the different junctions, towers, and connecting lines of the railroads in the Memorial Park area. The closing of Chaney Junction and the transfer of traffic to the tracks intersecting at Eureka Junction placed the majority of railway traffic away from residential neighborhoods and out of the core of the city as it existed at the time.
This rail line became the major point of entry for construction materials, troops, supplies, and ammunition when the United States declared war on Germany in Spurs were quickly added to park railway cars and for a munitions drop-off in the Eureka Junction area. These spurs are north of the boundaries of Memorial Park. With the closing of Chaney Junction, the rail line maintained yet another easement through the park.
This was later settled through sales of land to adjoining residents and by an act of donation by Houston Belt and Terminal Railway to the City of Houston to provide clear title to the right-of-way through Memorial Park. Will Hogg acted as intermediary in the request to have the rail line donate the land. Below are two documents that show his involvement in the negotiations. Figure Letter from Will C. Hogg to Mr. June 24, Hogg Papers, Miscellaneous Folder M. Figure This page in the Will Hogg papers shows the value of the donated land to the City of Houston for rightof-way transfers in Hermann and Memorial Park.
Once these right-of-ways were legally cleared, the only remaining rail intrusion through the park remained the two lines heading south from Eureka Junction. With continuous growth, the infrastructure needed to provide clean, potable water and for citizen transportation was always stretched to its limits.
Originally obtained from Buffalo Bayou, water quality was a constant problem in early Houston. The city water works was sold to the public through a stock sale in and former Mayor Thomas Scanlon became the first private president of the waterworks, but the system was plagued by both quality and pressure problems from the beginning. The day of the fire, there was no water flowing to the fire hydrants.
It took forty minutes before water flowed into fire hoses and then, at pressures too low to be effective McComb, In addition to the pressure problems, water quality was a constant concern of citizens. In , the Houston Post reported that: A great many people think that the water furnished by the waterworks is unfit for drinking or culinary purposes, but in that they are greatly mistaken. The supply is obtained from a portion of the bayou which is pregnant with springs, and the water is free from all impurities and is pure and wholesome to drink.
Of course, after heavy rains the banks of the bayou wash into the stream and the water is then discolored slightly. But even then it is good and much better at all seasons than Mississippi river water, especially at St. Louis, where the river is muddy and dirty. Obtaining the city water supply from a portion of the bayou where there were plentiful springs only meant that the dirtier water was diluted by the flow of the springs, which would give no comfort to citizens relying on the water supply for drinking and cooking.
This reservoir was not sufficient to supply all needs, so the city still relied on the connections to Buffalo Bayou for fire-fighting McComb, However, artesian wells soon sprang up all over the city, and these wells became the chief source of drinking water for Houston residents.
This aquifer is the Gulf Coast Aquifer, which has been in serious decline for years. Groundwater pumping in excess of recharge rates has caused huge rates of subsidence in the Houston area. Sections of the city have fallen almost ten feet due to the large amount of subsidence that the area is experiencing Gray, Houston Chronicle, In people complained that tap water was no better than bayou water. The struggle to provide clean, sufficient water continues to this day.
In addition to the dilemma of providing safe, potable drinking water for Houstonians, the problem of too much water created a series of crises in the city.
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The Hogg family was intimately familiar with flooding problems along Buffalo Bayou in the s and s. Their own home, Bayou Bend, had flooded in and Before the construction of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs northwest of the City of Houston, flooding had been a repetitive and devastating occurrence along Buffalo Bayou and in downtown Houston. The flood of was the final straw for Houstonians grown weary of the repeated loss of lives and damage to property. The largest flood occurred on December 6th of through December 8th, This event was the impetus two years later, in , for the creation of the Harris County Flood Control District by the Texas legislature.
The two reservoirs were completed in Aulbach, Planned as large impoundment reservoirs that reduce the amount and speed with which water flows into Buffalo Bayou, these areas have successfully protected Houston for the last 70 years, except in the case of extreme weather events like Tropical Storm Allison in Barker is the larger of the two reservoirs, covering 13, acres.
To the right, you can see collapsed buildings and exposed facades as the water rushed through the downtown area. Many local bridges were destroyed and tens of thousands of homes throughout the city were flooded. The Harris County Flood Control District has worked diligently since its creation to lessen the occurrence and severity of flooding along Buffalo Bayou and the other bayous that drain into it. Currently, the two reservoirs are going through a process of reinforcement and improvement. While the original layout of Houston by the Allen Brothers was sufficient for horses, carriages, wagons, and mule or ox-drawn drayage, the advent of the modern era soon overwhelmed the city grid of streets and highways servicing Houston.
From the s to the , the electric streetcar system fueled suburban growth in Houston, providing easy transport between the newly established suburbs on the outskirts of the city and the downtown area Slootboom, 3. By the middle of the s, it had become obvious that the flexibility provided by automobiles, and a burgeoning middle class would require more, wider, and better quality streets.
The advent of busses also provided competition for public ridership, and as the number of busses grew, the street car lines One of the advantages of busses was that it was much easier to adjust schedules, establish new lines into ever further distant suburbs, and when a bus went down or required maintenance, it was a simple process to send out another bus waiting on standby to pick up riders and continue the designated route. By , the Houston Electric Company ended street service, and bus and automobile transport were the remaining modes of transportation.
It would be sixty-four years before streetcar service would return to Houston with a light rail service on Main Street Slootboom, 5. With the growth of bus and automobile transport, Houston needed a new system of roads outside of the downtown area. In , a new plan was produced that included three corridors where freeways were introduced: the Gulf Freeway, Memorial Parkway, and North Freeway.
With Memorial Parkway, downtown was now connected to Memorial Park via a direct route that residents could take either to the new suburban enclaves on the outskirts of the city, or to the park for recreation purposes Slootboom, 6. This was also the point in time when the country as a whole was developing an interstate system, in order to connect the larger cities of the country and create a national grid of high speed interstate that would allow the post World War II population to travel around the country and to enable a trucking system to develop that transported goods and services quickly and with a flexibility that rail lines did not afford.
At this point, the core freeway system that still exists today had been defined within Houston Slootboom, The need for a loop around Houston was first identified in , when Harris County officials were proposing bypass routes to divert traffic from the city center Slootboom, These plans developed and changed over the ensuing years until the expansion of the loop in Slootboom, Initial plans in called for the transfer of 3. The initial expansion plans of the West Loop were cancelled in in acceptance of the well-organized and effective opposition mounted by the citizens group Slootboom, The following early freeway plan dating to shows existing roads along with proposed freeways radiating from downtown Houston.
The plan consisted of five spokes converging on downtown Houston.
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Figure Freeway and Loop Plan, March Slotboom, American City Planning in the Early Twentieth Century It is useful to circle back around and look at Houston through the lens of city planning in the United States, and the efforts that various Houstonians made to shape the city for the benefit of citizens and businesses. Although Houston has no general planning authority in the same fashion as most other cities in the United States, that does not mean that there have not been a great deal of planning efforts, and also plans that have been implemented over time.
The initial layout of the city itself was an exercise in planning, orienting the initial neighborhoods in proximity to Buffalo Bayou, which was the primary means of transporting goods from the interior of Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, and then to the rail lines criss-crossing the South. Figure This original plan of Houston is not dated, but was included as an inset in a later map from However, the original survey work was completed in The layout is oriented along Buffalo Bayou.