21 Interesting Facts about Houston
Houston is the fourth largest in the United States and one of the fastest growing in the nation. Its 2010 U.S. census population was 2,099,451; that of the metropolitan area, 5,946,800. The port of Houston is the largest in the United States in international tonnage and second largest in total tonnage, after New Orleans.
Houston was founded in 1836 and named after Gen. Sam Houston, hero of the Texas war for independence from Mexico (1835–1836). With the discovery of oil in the vicinity early in the 20th century, the city began to grow rapidly. Houston has become a major medical and technological center because of the Texas Medical Center within the city limits and the Manned Spacecraft Center.
Here are 21 interesting facts about Houston:
1. NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center, which was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973 after the former president's death, occupies a large tract near Clear Lake, southeast of Houston. Construction was started in April 1962. The functions of the center are to select and train astronauts, manage and design their spacecraft, plan and direct their missions, and evaluate the results of space voyages. The center's mission control center exercises full control of the astronauts' mission and spacecraft from launch and recovery. The Lunar Receiving Laboratory of the space center studies and analyzes material brought back from the moon and serves as a quarantine station for moon voyagers.
2. The Harris County Domed Stadium, or "Astrodome," and its adjacent Astrohall, located in Houston's southwest, and the downtown convention center helped make Houston a major convention city. The air-conditioned plastic-domed stadium was the home of the Astros baseball team of the National League from 1965 to 1999, when it was replaced by Minute Maid Park. The new Reliant Stadium, adjacent to the Astrodome, became the home of the Texans of the American Conference of the National Football League in 2002. The Rockets of the National Basketball Association and the Comets of the Women's National Basketball Association play in the Toyota Center.
3. The annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo also makes its home at the stadium, with the rodeo held under the dome and the show in the Astrohall. Astroworld, a 56-acre (22-ha) family amusement park with rides and a number of other attractions, is adjacent to the Astrodome.
4. In downtown Houston is Old Market Square, an area of old buildings that have been renovated to provide a wide assortment of nightclubs, restaurants, and shops a short walk from Allen's Landing Park on Buffalo Bayou. Local art exhibits are frequent in this area. The Houston Baseball Museum and Classic Showcase, which offers a wax museum and a collection of restored vintage cars, are based at Houston.
5. The annual Azalea Trail offers spring tours through selected homes in the River Oaks residential area, which is noted for its splendid homes and gardens. The Harris County Heritage and Conservation Society has restored in the city's Sam Houston Park several structures dating from the days of the Republic of Texas to the Civil War.
6. The 42-acre (17-ha) Houston Zoological Gardens in Hermann Park offers free displays of more than 21,000 mammals, birds, and reptiles. In 1966 a house for tropical birds was built with a simulated rain forest through which the public may stroll and view the rarest birds in their natural habitat. There is also a children's zoo where the youngsters may play with a variety of baby animals. Another youth attraction is the Aline McAshan Botanical Garden for Children in Memorial Park.
7. Popular boat rides down Buffalo Bayou have their start at Allen's Landing Park. The park, at Buffalo and White Oak bayous, commemorates the port site used from Houston's founding in 1836 until the turning basin was opened nearly 80 years later. Cruises of the port of Houston may also be booked. Annual attractions also include the Champions Invitational Golf Tournament, the River Oaks Invitational Tennis Tournament, and the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show.
8. Memorial Park is the largest of the city's 200 municipal parks and playgrounds, followed by Hermann Park. The park system covers 5,121 acres (2,050 ha), providing municipal golf courses, swimming pools, softball and baseball fields, tennis courts, and recreation centers.
9. Golfing and tennis are year-round activities in Houston thanks to its mild winter temperatures. Swimming, boating, and water sports are popular in the area during the spring, summer, and autumn, and deep-sea, bay, and freshwater lake fishing is good the year round. Ducks, geese, quail, deer, doves, squirrels, and turkeys are plentiful in the region and during specific autumn and winter periods there are open hunting seasons. Numerous bridle paths are available in parks and elsewhere.
10. The Museum of Fine Arts, with a collection valued at more than $11 million, features a permanent display of Frederic Remington's paintings of the old West, along with artifacts of ancient Egypt. American artworks and furnishings from the 17th, 18th, and early 19th century are on view by appointment at the museum's Bayou Bend, the former home of Ima Hogg, daughter of the late Texas governor James S. Hogg.
11. The Contemporary Arts Museum presents exclusively avant-garde art and interesting films. Archaeological, geological, and other scientific exhibits are on view at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Hermann Park. The Burke Baker Planetarium is part of this museum.
12. The San Jacinto Museum of History is at the base of the San Jacinto Monument at San Jacinto Battleground, 3 miles (5 km) east of Pasadena on the ship channel.
13. Houston's Civic Center was opened in the late 1960s, although the first land for the project was bought in 1927. In the center the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, a gift to the city from Houston Endowment, Inc., in memory of the late secretary of commerce, is the permanent home of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Houston Grand Opera Association.
14. The Houston Symphony Society was founded in 1913. The symphony presents subscription concerts in Jones Hall and free summer concerts in Miller Memorial Theatre, an outdoor air-conditioned theater in Hermann Park, as well as concerts on tour. Performers of international rank are featured in productions by the grand opera association, the Houston Foundation for Ballet, which formed a company in 1969, and the Houston Society for the Performing Arts.
15. Other facilities in the center in downtown Houston include the Albert Thomas Convention and Exhibit Center and National Space Hall of Fame, completed in 1967, and the older Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall.
16. Other resident ensembles include the Houston All-City (school) Symphony, the Houston Youth Symphony, the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, the Music Guild Quartet, the Lyric Art String Quartet, the Virtuoso Quartet, and the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Productions are offered by the University of St. Thomas Singers and the Houston Harpsichord Society, among others, and concerts are sponsored by the Tuesday Musical Club and the Houston Friends of Music.
17. The Alley Theatre, one of the country's foremost repertory theaters, opened its 21st season in 1968 in its new $3 million home adjacent to the Civic Center. The unique facility houses two separate theaters. Other local amateur and professional drama organizations include the Houston Music Theatre, the Houston Theatre Center-Playhouse, the Country Playhouse, Theatre Suburbia, the Channing Players, the Wesley Players, the Holiday Dinner Theatre, and the Town & Country Dinner Theatre.
18. Houston’s public library system consists of a central library downtown and about 15 branch libraries. There are also several mobile library trucks and reading centers.
19. Houston's two daily newspapers are the Houston Post (morning and Sunday) and the Houston Chronicle (afternoon and Sunday). The News Citizen (Pasadena) and Baytown Sun (Baytown) also publish daily in the area.
20. Network television stations are located in Houston, and the University of Houston operates the nation's oldest educational television station. Two ultra high frequency channels and AM and FM radio stations also broadcast in Houston.
21. Houston is a city of more than 1,200 churches that reveal a rich blend of conventional and modern architecture. Some 2,000 pastors, priests, and rabbis serve nearly 40 denominations, and nearly every major religion is represented.