Just months after Texas won its independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto, brothers John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen purchased a little over 6,600 acres on the banks of Buffalo Bayou for a new town. For an investment of less than $10,000, the duo would become the founding fathers of Houston and what began as a struggling trading post would in time become the fourth largest city in the nation and a capital of industry.
Explore the history of Houston by decade in this interactive timeline.
On April 21, General Sam Houston’s army wins Texas’ independence from Mexico in the Battle of San Jacinto.
Houston founded on August 30 by brothers Augustus C. and John K. Allen, who pay just over $1.40 per acre for 6,642 acres near headwaters of Buffalo Bayou.
Allen Brothers call on Gail Borden (publisher, surveyor, originator of condensed milk) and Thomas H. Borden to survey the site. Gail Borden lays out the town’s streets 80’ wide, with the principal east-west street (Texas Ave.) 100’ wide.
General Sam Houston, first president of the Republic of Texas, signs an act authorizing Houston to incorporate. Houston is capital of the Republic from 1837-1839.
The Laura is the first steamship to visit Houston.
A bucket brigade, Protection Fire Company No. 1, is formed to fight fires.
On April 4, seven Houston businessmen form the Houston Chamber of Commerce.
The Houston Police Department is formed.
Texas’ oldest newspaper, The Galveston County Daily News, is first published.
Texas becomes the 28th state.
First census after Texas joins the United States counts 2,396 Houstonians. Galveston, with 4,117 residents, is the state’s largest city.
Houston’s first railroad — the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railroad — begins operations.
Texas Legislature appropriates $4,000 for Buffalo Bayou improvements.
Three competing firefighting companies combined into the Houston Volunteer Fire Department.
City provides “land and good buildings” for a smallpox/yellow fever hospital.
Houston and Harris County vote to secede from the Union. During the Civil War, the closest fighting is at Galveston.
Houston’s first bank, First National Bank, is founded.
Houston Stonewalls defeat Galveston Robert E. Lees 35-2 in first recorded baseball game in Houston.
Houston’s first trolley cars (muledrawn) appear.
Texas readmitted to the Union.
Census shows Houston’s population up to 9,332. Harris County’s has reached 17,375, ranking it second in the state.
Congress designates Houston a port; first survey of Houston’s proposed ship channel is conducted.
Congress makes its first appropriation — $10,000 — for ship channel improvements.
Houston Board of Trade and Cotton Exchange are organized.
First grain elevator is built on the Houston Ship Channel.
Houston’s first free public school is established.
Houston’s first telephone exchange is created.
Houston Electric Light Co. is organized. Houston and New York are the first cities to build electric power plants.
Houston gets its first arc light.
Sisters of Charity open Houston’s first general hospital.
Houston is first Texas city with electric streetcars.
Houston Business League is founded (became Houston Chamber of Commerce in 1910).
Houston Fire Department replaces Houston Volunteer Fire Department.
Automobile first appears in Houston as an advertising gimmick.
Houston's first asphalt street paving is laid on Franklin Street.
Galveston Country Club opens with Texas’ first recorded professionally designed golf course.
First Houston city park opens. (This site, now Sam Houston Park, contains several of Houston’s earliest buildings.)
A Category 4 hurricane — deadliest in U.S. history — strikes Galveston, claiming more than 6,000 lives and causing property damage exceeding $30 million ($902 million in 2019 dollars).
Houston Left Hand Fishing Club purchases the city’s first automobile from Olds Motor Works of Detroit.
Oil discovered at Spindletop, and later discoveries at Humble in 1905 and Goose Creek in 1906, put Houston in the center of new oil and oilfield equipment development.
Congress appropriates $1 million for work on the Houston Ship Channel.
Houston has 80 automobiles.
Houston city council sets speed limit of 8 mph.
Houston Museum and Scientific Society, Inc., predecessor of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is organized.
Houston police begin using motorcycles to enforce speed limits.
Houston Country Club opens with Houston’s first professionally designed 18-hole golf course.
Congress accepts, from a group of Houston businessmen headed by the Houston Chamber of Commerce, a novel plan to split ship channel development costs between Houston and the federal government.
Rice Institute (now Rice University) begins classes.
Houston Symphony is established.
The 25-foot-deep Houston Ship Channel is completed and formally dedicated.
First deepwater vessel, the S.S. Satilla, calls at Houston.
George Hermann donates 285 acres to the city for a public park near Rice Institute.
Oil refineries proliferate along the Ship Channel, taking advantage of inexpensive waterborne shipping.
Houston adopts ordinance dedicating tax monies to its library system.
Second National Bank becomes Houston’s first air-conditioned building.
South Texas School of Law, as it was then known, opens its doors on Sept. 24, 1923, with seven part-time instructors and a first class of just 34 students. The institution now known as South Texas College of Law Houston is the city's oldest law school.
Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the first fine arts museum in Texas, opens.
Natural gas first piped into Houston.
Houston Colored Junior College, the forerunner of Texas Southern University, established.
Houston Junior College (now the University of Houston) is established.
National Democratic Convention is held in Houston.
Municipal airport opened; air mail service to Houston begins.
City Planning Commission recommends that Houston adopt a zoning ordinance but finds scant support.
Census ranks Houston as state's most populous city at 292,352 residents.
First Houston Fat Stock Show & Rodeo (now Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo) held.
Intracoastal Canal links Houston to Mississippi River navigation system.
Braniff International inaugurates first scheduled air passenger service to Houston.
Petrochemical complex develops, taking feedstocks from nearby refineries.
New master plan for Houston thoroughfares emphasizes a loop system.
Texas Medical Center is founded.
Houston Golf Assn. hosts its first PGA Tour event — now the Houston Open, 10th oldest event on the PGA schedule.
Houston College for Negroes acquired by Texas Legislature; established as Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University).
Alley Theatre established.
Engineering begins on the Gulf Freeway, Texas’ first freeway.
Houston voters reject proposed zoning ordinance.
December 31 annexation expands Houston's area from 74.4 square miles to 216 square miles.
Port of Houston ranks second nationally in total tonnage.
KLEE-TV broadcasts first Houston commercial TV program.
KUHT-TV, the nation’s first public broadcast TV station, goes on the air.
Houston Grand Opera Association and Houston Ballet founded.
Houston metro area population reaches 1,000,000.
NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center moves to Houston.
Houston voters reject proposed zoning ordinance.
First event held in the Astrodome.
Houston Intercontinental Airport begins operations.
“Houston” is the first word spoken from the lunar surface.
The Galleria opens.
Shell Oil Co. relocates corporate headquarters to Houston. More than 200 major firms move headquarters, subsidiaries and divisions here in the 1970s.
Arab oil embargo quadruples oil prices in 90 days, fueling Houston’s 1973-1981 economic boom.
Voters approve and fund Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Employment peaks at 1,583,400 in March before onset of recession.
155 office buildings completed in 12 months.
Voters approve creation of Harris County Toll Road Authority.
An estimated 1.3 million people turn out in Downtown Houston April 5, 1986 to see French composer Jean-Michel Jarre's "Rendez-vous Houston: A City in Concert."
Trough of recession in January; net recession loss of 221,900 jobs.
Wortham Center, home to Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera, opens.
The George R. Brown Convention Center opens on 11 blocks on the east end of downtown. The center would be expanded in 2001 to 1.8 million square feet.
Houston Chamber of Commerce, Houston Economic Development Council and Houston World Trade Association combine to form Greater Houston Partnership.
Houston economic recovery complete; April job count above March 1982 level.
Houston hosts 16th annual Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations.
Houston City Council mandates first zoning regulations.
Republican National Convention held in Houston.
Houston voters reject proposed zoning ordinance.
Census finds Houston MSA has no racial or ethnic majority.
Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, opens.
Tropical Storm Allison inundates Houston June 5-9, claiming 22 lives and inflicting $4.9 billion in property damage, with storm precipitation as high as 35.67 inches in some areas.
NRG Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, opens.
Hobby Center for the Performing Arts opens.
Toyota Center, home of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, opens.
Houston’s first modern light rail line, 7.5-miles long, begins operations.
Houston hosts NFL Superbowl XXXVIII.
More than 100,000 evacuees flee to Houston from southern Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Ike makes landfall Sept. 13 at Galveston as a Category 2 storm, claiming at least 70 lives and causing some $27 billion in property damage along the Texas Gulf Coast, ranking it third most costly among U.S. hurricanes.
By November, Houston returns to 2008 pre-recession employment levels; first major metro to do so.
PNC Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, opens.
A $60-billion boom in chemical plant construction begins along the Gulf Coast. Construction boom helps to offset job losses in energy over the next two years.
Oil prices peak at $108 per barrel in June before plunging 75% over the next 18 months devastating the local energy industry. Nearly 80,000 energy-related jobs are lost.
Hobby Airport launches international service with the opening of the airport’s first international terminal.
Ellington Airport receives a commercial spaceport license by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The energy downturn bottoms out and a slow recovery begins.
Houston hosts NFL Super Bowl LI.
Hurricane Harvey inundates Houston with five days of rain. Total rainfall exceeds 50 inches in many parts of the region.
The American League Houston Astros defeat the National League Los Angeles Dodgers to win Major League Baseball’s World Series.
Rice University announced plans to develop new hub for Innovation District in Midtown.