Houston redirects here. For other meanings of the word, please see Houston (disambiguation).
Located in southeast Texas, Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States and one of the two largest economic areas in Texas. The city is the county seat of Harris County, the third most populous county in the country. A portion of far southwest Houston also extends into Fort Bend County.
As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 1,953,631, but a July 1, 2002 Census estimate placed the city's population at 2,009,834. Houston is one of the newest and fastest growing major cities in the United States. In 1900, the population in Houston was about 45,000, and it was the 85th largest town in the U.S. Now, quoted as the "Fastest Growing City in America" and "the Most Popular City to Relocate," there are as many as 5 million people living in the Houston Metropolitan Area. The city limits cover about 600 square miles (1,600 km²) in area, and it's also the largest city in the United States which does not have zoning laws.
Houston is world renowned for its energy industry (particularly oil), aeronautics industry and ship channel. The Port of Houston is one of the busiest ports in the United States, second in the world as far as foreign tonnage. Because of the economic trades, many residents have moved in from other U.S. states, as well as hundreds of countries worldwide.
Officially, Houston has been nicknamed the Space City. "Houston" was the first word uttered on the moon, as Neil Armstrong reported back to NASA. It is known by the locals, however, as the Bayou City. (Other nicknames include "Clutch City", and "Magnolia City".)
Houston's Rice Stadium was home to the Super Bowl VIII, and Super Bowl XXXVIII was played at Houston's Reliant Stadium in February 2004. Because of the incredible turnout, the NFL says the city is almost guaranteed to host the 2009 or 2010 game as well.
Main article: History of Houston
Murders and disasters
Geography and Climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1,558.4 km² (601.7 mi²). 1,500.7 km² (579.4 mi²) of it is land and 57.7 km² (22.3 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 3.70% water.
Houston's climate is classified as being humid subtropical. The city is located in the gulf coastal plains biome, and the vegetation is classified as a temperate grassland. Much of Houston was built on forested land, marshes or prarie, all of which can still be seen in surrounding areas. Average yearly precipitation levels range from 36 to 48 inches (900 to 1200 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.
In summertime, daily high temperatures are in the 90 to 105 °F (32 to 41 °C) range throughout much of July and August. The air tends to feel still and the humidity (often 90 to 100% relative humidity) makes the air feel hotter than it really is. To cope with the heat, people use air conditioning in nearly every car and post-war building in the city.
Summer thunderstorms sometimes bring the moderately common tornadoes to the area. Afternoon rains are not uncommon, and Houston meteorologists are not given to predicting a zero percent chance of rain on most days.
Winters in Houston are cool and temperate. The coolest 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.
Houston has four major bayous passing through the city. The Buffalo Bayou, which runs into downtown, the Brays Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center, White Oak Bayou runs through the Heights and near northwest area and the Sims Bayou in the south of Houston merge in downtown Houston into the Houston Ship Channel. The Ship Channel goes past Galveston, Texas into the Gulf of Mexico.
Most of Houston is very flat and is about fifty feet above sea level in elevation; the Houston Heights area has the highest elevation in the city. The city once relied on groundwater for its water needs. Land subsidence forced the city to turn to ground-level water sources such as Lake Houston.
Hurricanes have slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast on numerous occasions; several have passed through Houston, causing death and destruction. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 led to Galveston losing its status as the major port city and economic power in Southeast Texas; development of the Ship Channel and its port refineries shifted the honor to Houston. The last hurricane of consequence to hit Houston was Hurricane Alicia in 1983, but Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 caused billions of dollars in damages.
Flooding has proved to be an increasingly serious problem in Houston. Houston's worst contemporary flood was Tropical Storm Allison which passed through the city in June, 2001. Many neighborhoods have changed since the storm; older houses in some afflicted neighborhoods have been torn down and replaced with larger houses with larger foundations.
Houston's climate is often compared to that of Dallas, Texas. Dallas has a hot and dry climate while Houston has a hot and humid climate. While Dallas gets hotter temperatures, Houston's heat index is often higher.
Like many areas of Texas, Houston suffers from the Red Imported Fire Ant.
As of the census of 2000, there are 1,953,631 people, 717,945 households, and 457,330 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,301.8/km² (3,371.7/mi²). There are 782,009 housing units at an average density of 521.1/km² (1,349.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 49.27% White, 25.31% African American, 0.44% Native American, 5.31% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 16.46% from other races, and 3.15% from two or more races. 37.41% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 717,945 households out of which 33.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.2% are married couples living together, 15.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.3% are non-families. 29.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.2% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.39.
In the city the population is spread out with 27.5% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 33.8% from 25 to 44, 19.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 97.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $36,616, and the median income for a family is $40,443. Males have a median income of $32,084 versus $27,371 for females. The per capita income for the city is $20,101. 19.2% of the population and 16.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 26.1% are under the age of 18 and 14.3% are 65 or older.
The Hispanic population in Houston is increasing as more and more from Latin countries try to find work in Houston. Hispanics make up a significant amount of the population. Houston has the third largest Hispanic population in the United States. People from Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan, India, and Pakistan are also flocking to Houston. Houston has two Chinatowns, as well as the third largest Vietnamese population in the United States. Recent redevlopment of Midtown from run-down to upscale has increased property values and property taxes thus forcing the Vietnamese out of their current neigborhood into other areas. Houston has the second highest South African population in the United States, after Miami, Florida. Houston also boasts of having a population with a younger age than the national average.
Areas of the city
The San Jacinto Battleground State Park, which commemorates the Battle of San Jacinto, is located in the suburb of Deer Park
The Inner City
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, various other business districts have sprung up throughout the inner-city. Note that if these business districts were considered one, they would form the third largest in the United States. The city also has the third largest skyline, but because they are spread out between a few miles, most filmin of the city only shows, for the most part, the Downtown area.
The following are areas of the inner-city:
Picture of the Texas Medical Center Skyline
Zip codes in Houston range from 77002 to 77598.
A popular day trip may include Galveston where people can visitMoody Gardens or visit a nearby beach. Before near destruction in 1900 Galveston was the larger and wealthier of the two cities and dubbed "The Wall Street of the Southwest", and was on par withNew Orleans as the Gulf Coast's premier city. The city's vulnerability on a narrow barrier bar island led to the creation of the mainland Houston Ship Channel made by the dredging of shallow Buffalo Bayou and Galveston Bay to form a protected port some 40 miles (64 km) inland of the open Gulf and less than 10 miles (16 km) from Houston's central business district. Beach houses owned by Houstonians have sprung up in other cities along the shoreline to the Gulf of Mexico. Another tourist hot spot is Kemah where visitors see the Kemah Boardwalk, which has many seafood restaurants and local tourist attractions. Kemah is surrounded by Galveston Bay to the east and Clear Lake (a brackish-water boater's paradise with open pass through to Galveston Bay) to the west.
Locations in Houston are generally classified as either being inside or outside Interstate 610, known as the 610 Loop which include the Central business district and the cities of West University (West U.), and Southside Place, and a portion of Bellaire. The outlying areas of Houston, as well as the rest of Bellaire, the airports and the suburbs and enclaves are outside the loop. Another ring road, Beltway 8 (also known simply as the "Beltway"), encircles the city another 5 miles (8 km) further out. Yet a third - the "Grand Parkway", has begun construction roughly 10 miles (16 km) beyond that around the outer suburbs and currently extends from Katy to Sugar Land.
Locations within the Houston city limits that are inside the 610 Loop traditionally used the 713 area code. Those outside the 610 Loop that are within the city limits normally receive the 281 or 832 area code. However, the geographic division between 713, 281, and 832 has been eliminated, and newly issued phone numbers (especially for cell phones and fax machines) within that zone may be assigned any of the three codes. Areas far north, west, east and south of the inner-city also use 936 and/or 409.
The towns of Kingwood, Alief and Clear Lake City have recently been annexed by the city of Houston, increasing the city limit's population.
For a full list of the cities in the Houston area, see:
Houston's size and lack of zoning have contributed to decentralization, or urban sprawl, which, combined with the humidity and hot summers, has made the automobile the favored means of transportation. This dependence on cars causes various pollution problems, including excessive ozone levels. Houston is ranked among the most ozone-polluted cities in the United States.
Houston freeways are heavily traveled and often being reconstructed to meet the demands of continuing growth. I-45 South has been in a continuous state of construction, in one portion or another, almost since the first segment was built in 1952. City planners have been running experiments to reduce traffic congestion at rush hour. As in Los Angeles, the primary method currently in use is the 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 unusual characteristic of Houston's freeways are its service (or "feeder") roads. Alongside most freeways are two to four lanes parallel to the freeway permitting easy access to individual city streets. The service roads make freeway access very easy, but due to their visibility to passing traffic, they have attracted most of Houston's gas stations and major retail stores. New landscaping projects and a longstanding ban on new billboards are two ways that Houston is trying to back away from this side effect of convenience.
Houston has a hub-and-spoke freeway structure with multiple loops. The innermost is Interstate 610, forming approximately a 10 mile (16 km) diameter loop around downtown. The roughly square "Loop-610" is quartered into "North Loop," "South Loop," "West Loop," and "East Loop." The roads of Beltway 8 and their freeway core, the Sam Houston Tollway, are the next loop, at a diameter of roughly 25 miles (40 km). Most of this freeway requires payment of $1 or more toll every five or ten miles (8 or 16 km). A controversial proposed (and partly completed) highway project, State Highway 99 (named Grand Parkway by proponents and Grand Porkway by opponents) would form a third loop.
The spokes proceed in all directions away from downtown Houston. Here are some of the major routes: Going north on Interstate 45 leads to Dallas, Texas and Fort Worth. I-45 continues southeast directly to its terminus at Galveston, Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Interstate 10 westbound leads to San Antonio, Texas, and eastbound leads to New Orleans, Louisiana and Baton Rouge. U.S. Highway 290 provides a direct route northwest to Austin, Texas. The Southwest Freeway (U.S. 59) is a major freeway leading to the southwest suburbs in Fort Bend County of Sugar Land, Missouri City, Richmond, and Rosenberg and ultimately to the Mexican border about 300 miles (500 km) beyond. U.S. 59 runs north of downtown as the EastTex freeway through the Piney Woods and into Arkansas at Texarkana. The Hardy Toll Road is a popular alternative on the commute between I-610 and The Woodlands, Texas, with convenient access to Bush Intercontinental Airport in between. 2004 saw the opening of the Westpark Tollway, connecting I-610 with suburbs between the Southwest Freeway (U.S. 59) and the Katy Freeway, I-10. This tollway is unique in Houston in that no cash is accepted on it; all cars must have an Toll Tag for access. 2004 also saw the opening of the Fort Bend Parkway connecting Beltway 8 to Highway 6 in Missouri City to alleviate traffic congestion on neighboring roads. It too requires a Toll tag, but there is also a machine for cash azs the fee is only $1.00.
For a road map of Houston, click here (http://www.soulofamerica.com/images/maps/houston_map.jpeg)
List of Major Freeways
Residents often refer to Freeways and Tollways by their names instead of numbers.
The 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. The city got the METRORail, a light rail service, on January 1, 2004. It runs primarily along Main Sreet from central Downtown Houston to the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. A 27 mile (43 km) expansion has been approved to run the service all along the central Houston area, including Uptown. METRO hopes to expand the Light Rail to the 2 major airports, as well as the Bay Area, Katy, Spring and along the Southwest Freeway. This is Texas' second major light rail service, after DART's light rail service in Dallas, Texas. Although now only about 8 miles (13 km) long a long term plan is being developed for several more much longer line segments connecting diverse corners of the metropolitan area.
Bush Airport handles all of the city's international traffic. Hobby has a lot of the intra-United States traffic that is headed for downtown, South Houston, Galveston, and the southern suburbs; it also handles all flights by Southwest Airlines to locations apart from Dallas.
The only passenger traffic that Ellington Field (EFD) ever handled consists of passengers going to and from Galveston County flying to Bush Airport to reduce travel time to that said airport. Passenger flights ended on September 7, 2004. Ellington Field is in danger of closing down, as of February 2004.
Houston had several growth spurts in relation to the Texas oil industry. Houston became a major port because of the downfall of Galveston and the Houston Ship Channel. The 1920s had Houston's first growth spurt.
The city's second growth spurt occurred in the late 1970s, with the Arab Oil Embargo. Demand on Texas oil increased, and many people from the northeast came down to profit from the trade. When the embargo was lifted, the growth stopped. However, Pasadena still has its refineries, and the Port of Houston is among the busiest in the world. Houston has attempted to build a banking industry in the city, but all of the companies which had been started in Houston were merged with other companies nationwide. It still is vital to the region, but most of the banks operating there are not based in Houston. Real Estate is also a large business in the Houston area.
Houston is unique in being the largest American city without zoning regulations.
The city has the second lowest cost of living in comparison to other major U.S. cities. The housing in Houston is also one of the most affordable in the Nation.
List of Major Companies
Houston in also the home of NASA's Johnson Space Center, the Reliant Astrodome and the world-renowned Alley Theatre, and the starting point of the BP MS 150 bike ride, the country's largest charity bicycle tour.
People and culture of Houston
The Williams Waterwall, adjacent to the Williams Tower
Like many other large cities, Houston is an international home for many different ethnic groups, including Hispanics, African-Americans, ethnic Europeans from Germany, Greece, and France, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, and South Africans. In some neighborhoods, street signs are seen in Chinese and Vietnamese. About 90 languages are spoken in the area.
Because Houston and Dallas are both the major economic centers of the state, the two cities enjoy a friendly rivalry. Houstonians often consider themselves more "down to earth" than their neighbors five hours to the north. This rivalry often leads to comparison of the assets of one city to the assets of the other. For example, although Dallas has more restaurants per person than even New York City, Houstonians eat out more often than residents of any other city in the United States, and the only city in which eating out is cheaper than Houston is New Orleans.
Several Houston-based restaurants, such as Ninfa Laurenzo's Mama Ninfa's Mexican restaurant chain, Johnny Carabba's Carabba's and Kim Su Tran La's Kim Sơn Vietnamese restaurant chain, have become well known in Texas and throughout the country.
List of famous and infamous people raised in Houston
Law and Government
Houston is the county seat of Harris County, and A portion of far southwest Houston also extends into Fort Bend County. The current mayor of Houston is Bill White, who is on his first term. A mayor, who is the executive branch of the city government, can be elected consecutively for three terms. City council members, who make up the legislative branch, are elected from nine districts in the city.
List of Mayors
Museums not located in the Museum District
Professional sports teams
Houston is home to several professional sports franchises. Here is a list of teams with the league they are a part of and the venue the play in:
Media and Journalism
Houston has a variety of newspapers, with the Houston Chronicle (which is the only major daily newspaper in Houston receiving wide distribution) being read all across the South-Central United States. Houston also is home to the TV stations and radio stations that serve the metro area.
ABC-13 KTRK TV's Wayne Dolcefino released a controversial report that allegedly showed bad business practices of a charity called "Kid Care". Since then, the charity's donations dwindled, leaving the owner fuming. Furthermore, the same station employs Marvin Zindler, whose week-long exposee on the Chicken Ranch brothel later became the basis for the Brodway musical The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.
KHOU TV's team of "Defenders" began and lead a national investigation on the failure of Firestone Wilderness AT tires in several vehicles. These reports garnered the reporters and the station national and international attention and awards.
Partial List of Newspapers
A portion of Western Houston falls under the Spring Branch ISD. Alief ISD has what was the city of Alief. Aldine ISD has what was Aldine. North Forest ISD takes up a part of Northeast Houston. Parts of Pasadena ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Galena Park ISD, Katy ISD, Fort Bend ISD, and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD take students from the city limits of Houston.
Colleges and Universities
Houston in film and TV
Part or all of these movies/shows take place in Houston and/or the Houston area
Though Houston and its suburbs are a prime spot for the filming of movies, the storylines do not usually include the story taking place in the city. (For example The Chase (1994) was filmed entirely in Houston.)