The town of Houston was founded in 1836 by brothers John and Augustus Allen, a couple of real estate promoters from New York. Named for Sam Houston, hero of the Battle of San Jacinto and the first elected president of the Republic of Texas, the town was incorporated in 1837. That same year, it became the seat of Harrisburg County (later renamed to Harris County) and the temporary capital of the new Republic of Texas.
Houston’s earliest industry was cotton, which led to the city’s emergence as a commercial and railroad hub by 1860. The discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901 marked the birth of the petroleum industry in the region, and the opening of the Port of Houston in 1914 started the city down the path of international commerce. Aerospace has been a major industry in Houston since 1961, with the opening of NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, and has since earned the nickname “Space City.” Today, Houston is a thriving metropolis of commerce, second only to New York City in Fortune 500 headquarters. Houston also serves as the seat of the Texas Medical Center, the largest concentration of health care and research facilities in the world.
Houston is the epitome of urban sprawl, with little in the way of zoning to guide its development. The result is a spread out city, with three distinctive downtown areas. The skyline has been ranked fourth-most impressive in the U.S. by the Almanac of Architecture and Design, and features numerous towering skyscrapers built during a boom in the 1970s. The JPMorgan Chase Tower, completed in 1982, is the tallest structure in Texas at 75 floors and 1,002 feet. The buildings in the downtown areas are linked by skywalks and a network of tunnels, which contain shops, restaurants, and convenience stores. One of the downtown areas, paradoxically named Uptown, is centered around Post Oak Boulevard and the Galleria. The Uptown district boasts a number of diverse structures designed by architects such as I.M. Pei, César Pelli, and Philip Johnson. The Astrodome, the world’s first indoor domed sports stadium, opened in 1965 to accommodate the Houston Colt .45s (renamed the Astros) and, later, the Houston Oilers. The Astrodome was nicknamed “the Eighth Wonder of the World.”
Houston hosts a variety of events celebrating its culture, from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to the annual Houston Pride Parade in June. Houston is also recognized as a major performance and cultural center, being one of only five cities in the U.S. to offer year-round resident companies in all of the major performing arts through the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, Houston Symphony Orchestra, and Alley Theatre. The Museum District, centered around Hotel Zaza and the Mecom Fountain, houses a number of Houston’s museums and institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Houston Zoo.