Houston experienced tremendous growth throughout the 20th century and today it’s the fourth biggest city in the states. Everything really is bigger in Texas!

Looking south over South Main Street, Holcombe Street and the Shamrock Hotel, ca. 1947

Aerial1 Photo: Houston Library.

The building that’s under construction in the left-hand side of this photo is the famed Shamrock Hotel. The hotel celebrated its grand opening in true Irish fashion with a massive blowout on St. Patrick’s Day, 1949.

Downtown Houston, ca. 1946

Aerial2 Photo: Houston Library.

Houston’s population grew significantly during the 1940s and 50s. In 1940, the city was home to 384,514 people, while by 1950 that number had spiked to almost 600,000.

Downtown Houston, ca. 1950

Aerial3 Photo: Houston Library.

The 1950s saw some major milestones for the city. In 1955, the Houston Ballet Academy and the Houston Grand Opera Association were founded, and the population of the metropolitan area hit one million.

Looking over Highway 45 and the Julia Ideson building, ca. 1970

Aerial4 Photo: Houston Library.

This photo dates back to the 1970s, just after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969. Houston was one of the first words spoken from the lunar surface, putting Texas on the map should aliens decide to stop by for a visit!

Looking north over the Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel, date unknown

Aerial5 Photo: Houston Library.

The Sheraton-Lincoln Hotel opened its doors on June 4th, 1962. The building has since been demolished, but in its day it hosted some pretty awesome guests — The Beatles came for a stay when they visited the city in 1965.

Turning Basin of the Houston Ship Channel, ca. 1946

Aerial6 Photo: Houston Library.

Last year marked the Houston Ship Channel’s 100th anniversary as an integral part of the city’s economy. On September 7th, 1914, the channel was completed and a parade marched through the downtown core (with the new invention of incandescent lights as decoration, no less!).

Downtown Houston, ca. 1946

Aerial7 Photo: Houston Library.

Other significant developments during the 1940s in Houston include the establishment of the Texas Medical Center in 1945 and the Alley Theatre in 1947. Today, both of these institutions are still thriving — TMC is the largest medical complex in the world and the Alley Theatre is one of the only theatre companies in the country that supports its performers and employees all year round.

The San Jacinto Monument, ca. 1946

Aerial8 Photo: Houston Library.

The San Jacinto Monument was erected in 1939 to honor the people who fought for Texan independence in the 19th century. The architect who created the monument, Alfred C. Finn, said he modelled the design after the Lincoln and Washington memorials in Washington DC. Today, the obelisk is still the tallest war memorial in the world, reaching an impressive height of 567 feet.

Downtown Houston, ca. 1959

Aerial9 Photo: Houston Library.

At the turn of the century, Texas was thrust into a new, prosperous future when a gush of oil erupted near Beaumont. Ever since, Houston has been a major center for oil and gas companies like ConocoPhillips, a massive company that produces oil and natural gas worldwide (a Conoco sign can be spotted in the middle of this photo).

Turning Basin of the Houston Ship Channel, ca. 1946

Aerial10 Photo: Houston Library.

In addition to the parade, community officials and noteworthy Texans assembled at the Turning Basin on the day the Houston Ship Channel was officially completed in 1914. A band floating on a barge in the middle of the water performed the national anthem while the mayor’s daughter tossed flowers into the channel to christen it.

Looking southwest over Hermann Park, ca. 1928

Aerial11 Photo: Houston Library.

Houston residents have George H. Hermann, real estate investor and industrialist, to thank for Hermann Park. In 1914 he announced he would be gifting the city with 285 acres of land for a public park. Today, it’s one of Houston’s most popular parks, which is in part due to its location close by the Texas Medical Center and Rice University.

Flooding in Houston, date unknown

Aerial12 Photo: Houston Library.

You might want to refrain from saying the F word around Houston residents — flood, that is. The city has been hit with some catastrophic floods in the past. Tropical storms Allison and Claudette have been two of the worst — Allison led to floods with over 35 inches of water in some areas in 2001.

West University Place, ca. 1946

Aerial13 Photo: Houston Library.

West University Place, the charming suburb captured in this photo, dates back to 1910 when the Governor of Tennessee opted to build a group of country homes on the site. By 1923, the community housed 40 families, and today the Houston enclave is home to over 15,000 people.

The Houston Zoo, ca. 1928

Aerial14 Photo: Houston Library.

The Houston Zoo was founded in 1922 in Hermann Park. Today, the zoo welcomes over two million guests a year who come to view over 6,000 animals.

Astrodome, ca. 1960

Aerial15 Photo: Houston Library.

Built in 1965, the Astrodome was one of the first supersized, domed, multi-purpose stadiums in the world with a grand total of 67,000 seats. The dome was once dubbed “the eighth wonder of the modern world,” and last year it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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