What is a Houstonian?

Tidbits of History from Houston

Houston, Texas, the sprawling, noisy city on the Gulf Cost, is always searching for its future. Obsessed with the next economic boom around the corner, Houston isn’t exactly a city about looking back. So, what do Houstonians need with history? Short answer: plenty.

The international and impossibly multi-cultural city is constantly resupplied with Newstonians, new Houstonians who moved here to find work and start a new life. They are all welcomed, but confusion may set in. Contemplating their new home, absorbing all of Houston’s traditions, events, and anniversaries, they inevitably wonder “What is a Houstonian?” 

Well, the answer to that riddle is found in the Bayou City’s rich history, lurking around every corner of the nation’s fourth largest city. Just look at these Houston events, they tell you everything about Houston and her residents’ entrepreneurship, ambition, and generosity.

The Original Boomtown – January 10,1901

Today in 1901, the first major oil well came in at Spindletop, in Harris County, south of Beaumont, marking the birth of the oil industry in Texas.  The original Texas boomtown, this Beaumont home to the salt dome produced 100,000 barrels per day, and made Texas the major player in the modern petroleum industry.

The Ship Channel dedication ceremony. Courtesy of Port Houston.

Presidential Visit – November 10, 1914

Since the birth of Houston in 1836, city planners, politicians, merchants, and industrialists wanted to make Houston a port city. In the early 20th century, Houston boasted seventeen railroads that carried cotton, rice, and lumber to ocean-going vessels. And in 1911, voters approved the creation of the Port Authority and a bond to pay for dredging the Ship Channel to 25-feet deep. On this day in 1914, Houstonians celebrated the improvements at the Ship Channel with President Woodrow Wilson opening the celebration with a cannon fired by remote control in Washington.

Curious to learn more? Check Out The Houstorian Calendar by James Glassman for a daily dose of Houston History!

President Kennedy speaking at Rice Stadium. Courtesy of NASA.

To the Moon! – September 12, 1962

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..” When President John Kennedy spoke these words on this day in 1962 at Rice Stadium, he rallied the nation to increase its commitment to winning the so-called Space Race against the Soviet Union, making NASA a “program a high national priority.”

Houston was on the verge of becoming Space City; but then again, Houstonians have always been a forward-looking community that embraced invention and innovation.

Hurricane Katrina – September 1, 2005

Houstonians, for better or worse, know all about hurricanes. So much of Houston’s history is intertwined with the deadly, late summer storms – even when the hurricane misses Houston altogether. This was the case with Hurricane Katrina.

Sitting at sea level on the Gulf Coast, New Orleans is constantly protected from flooding by manmade levees. When Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, the storm surge caused the barriers to fail, allowing flood waters to take over the city’s streets and structures. Even though the storm’s damage was the costliest U.S. hurricane to date, the larger story was in the countless victims driven from their homes, and in the local and federal government that was slow to respond to those in need.

On this day in 2005, Harris County opened its vacant Astrodome as a temporary shelter to evacuees from neighboring Louisiana who fled their flood damaged homes days earlier. Over the following weeks, Houston welcomed nearly a quarter million people from Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, many making Houston their permanent home. It was one of Houston’s finest hours.