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Houston, Texas
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flag Seal

Nickname: "Space City"
Location in the state of Texas
Coordinates 29°45'25?N, 95°22'12?W
Counties Harris County
Fort Bend County
Montgomery County
Mayor Bill White
Geographical characteristics
  City 1,558 km²  (601.7 sq mi)
    Land   1,501 km²  (579.4 sq mi)
    Water   57.7 km² (22.3 sq mi)
  City (2004) 2,012,626
    Density   1,301.8/km² (502.6/sq mi)
  Urban 4,283,000
  Metro 5,280,752
Elevation 13 m  (43 ft)
Time zone
  Summer (DST) CST (UTC-6)
Website: www.houstontx.gov
Houston is the largest city in the state of Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States. The city covers more than 600 square miles (1,600 km²) and is the county seat of Harris County—the third-most populous in the country. As of the 2004 U.S. Census estimate, Houston had a population of more than 2 million. The city is at the heart of the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area, the largest cultural and economic center of the Gulf Coast region and the seventh-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. with a population of 5.3 million in 10 counties.
Houston is world-renowned for its energy (particularly oil) and aeronautics industries, and for its ship channel. The area is also the world's leading center for building oilfield equipment. The Port of Houston ranks first in the country in international commerce[1] and is the sixth-largest port in the world. Second only to New York City in Fortune 500 headquarters, Houston is the seat of the internationally-renowned Texas Medical Center, which contains the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions.[2]
Houston is ranked as one of 11 U.S. world-class cities by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network. The city has a vibrant visual and performing arts scene as Houston is one of the five U.S. cities that offer world-class, year-round resident companies in all major performing arts.[3] In addition, the Houston Theater District is ranked second in the country for the number of theatre seats in a concentrated downtown area per capita.[4] The city is also close to beaches on Galveston Island as well as one of the United States' largest concentrations of pleasure boats and local tourist attractions.

1 History
1.1 Houston's founding
1.2 Early settlers
1.3 Early 20th century
1.4 Decades of growth
1.5 The new millennium
2 Geography
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
3 Government and politics
4 Economy
5 Demographics
5.1 Census 2000
5.2 Crime
6 Culture
6.1 A cosmopolitan city
6.2 Arts and theatre
6.3 Tourism
6.4 Media
7 Cityscape
7.1 Downtown
7.2 Uptown
8 Transportation
8.1 Highways
8.2 Mass transit
8.3 Airports
9 Education and research
9.1 Healthcare and scientific research
9.2 Colleges and universities
9.3 Primary and secondary education
9.4 Public library systems
10 Sports

Main article: History of Houston

Houston's founding
The original town site map along Buffalo Bayou, circa 1830sIn the mid-1800s, two brothers who were New York real estate promoters, John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, sought a location where they could begin building "a great center of government and commerce." In August 1836, they purchased 6,642 acres (27 km²) of land from T. F. L. Parrot, John Austin's widow, for $9,428. The Allen brothers named their town after Sam Houston.
Houston started out as a hamlet. Gail and Thomas H. Borden surveyed and mapped the town in typical grid fashion, with wide streets running parallel and perpendicular to the area's system of bayous. The city was granted incorporation on June 5, 1837, and James S. Holman became the first mayor. That same year, Houston also became the county seat of Harrisburg County, which was renamed Harris County in 1839. At this time, the Texas Legislature designated Houston as the temporary capital of the new Republic of Texas. On January 14, 1839, the capital was moved to Austin, then known as Waterloo.

Early settlers
Main Street Houston, circa 1864Early settlers used lumber to build frame houses, ditches for drainage, and relied on pigs to clean the streets. Lawlessness, epidemics and financial problems prompted the people of the community to establish a Chamber of Commerce, chartered by the Congress of the Republic on November 26, 1838. Because many of the first settlers were from the South, Houston endorsed the slavery-plantation system. Slaves lived scattered through the neighborhoods, though there were few free blacks in the city. During this period, yellow fever struck periodically—in 1839 the disease devastated the fledgling city, killing about 12 percent of its population.
In 1840, the Allen brothers began to promote Houston as a place to live while the Republic of Texas started promoting colonization of Texas. By 1860, Houston began to emerge as a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton. Railroad spurs from the Texas inland converged in Houston, where they met rail lines to the ports of Galveston and Beaumont. During the Civil War, Houston served as a headquarters for General John Bankhead Magruder, who used Houston as an organization point for the Battle of Galveston. Houston saloon keeper Dick Dowling became the city's first famous personality after his victory at the battle of Sabine Pass in 1863. After the Civil War, Houston businessmen initiated efforts to widen the city's extensive system of bayous so the city could accept more commerce between downtown and the nearby port of Galveston.

Early 20th century
In 1900, Houston's population was about 45,000, making it the 85th largest city in the United States. Oil discovery at Spindletop in Beaumont in 1901 prompted the development of the oil industry, which eventually would transform Houston into a large city. In 1902, Theodore Roosevelt approved a $1 million improvement project for the Houston Ship Channel. By 1910, the population of Houston was larger than that of Galveston. President Woodrow Wilson opened the Port of Houston in 1914, 74 years after digging started. By 1914, the Houston Ship Channel was dredged to give Houston a deep-water port, outpacing Galveston's port which was devastated by the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.
A 1942 map of Houston streets before there were freewaysBy the end of the 1930s, Houston began having growing pains—the city was no longer a frontier town, and its air service was inadequate for its needs. By 1939, Houston was Texas's most populous city. Educational facilities for minority groups, including Wiley College, opened in this time period. April 1940 saw streetcar service replaced by buses.
When World War II started, tonnage levels fell and five shipping lines ended service to Houston, but the war did have some economic benefits for the city. Ellington Field, initially built during World War I, was revitalized as a training center for bombardiers, and aircraft and shipbuilding became large industries statewide. The M. D. Anderson Foundation formed the Texas Medical Center in 1945. The banking industry also rose to prominence in the late 1940s. After the war, Houston's economy reverted back to a healthy, port driven economy. In 1948, several unincorporated areas were annexed into the city limits, and Houston proper began to spread across the prairie.

Decades of growth
The AstrodomeShipbuilding during World War II spurred Houston's growth, as well as the establishment in 1961 of NASA's "Manned Spacecraft Center" (renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973), which created the city's aerospace industry. December 1961 saw Hurricane Carla, a very destructive storm that hit the city head on. The Astrodome (then called the Harris County Domed Stadium), the first indoor, domed sports stadium, opened in 1965 and was quickly nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World."
The late 1970s saw a population boom due to the Arab Oil Embargo as people from Rust Belt states moved en masse into Texas, which benefited from the oil crunch. But Houston's reliance on petroleum as the base of its industry led to its downfall when oil prices collapsed in the 1980s. Since then, Houston has made efforts to diversify its economy, focusing on aerospace and biotechnology, and reducing its dependence on petroleum.
The space shuttle, atop its Boeing 747, flying over NASA's Johnson Space CenterIn 1981, Kathryn J. Whitmire became the city's first female mayor and held that position for 10 years. August 18, 1983 saw Hurricane Alicia, a Category 3 storm, which hit Galveston and downtown Houston, causing massive damage. The population boom calmed down when oil prices fell in 1986 due to the embargo being lifted. The space industry also took a blow that year with the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. The 1980s was a decade of recession for the Houston economy — the first nine months of 1987 saw the death of eleven banks — though its arts and culture expanded.
The year 1990 saw the Mickey Leland International Airlines building of Houston Intercontinental Airport open. The 12-gate terminal was named after Mickey Leland. In that same year, the G8 Summit was held in Houston. Lee P. Brown, Houston's first African American mayor, was elected in 1997.

The new millennium
Hurricane Rita evacuation in September 2005In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison dumped up to 39 inches of rain on parts of the city, causing billions of dollars in damage and killing 23 people. To date, the flooding caused by Allison was the worst in the city's history. Many neighborhoods and communities have changed since the storm; older houses in some affected neighborhoods have been torn down and replaced with larger houses with higher foundations.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Houston provided shelter to more than 25,000 refugees from New Orleans in various facilities around the city, including the infrequently-used Reliant Astrodome stadium. This unprecedented situation involved Houston-area public school systems, which are providing education for child refugees.
Approximately 2.5 million (out of about 5.2 million) Houston area residents evacuated when Hurricane Rita approached the Gulf Coast one month after Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Rita left little damage to Houston and the surrounding areas. Critical traffic congestion and gas shortages were rampant during the evacuation. This event marked the largest evacuation in the history of the United States.
See also: Historical events of Houston

A simulated-color image of Houston taken on NASA's Landsat 7 satellite with Galveston Bay and Galveston Island visible in the pictureAccording to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 601.7 square miles (1,558.4 km²) — 579.4 square miles (1,500.7 km²) of it is land and 22.3 square miles (57.7 km²) of it is water. The total area is 3.7 percent water. If the city of Houston were a U.S. state, it would rank 36th in population—its 2.01 million residents in 2004 would place it behind Nevada and ahead of New Mexico.[5]
Houston is located in the gulf coastal plains biome, and its vegetation is classified as temperate grassland. Much of the city was built on forested land, marshes, swamp, or prairie—all of which can still be seen in surrounding areas.
Much of Houston is very flat, making flooding a recurring problem for its residents. The city stands about 50 feet above sea level—the highest being 90 feet.[6] The city once relied on groundwater for its water needs, but land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston.
Houston has four major bayous passing through the city: Buffalo Bayou, which runs into downtown and the Houston Ship Channel; and three of its tributaries: Brays Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Heights and near the northwest area; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel goes past Galveston and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Underpinning Houston's land surface are unconsolidated clays, clay shales, and poorly-cemented sands up to several miles deep. The region's geology developed from stream deposits from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains. These sediments consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic matter that, over time, transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath these tiers is a water-deposited layer of halite, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into dome shapes, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands. This thick rich soil also provides a good evironment for rice farming in suburban outskirts that the city continues to grow into near Katy. Evidence of past rice farming is even still evident in developed areas as there is an abundance of rich dark loamy top soil.
The Houston region is generally earthquake-free. While the city of Houston contains 86 mapped and historically active surface faults with an aggregate length of 149 miles (240 km),[7] the clay below the surface precludes the buildup of friction that produces ground shaking in earthquakes. These faults generally move at a smooth rate in what is termed "fault creep."

The "500-year" flood from Tropical Storm AllisonHouston's climate is classified as humid subtropical. The average yearly precipitation level is approximately 48 inches (1,220 mm). Prevailing winds are from the south and southeast during most of the year, bringing heat from the deserts of Mexico and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
During the summer months, the daily high temperatures range from 95 °F to 102 °F (35 °C to 39 °C) throughout much of July and August, with the average high peaking at 94 °F at the end of July.[8] The air tends to feel still and the humidity (often 90 to 100 percent relative humidity, while average afternoon relative humidity is between 57 and 60 percent in the summer) results in a heat index higher than the actual temperature. To cope with the heat, people use air conditioning in nearly every car and building in the city. Summer thunderstorms sometimes bring tornadoes to the area. Afternoon rains are not uncommon, and for most days Houston meteorologists predict at least some chance of rain. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 109 °F (43 °C) on September 4, 2000.[9]

Winters in Houston are cool and temperate. Many days the temperatures are between the 45 °F and 55 °F (7 °C and 16 °C). The coldest period is usually in January, when north winds bring winter rains. Snow is almost unheard of, and typically does not accumulate when it is seen. The last snowstorm to hit Houston was on December 24, 2004 (coincidentally, it was the first ever recorded snowfall on Christmas Eve); only a few inches accumulated and it was all melted by the next afternoon. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Houston was 5 °F (-15 °C) on January 23, 1940.
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 61 (16) 66 (18) 73 (22) 79 (26) 85 (29) 91 (32) 94 (34) 93 (33) 89 (31) 82 (27) 72 (22) 65 (18) 79 (26)
Average low °F (°C) 41 (5) 44 (6) 51 (10) 58 (14) 65 (18) 71 (21) 73 (22) 73 (22) 68 (20) 59 (15) 50 (10) 44 (6) 58 (14)
Average rainfall: inches (millimeters) 3.9 (99.1) 2.9 (73.7) 3.5 (88.9) 3.6 (91.4) 5.6 (142.2) 5.1 (129.5) 3.4 (86.4) 3.7 (93.9) 4.3 (109.2) 4.7 (119.4) 3.7 (93.9) 3.6 (91.4) 47.9 (1216.7)
Source: Weatherbase[10]

Government and politics
Bill White, mayor of Houston as of 2006Founded in 1836 and incorporated in 1837, Houston is one of the fastest growing major cities in the United States and the largest without zoning laws. The city is the county seat of Harris County. A portion of southwest Houston extends into Fort Bend County and a small portion in the northeast extends into Montgomery County.
The city of Houston has a strong mayor-council government. The City's elected officials, serving concurrent two year terms, are: the mayor, the city controller and 14 members of the city council.
Under the strong mayor-council government, the mayor serves as the executive officer of the city. As the city's chief administrator and official representative, the mayor is responsible for the general management of the city and for seeing that all laws and ordinances are enforced.
The current mayor is Bill White, who is serving his second term. In Houston, a mayor can be elected consecutively for three terms. City council members, who also have a three-term limit, are elected from nine districts in the city, along with five at-large positions. At-large council members represent the entire city. The current city council lineup was based on a U.S. Justice Department mandate which took effect in 1979. Houston is a home rule city and all municipal elections in the state of Texas are nonpartisan.
The Harris County Civil Courts Law buildingMany local lawmakers have been impacted by the city's term limits. Several former city officials—Anthony Hall, Rodney Ellis, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Sylvia Garcia, Martha Wong, Chris Bell, and Annise Parker—had to run for another elected position once their term expired.
Former mayor Lee P. Brown denounced the term limits, saying they prevented incumbents from gaining enough experience in city government. A proposal to double the current two-year term of office has been debated—as of 2005, several candidates for the city council have brought up the issue of whether term limits should be amended or eliminated.
Some elected officials from the Greater Houston area within the Texas Legislature—primarily Garnet Coleman and Sylvester Turner—have also spoken against term limits.
According to the 2005 Houston Area Survey, 67 percent of non-Hispanic whites in the city are declared or favor Republicans while 88 percent of non-Hispanic blacks in the city are declared or favor Democrats. About 58 percent Hispanics (of any race) in the city are declared or favor Democrats. Overall about half of Houston area is considered socially conservative, with more conservatives residing in the suburbs and more liberals in the city. Fifty-four percent of Houston area residents oppose abortion and 49 percent believe "homosexuality is morally wrong."[11] Democratic candidate John Kerry won the city of Houston during the 2004 presidential election, while George W. Bush carried Harris county and the other surrounding counties in the Houston area.[12]
See also: List of Houston mayors and List of consulates in Houston

The Port of HoustonHouston's energy industry is a world powerhouse (particularly oil), but biomedical research, aeronautics, and the ship channel are also large parts of the city's industrial base. The Houston metropolitan area comprises the largest petrochemical manufacturing area in the world, including for synthetic rubber, insecticides, and fertilizers. The area is also the world's leading center for building oilfield equipment. Much of Houston's success as a petrochemical complex is due to its busy man-made ship channel, the Port of Houston.[13] The port ranks first in the country in international commerce and is the sixth-largest port in the world. Amid other U.S. ports, it is the busiest in foreign tonnage and second in overall tonnage. Because of these economic trades, many residents have moved to Houston from other U.S. states, as well as hundreds of countries worldwide. Unlike most places, where high gas prices are seen as harmful to the economy, they are generally seen as beneficial for Houston as many are employed in the energy industry.
Historically, Houston has had several growth spurts (and some devastating economic recessions) related to the oil industry. The discovery of oil near Houston in 1901 led to its first growth spurt — by the 1920s, Houston had grown to almost 140,000 people. The city's burgeoning aerospace industry heralded its second growth spurt, which solidified with the 1973 oil crisis. Demand on Texas oil increased, and many people from the northeast moved to Houston to profit from the trade. When the embargo was lifted, the growth mostly stopped. However, Pasadena still has its refineries, and the Port of Houston is among the busiest in the world.
Houston is second to New York City in Fortune 500 headquarters. The city has attempted to build a banking industry, but the companies originally started in Houston have since merged with other companies nationwide. Banking, however, is still vital to the region.
The Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown MSA's Gross Area Product (GAP) in 2005 was $308.7 billion, up 5.4 percent from 2004 in constant dollars—slightly larger than Austria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Only 28 nations other than the United States have a GDP exceeding Houston's GAP.[14] Mining, which in Houston is almost entirely oil and gas exploration and production, accounts for 11 percent of Houston's GAP—down from 21 percent as recently as 1985. The reduced role of oil and gas in Houston's GAP reflects the rapid growth of other sectors—such as engineering services, health services, and manufacturing.[15]
Forty foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices here and the city has 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations.[16] Twenty foreign banks representing 10 nations operate in Houston and provide financial assistance to the international community.
Among the 10 most populous metro areas, Houston ranked second in employment growth rate and fourth in nominal employment growth.[17] In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes.[18]
Further information: List of companies in Houston


Census 2000
City of Houston
Population by year [19] [20]
Year Population Rank
1850 2,396
1860 4,845
1870 9,332
1880 16,513
1890 27,557
1900 44,633 85
1910 78,800 68
1920 138,276 45
1930 292,352 26
1940 384,514 21
1950 596,163 14
1960 938,219 7
1970 1,232,802 6
1980 1,595,138 5
1990 1,630,553 4
2000 1,953,631 4
2004 2,012,626 4
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 1,953,631 people, 717,945 households, and 457,330 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,371.7 people per square mile (1,301.8/km²). There were 782,009 housing units at an average density of 1,349.6 per square mile (521.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 49.27 percent White, 25.31 percent Black or African American, 0.44 percent Native American, 5.31 percent Asian, 0.06 percent Pacific Islander, 16.46 percent from other races, and 3.15 percent from two or more races. 37.41 percent of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 717,945 households out of which 33.1 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.2 percent were married couples living together, 15.3 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3 percent were non-families. 29.6 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 6.2 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.39.
In the city, the population was spread out with 27.5 percent under the age of 18, 11.2 percent from 18 to 24, 33.8 percent from 25 to 44, 19.1 percent from 45 to 64, and 8.4 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $36,616, and the median income for a family was $40,443. Males had a median income of $32,084 versus $27,371 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,101. 19.2 percent of the population and 16.0 percent of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 26.1 percent of those under the age of 18 and 14.3 percent of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Houston recorded 336 murders in 2005, in comparison to 272 in 2004. according to the Houston Police Department, murders in Houston peaked at 702 back in 1981.[21] Despite the rise in homicides of 23.5 percent, overall crime in the city dropped by 2 percent in 2005 compared to 2004. Most of the homicides that occurred in the last quarter of 2005 occurred in the city's apartment complexes—primarily in the southwest and north-central areas of Houston.[22]
Houston is currently going through a spike in crime due in part to an influx of refugees from New Orleans into the city following Hurricane Katrina. These hurricane refugees are believed to have been involved in nearly 17 percent of all homicides. Houston's murder rate increased 70 percent in November and December of 2005 compared to 2004's levels. At least 35 percent of the city's December 2005 increase in homicides—five of 14 over last year’s level—have been directly attributed to the presence of Katrina refugees.[23]

Tranquility Park in DowntownOfficially, Houston is nicknamed the "Space City" as it is home to NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, where Mission Control Center is located. Because of this, "Houston" was the first word spoken on the moon. Many locals, however, prefer to call it the "Bayou City." Other nicknames include "H-Town," "Clutch City," and "Magnolia City."

Houston has the lowest cost of living and the lowest median housing costs among 27 major U.S. metropolitan areas with populations of more than 1.7 million.
The Houston Theater District is located in the heart of downtown Houston and is home to nine of Houston's performing arts organizations, six performance halls, as well as the 130,000 square foot Bayou Place entertainment complex and several public plazas and parks. Houston is one of only five cities in the United States with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines—opera, ballet, music, and theatre.
Of the many popular events held in the city by far the largest is the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo that is held over twenty days from late February through early March. The event begins with trail rides that originate from several points throughout the state, all of which convene at Reliant Park for a barbeque cook-off. The rodeo includes typical rodeo events, as well as concert performances from major artists and carnival rides.
Several Houston-based restaurants—most notably Ninfa Laurenzo's Mama Ninfa's Mexican restaurant chain, Johnny Carrabba's Carrabba's, and Kim Su Tran La's Kim Son Vietnamese restaurant chain—have become well known in Texas and throughout the country. Houston is also home to Landry's Restaurants, Inc. which owns and operates hundreds of restaurants throughout the United States under 28 different concepts. The design for the first Compaq computer was sketched on a napkin at House of Pies—a well-known diner in the Upper Kirby district.
See also: List of famous people raised in Houston

A cosmopolitan city
Williams Waterwall in Uptown HoustonHouston is a diverse and an international city, in part because of its many academic institutions and strong biomedical, energy, manufacturing and aerospace industries. A port city, Houston also has large populations of immigrants from Mexico, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam. This influx of immigrants is partially responsible for Houston having a population younger than the national average.
Houston has two Chinatowns, as well as the third-largest Vietnamese American population in the United States. Recent redevelopment of Midtown from run-down to upscale has increased property values and property taxes, but has also forced some Vietnamese Americans into other areas of the city. The older downtown Chinatown is also disappearing.

About 90 languages are frequently spoken in the Houston area.[24] Some neighborhoods with high populations of Vietnamese and Chinese residents have Chinese and Vietnamese street signs in addition to English ones. Houston has the second highest South African population in the United States, after Miami, Florida. The city is also noted for its large Nigerian population, counting about 100,000 native Nigerians as residents.[25]
The Hispanic population in Houston is increasing as more illegal immigrants from Latin American countries—primarily from Mexico—look for work in Houston. The city has the third-largest Hispanic population in the United States. It is estimated that about half a million immigrants reside in the city illegally.
Houston also has the largest concentration of gay and lesbian (or LGBT) population in Texas and is estimated to be the third-largest in the country.[26][27] The annual gay pride parade—one of the largest events in Houston—is held in June commemorating the struggle for gay liberation, gay rights, gay pride, and the Stonewall riots of the late 1960s in New York City. The event is held along Westheimer Road in the Montrose area—home to many gay establishments, such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and coffeehouses.
Houston’s diversity is also visible when it comes to religion. Houston is home to megachurch Lakewood Church, one of the largest nondenominational church in the United States.[28] Lakewood averages over 30,000 adult attendees every week.
See also: List of events in Houston

Arts and theatre
Hobby Center for the Performing ArtsKnown for the vibrancy of its visual and performing arts, Houston's Theater District is ranked second in the country (behind New York City) in the amount of theatre seats in a concentrated downtown area with 12,948 seats for live performances and 1,480 movie seats.[29] Houston has world-class visual and performing arts organizations, along with a dose of homegrown folk art such as Art Cars.[30] Houston is also one of only five cities in the United States with permanent professional resident companies in all of the major performing arts disciplines (the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Ballet, and The Alley Theatre).[31] Houston widely recognized as the nation's third most important city for contemporary visual arts. The city is a prime stop for touring companies from Broadway, concerts, shows, and exhibitions for a variety of interests, ranging from the nation's largest quilting show to auto, boat, home and gun shows.
Adjacent to the Texas Medical Center is the Museum District, which is home to most of the city's major museums — the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Cullen Sculpture Garden, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Holocaust Museum Houston, the Children's Museum of Houston, Lawndale Art Center, the Houston Zoo, the John P. McGovern Museum of Health & Medical Science, and The Menil Collection. Approximately 4 million people visit institutions in the Museum District every year.
Houston is also home to several multicultural arts organizations including: MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts), Kuumba House Dance Theatre, and Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say.


Bayou Place Entertainment Complex in DowntownSpace Center Houston is the official visitors’ center of NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Space Center Houston includes many interactive exhibits—including moon rocks and a shuttle simulator—in addition to special presentations that tell the story of NASA's manned space flight program. It also features Texas’ largest IMAX theater.
The Theater District, a 17-block area in the heart of downtown Houston, is home to Bayou Place Entertainment Complex, restaurants, movies, plazas and parks. Bayou Place is a large multilevel building that is home to full service restaurants, bars, live music, billiards, multiple theatres and art house films. The Houston Verizon Wireless Theatre stages a variety of live concerts and the Angelika Theatre presents the latest in art, foreign and independent films.
Houston is home to many parks including Hermann Park, which houses the Houston Zoo and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and Memorial Park. What was once the Houston Civic Center was replaced by the George R. Brown Convention Center, one of the nation's largest; and the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, home of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall have been replaced by the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
Other tourist attractions include the Galleria, Houston's largest shopping mall located in the Uptown District, Old Market Square, Tranquility Park, Sam Houston Historical Park, which contains restored homes (built between 1824 and 1868) and reconstructed buildings. The San Jacinto battlefield is in the nearby city of Deer Park. The Port of Houston offers free, 90-minute cruises (except on Mondays and during September).

Houston is served by The Houston Chronicle, its only major daily newspaper with wide distribution. The Hearst Corporation, which owns and operates the Chronicle, bought the assets of the Houston Post, its long-time rival and main competition, when the Post ceased operations in 1995. The only other major publication to serve the city is the Houston Press, a free, alternative news journal with a weekly circulation of more than 300,000 readers.
Houston also is home to several TV stations and radio stations that serve the metropolitan area.
Further information: Houston featured in films and List of newspapers in Houston
See also: List of television stations in Texas and List of radio stations in Texas

Skyline District of DowntownWhen Houston was established in 1837, the city's founders—John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen—divided it into political geographic districts called "wards." The ward designation is the progenitor of the current-day Houston City Council districts—there are nine in all.
Locations in Houston are generally classified as either being inside or outside Interstate 610, known as the "610 Loop" or "The Loop". Inside the loop generally encompasses the central business district, and has come to define an urban lifestyle and state of mind. The appellation “inner looper” carries with it the expectation of someone who appreciates cosmopolitan-style city life.
The outlying areas of Houston, the airports and the city's suburbs and enclaves are outside the loop. Another ring road, State Highway Beltway 8 (also known simply as the "Beltway"), encircles the city another 5 miles (8 km) farther out. The third ring road, State Highway 99 (also known as the Grand Parkway), is under construction.
Houston, being the largest city in the United States without zoning laws, has grown in an unusual manner. Rather than a single "downtown" as the center of the city's employment, five additional business districts have grown throughout the inner-city. If these business districts were combined, they would form the third largest downtown in the United States. The city also has the third-largest skyline in the country (after New York City and Chicago), but because it is spread over a few miles, pictures of the city show—for the most part—the main downtown area.

JPMorgan Chase TowerIn the 1960s, Downtown Houston comprised of a modest collection of mid-rise office structures, but has since grown into one of the largest skylines in the United States. In 1960, the central business district had 10 million square feet (1,000,000 m²) of office space, increasing to about 16 million square feet (1,600,000 m²) in 1970. Downtown Houston was on the threshold of a boom in 1970 with 8.7 million square feet (870,000 m²) of office space planned or under construction and huge projects being launched by real estate developers. The largest proposed development was the 32-block Houston Center. Only a small part of the original proposal was ultimately constructed. Other large projects included the Cullen Center, Allen Center, and towers for Shell Oil Company. The surge of skyscrapers mirrored the skyscraper booms in other cities, such as Los Angeles and Dallas. Houston experienced another downtown construction spurt in the 1970s with the energy industry boom.
Wells Fargo Bank PlazaThe first major skyscraper to be constructed in Houston was the 50-floor, 714-foot-tall (218 m) One Shell Plaza in 1971. A succession of skyscrapers were built throughout the 1970s, culminating with Houston's tallest skyscraper, the 75-floor, 1,002-foot-tall (305 m) JPMorgan Chase Tower (formerly the Texas Commerce Tower), which was completed in 1982. In 2002, it was the tallest structure in Texas, ninth-tallest building in the United States and the 23rd tallest skyscraper in the world. In 1983, the 71-floor, 970-foot-tall (296 m) Wells Fargo Bank Plaza was completed, which became the second-tallest building in Houston and Texas, and 11th-tallest in the country. Skyscraper construction in downtown Houston came to an end in the mid-1980s with the collapse of Houston's energy industry and the resulting severe economic recession. When the 53-floor Texaco Heritage Plaza was completed in 1987, it appeared that no more skyscrapers would be constructed for a while. However, in 2002, the Houston-based Enron Corporation began construction of a 40-floor skyscraper which was about to be completed in 2001—the year the company collapsed in one of the most dramatic corporate failures in the history of the United States. Other smaller office structures were built in the 2000–2003 period. As of December 2001, downtown Houston had about 40 million square feet (4,000,000 m²) of office space, including 28 million square feet (2,800,000 m²) of class A office space.
Many buildings in downtown are linked by a system of tunnels and skywalks. The tunnel system also includes shops, restaurants, and convenience stores.

Uptown HoustonThe Uptown Houston district boomed along with Houston during the 1970s and early 1980s. A collection of mid-rise office buildings appeared along the Interstate 610 west (or simply "West Loop"). It became one of the most impressive instances of the edge city. The highest achievement of Uptown Houston was the construction of the 899-foot-tall (274 m), Philip Johnson designed landmark Williams Tower (known as the Transco Tower until 1999). At the time, it was believed to the be the world's tallest skyscraper outside of a central business district. The Williams Tower was the product of a unique era in Houston: energy companies were loaded with assets and sought impressive, monumental structures to broadcast their power.
Williams TowerThe Uptown Houston district is also home to other buildings designed by noted architects such as I. M. Pei and César Pelli among others also designed by Philip Johnson. Large-scale office construction in Uptown Houston, however, came to an end with the collapse of energy prices and the meltdown of Houston's economy in the mid-to-late 1980s. Uptown Houston had 23.8 million square feet (2,210,000 m²) of office space in 2001, whereas Downtown Houston had about 40 million square feet (4,000,000 m²). In the late 1990s, there was a mini-boom of mid-rise residential tower construction, typically about 30 stories tall. Uptown Houston has accumulated a large concentration of high-rise residential structures for such a low-density city.
See also: Tallest buildings in Texas


U.S. Highway 59 as it traverses by Greenway PlazaIn Houston urban sprawl and hot, humid summers have made automobiles the favored means of transportation. Houston also has excessive ozone levels and is ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States.
Houston’s freeway system includes 575.5 miles of freeways and expressways in the 10-county metro area.[32] The State of Texas plans to spend $5.06 billion on Houston area highways between 2002 and 2007. Houston freeways are heavily traveled and often under construction to meet the demands of continuing growth. Interstate 45 south has been in a continuous state of construction, in one portion or another, almost since the first segment was opened in 1948. Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) planners have sought ways to reduce rush hour congestion, primarily through High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane for vans and carpools. Timed freeway entrances, which regulate the addition of cars to the freeway, are also common. Houston has an extensive network of freeway cameras linked to a transit control center to monitor and study traffic. One characteristic of Houston's freeways (and Texas freeways in general) are its frontage roads (which locals call "feeders"). Alongside most freeways are two to four lanes in each direction parallel to the freeway permitting easy access to individual city streets. Frontage roads provide access to the freeway from businesses alongside, such as gas stations and retail stores. New landscaping projects and a longstanding ban on new billboards are ways Houston has tried to control the potential side effects of convenience
Houston has a hub-and-spoke freeway structure with multiple loops. The innermost is Interstate 610, forming approximately a 10 mile diameter loop around downtown. The roughly square "Loop-610" is quartered into "North Loop," "South Loop," "West Loop," and "East Loop." The roads of State Highway Beltway 8 and their freeway core, the Sam Houston Tollway, are the next loop, at a diameter of roughly 25 miles. Most of this freeway requires payment of $1.25 toll every five or ten miles ($2.00 toll when crossing the Houston Ship Channel). A controversial proposed highway project, State Highway 99 (The Grand Parkway), would form a third loop outside of Houston. Currently, the completed portion of State Highway 99 runs from just north of Interstate 10, west of Houston, to U.S. Highway 59 in Sugar Land, southwest of Houston, and was completed in 1994. The next portion to be constructed is from the current terminus at U.S. Highway 59 to State Highway 288 in Brazoria County.
Houston also lies along the route of the proposed Interstate 69 NAFTA superhighway that will link Canada, the U.S. industrial mid-west, Texas, and Mexico.
Further information: List of highways in Houston

Mass transit
METRORail along the Main Street Corridor in DowntownThe Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, or METRO, provides public transportation in the form of buses, trolleys and lift vans. Uptown, METRO provides free service on the Uptown Shuttle.
METRO began running light rail service (METRORail) on January 1, 2004. Currently the track is rather short — it runs about 8 miles (13 km) from Downtown Houston to the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. METRO's various forms of public transportation still do not connect many of the suburbs to the greater city, causing Houstonians to rely on the automobile as a primary source of transportation. Prior to the opening of METRORail, Houston was the largest city in the United States devoid of a rail transit system by a very large margin.
Following a successful referendum held locally in 2004, METRO is currently in the beginning design phases of a ten year expansion plan to add five more sections to connect to the current rail system. An 8.3 mile (13.4 km) expansion has been approved to run the service from Uptown (the Galleria area) through Texas Southern University, ending at the University of Houston campus.

The International Arrivals Building at George Bush Intercontinental AirportHouston is served by two commercial airports—the largest of which is the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). The airport is the ninth-busiest in the United States for total passengers, and 19th busiest worldwide. Houston is the headquarters of Continental Airlines, Bush Intercontinental is Continental Airline's largest hub, with more than 750 daily departures (more than 250 of which are Continental flights).
Bush Intercontinental currently ranks second in the United States for non-stop domestic and international service (221 destinations), trailing only Atlanta Hartsfield with 250 destinations. The United States Department of Transportation has also recently named George Bush Intercontinental Airport one of the top ten fastest growing airports in the United States.[33]
The second-largest commercial airport in Houston is the William P. Hobby Airport (named Houston International Airport until 1967). The airport operates primarily small to medium-haul flights and is the only airport in Houston served by Southwest Airlines. Business travelers on shorter routes to Houston from within the United States tend to prefer Hobby over Bush Intercontinental.
The third-largest airport and former U.S. Air Force base, Ellington Field, is primarily used for government and private aircraft. At one point, Continental Express operated flights across the city to Bush Intercontinental primarily for residents of southeast Houston and Galveston County. Passenger flights, however, ended on September 7, 2004.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the state of Texas selected the Houston Airport System as Airport of the Year for 2005, largely because of its multi-year, $3.1 billion airport improvement program for both major airports in Houston.

Education and research

Healthcare and scientific research
Texas Medical CenterHouston is the seat of the internationally-renowned Texas Medical Center, which contains the world's largest concentration of research and healthcare institutions.
There are 42 member institutions in the Texas Medical Center—all are not-for-profit—dedicated to the highest standards of patient and preventive care, research, education, and local, national, and international community well-being. These institutions include 13 renowned hospitals and two specialty institutions, two medical schools, four nursing schools, and schools of dentistry, public health, pharmacy, and virtually all health-related careers. It is where one of the first—and still the largest—air emergency service was created, a very successful inter-institutional transplant program was developed. In addition, more heart surgeries are performed at the Texas Medical Center than anywhere else in the world.
Some of the academic and research health institutions are Baylor College of Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, The Methodist Hospital, and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is widely considered one of the world's most productive and highly-regarded academic institutions devoted to cancer patient care, research, education and prevention.
See also: List of hospitals in Texas

Colleges and universities
University of HoustonHouston is served by the University of Houston System, the largest urban state system of higher education in the Gulf Coast. The system has four universities, all but one of which are in Houston, and two multi-institution teaching centers. Their flagship institution is the University of Houston (UH), which was founded in 1927 and is the only doctoral degree granting comprehensive research institution in Houston. UH is the third-largest university in Texas with an enrollment of more than 35,000[34] and is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes. The interdisciplinary research conducted at the University breaks new ground in such vital areas as superconductivity, space commercialization, biomedical engineering, economics, education, petroleum exploration, virtual technology, and much more. Two other institutions within the UH System serving Houston are UH–Clear Lake and UH–Downtown.

Rice UniversityHouston is home to the prestigious Rice University, a private institution boasting one of the largest financial endowments of any university in the world. Rice was ranked the 17th best university overall in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.[35] The small undergraduate student body is among the nation's most select and has one of the highest percentages of National Merit Scholarship winners. Rice maintains a variety of research facilities and laboratories. The University is also associated with the Houston Area Research Center, a consortium supported by Rice, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, and the University of Houston.
Texas Southern University is a historically black university located in the historic Third Ward, is heralded as a pioneer, and distinguishes itself as one of the leading producers of African American scholars that obtain collegiate, professional, and graduate degrees in the state, as well as the nation.
University of St. ThomasHouston has several religiously affiliated private institutions. The University of St. Thomas, a Catholic liberal arts college following the Basilian tradition, was founded by the Basilian fathers of Canada, and located in the Montrose area. Houston Baptist University, a Baptist institution founded in 1960, is located in southwest Houston and boasts more than 50 undergraduate majors and pre-professional programs ranging from Biblical Languages to Nursing.
Houston's oldest law school, South Texas College of Law was founded in 1923.[36] Located downtown Houston, it boasts one of the nation's finest programs for trial advocacy. In 2005, U.S. News & World Report ranked their Trial Advocacy Program number one in the nation.[37]
Much of Houston is served by the Houston Community College System, which is one of the largest community college systems in the United States. HCCS serves the HISD portion of Houston and other areas. Parts of northern Houston are served by North Harris Montgomery Community College District. Parts of eastern and southeastern Houston are served by San Jacinto College. Many of Houston's suburbs also have their own community college systems.
Further information: List of colleges and universities in Houston

Primary and secondary education
Lamar High SchoolAll public school systems in Texas are administered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). There are many public school districts serving the city of Houston. The largest of which is the Houston Independent School District, which serves a large majority of the area within the city limits. A portion of west Houston falls under the Spring Branch and Alief independent school districts. Aldine and North Forest independent school districts take up a part of northeast Houston. Parts of Pasadena, Clear Creek, Crosby, Cypress-Fairbanks, Fort Bend, Galena Park, Huffman, Humble, Katy, New Caney, and Sheldon independent school districts also take students from the city limits of Houston.
There are also many charter schools that are run separately from school districts, but are administered by the Texas Education Agency. In addition, public school districts—such as Houston ISD and Spring Branch ISD—also have their own charter schools.
Houston has numerous private schools of all types: non-sectarian, Catholic, and Protestant. The Texas Education Agency has no authority over private school operations; private schools may or may not be accredited, and achievement tests are not required for private school graduating seniors. Many private schools, however, will obtain accreditation and perform achievement tests as a means of encouraging future parents that the school is genuinely interested in educational performance. The Houston area is home to more than 300 private schools and several are well-known. Many of the schools are accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC). In addition, Houston area Catholic schools are operated by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Public library systems
Residents of Houston are served by three public library systems: Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library, and Fort Bend County Libraries. The Houston Public Library has 36 branches throughout the city, plus the Central Library, located Downtown. The Harris County Public Library has 26 branches, primarily serving areas outside the city limits of Houston. The portion of Houston within Fort Bend County is served by the Fort Bend County Libraries, in addition to Houston Public Library.

Minute Maid ParkHouston is home to the MLB Houston Astros, NFL Houston Texans, NBA Houston Rockets, WNBA Houston Comets, AHL Houston Aeros, and MLS Houston Dynamo—all of whom are playing in new state-of-the-art stadiums. Minute Maid Park (home of the Astros) and Toyota Center (home of the Rockets, Comets, and Aeros) are located downtown—contributing to an urban renaissance that has transformed Houston's center into a day-and-night destination. Also, the city has the first domed stadium in the United States and also holds the NFL's first retractable roof stadium. Rice Stadium, at Rice University, was the home to Super Bowl VIII, and Super Bowl XXXVIII was played at the Reliant Stadium in February 2004. Other sports facilities in Houston are Hofheinz Pavilion, Reliant Astrodome, and Robertson Stadium.
The Houston Astros advanced to the World Series for the first time in the team's history on October 19, 2005, when the team won game six of the National League Championship series against their traditional rival the St. Louis Cardinals. The Astros subsequently lost the World Series to the Chicago White Sox, who swept the series four to zero.
Beginning in 2006, the Champ Car auto racing series will return to Houston for a yearly race, held on the streets of the Reliant Park complex. The city had previously been home to a Champ Car round from 1998 to 2001. On April 1, 2001, Houston hosted World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)'s WrestleMania X-Seven at the Reliant Astrodome.
The city hosts the annual NCAA football's Houston Bowl in December. Houston was also host of the NCAA football 2005 Big 12 Conference title game as well as the NCAA College Baseball Minute Maid Classic every February. Additionally, Houston's Minute Maid Park hosted the MLB All Star Game in 2004 and Toyota Center hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2006.
The city received a new Major League Soccer team on December 15, 2005 when the San Jose Earthquakes relocated the franchise to Houston. Under the relocation agreement the Earthquake name, mascot and logo will remain in San Jose reserved for a future expansion team. The Houston team, renamed "Houston Dynamo," plays at Robertson Stadium during the 2006 season.
Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander is currently working to bring a National Hockey League (NHL) franchise to Houston. The team is expected to be acquired by the purchase and relocation of an existing team rather than through league expansion, most likely the Pittsburgh Penguins—which is interested in relocating to Houston.
Logo Club Sport League Venue
Houston Aeros Ice Hockey American Hockey League Toyota Center
Houston Astros Baseball Major League Baseball (NL) Minute Maid Park
Houston Comets Basketball Women's National Basketball Association Toyota Center
Houston Dynamo
Soccer Major League Soccer Robertson Stadium
Houston Rockets Basketball National Basketball Association Toyota Center
Houston Texans Football National Football League (AFC) Reliant Stadium
See also: Former professional sports teams in Houston

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