Houston, Texas, United States of America, North America

Founded: August 30, 1836
Location: Eastern Texas, Galveston Bay coastal prairie, United States, North America
Flower: Bluebonnet (Texas state flower)
Time Zone: 6 AM Central Standard Time (CST) = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: 64.7% White, 19.2% Black, 0.3% American Indian, 3.9% Asian, 22.9% Hispanic, 11.9% Other
Elevation: 41 feet (12m)
Latitude and Longitude: 29°46′N, 95°W
Coastline: 51 mi (82 km) northwest of the Gulf of Mexico
Climate: Maritime climate, tropical almost year round. Hot, humid summers and very mild winters.
Annual Mean Temperature: 48°F (9°C) in January to 88°F (31°C) in August
Seasonal Average Snowfall: Almost nonexistent
Average Annual Precipitation: 45 in (1,145 mm)
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Standard US
Monetary Units: Standard US
Telephone Area Codes: 713, 281
Postal Codes: 77002, 77336, 77338, 77339, 77346, 77357, 77365, 77373, 77375, 77388, 77396, 77401, 77429, 77447, 77449, 77450, 77469, 77478, 77484, 77489, 77493, 77504, 77506, 77520, 77530, 77532, 77536, 77546, 77547, 77571, 77573, 77587, 77598

2. Getting There


Two major interstate highways intersect in the downtown area: I-10 and I-45. Other important highways include I-90 and US-59, which converge on Houston from the north-east. US-290 approaches the city from the northwest and State Highway 288 from the south. While State Highway 8 forms an outer ring around the city, I-610 raps around the center of Houston, delineating its own neighborhood, the Inner Loop. As of the year 2000, the total highway system contains 16 freeways and toll roads.

Bus and Railroad Service

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) operates Houston's bus transit service. Its extensive system, with more than 900 buses that run more than 100 routes, operates in the inner city and most surrounding areas. METRO also has taken on community responsibilities by providing curb-to-curb service for elderly and disabled commuters, and coordinating carpooling among drivers.

Railroad service is limited, but passenger service, via AMTRAK, is accessible along the New Orleans to Los Angeles route. Greyhound Bus Lines service is also available.


Houston has the fourth-largest airport system in the United States and the sixth largest in the world, with approximately 2,000 flights entering the city daily. The city has two major international airports and several other regional air facilities. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport (on the north side of the city) and the William P. Hobby Airport (located southeast of downtown) provide passenger service by all major international and domestic carriers. The METRO bus system offers express transportation to most Houston sites of interest from both airports.

Houston Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 1,702,086
Area: 1,600 sq km (617.5 sq mi)
Nicknames: The Bayou City, The Real Texas

Metropolitan Area

Population: 3,365,000
Description: Designated as a Primary Statistical Area (PMSA) by the U.S. government
Area: 4,920 sq km (1,900 sq mi)
World population rank1: 82
Percentage of national population2: 1.2%
Average yearly growth rate: 1.2%
Ethnic composition: 64.7% white; 19.2% black; 0.3% American Indian; 3.9% Asian; 22.9% Hispanic; 11.9% other


  1. The Houston metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of the United States' total population living in the Houston metropolitan area.


The Port of Houston serves 200 steamship lines while it connects Houston to 250 ports worldwide. Ships enter the 84-kilometer (52-mile) inland Houston Ship Channel through Galveston Bay on the Gulf of Mexico to reach the port's 100 wharves. The port itself is second nationally in foreign tonnage and third in total tonnage handled. As foreign trade makes up the majority of its cargo, it is within the largest Foreign Trade Zone in the United States. More than half of the port's export tonnage includes agricultural products. It is the number-one wheat exporter in the world and is also strong in rice and cattle exporting. Other exports include plastic materials, organic chemicals, petroleum products, fertilizers, and machinery. The Port of Houston is an essential U.S. distribution point, linked to 22,526 kilometers (14,000 miles) of commercially sailable intracoastal channels.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

The METRO bus system is affordable and reliable. Riders can travel at a low one-way local fare, and the on-time performance record stands at 95.3 percent. The system is flexible and offers express service to the downtown shopping area and to several major medical, business, and shopping centers in the area. METRO also offers a new trolley system that provides free transportation within the downtown area.


Several driving and walking tours of the Houston area are available through the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tours are also available through Tourworks Houston and Old Town Spring Tours. Churches may be toured by special appointment. Whether walking or driving, visitors will want to be sure to see Houston Museum of Natural Science, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Houston Zoological Gardens, all located in the picturesque Museum District. Moody Gardens, Space Center Houston, and Sam Houston Park are also main sites of interest. Gourmet dining can be found in the Montrose area, known for some of Houston's finest restaurants. Sightseers may also want to check out Enron Field, the home of the Houston Astros baseball team.

5. Neighborhoods

Houston is basically divided into four major areas: Inner Loop, North Houston, Northeast Houston, and South Houston. Each area is representative of the city's diverse population and living styles. Neighborhoods are grouped into one of these areas according to geographic location.

The Inner Loop

The Inner Loop is a miniature version of the greater Houston area. It is easily noticeable as I-610 defines the area's boundaries. Housing in the neighborhoods of the Inner Loop is diverse, ranging from apartment buildings and small houses to mansions, condominiums, and townhomes.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Houston Cairo Rome Beijing
(United States) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 3,365,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1836 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $72 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $40 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $2 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $114 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 1 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Houston Chronicle Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 550, 763 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1901 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

The River Oaks neighborhood is by far the most exclusive in the Houston area. Situated south of Memorial Park, River Oaks was founded by Mike and Will Hogg, the sons of James Hogg, former Texas governor. The neighborhood has abundant white-columned mansions, complete with painstakingly tended gardens and even separate maids' quarters. This neighborhood is in fact so exclusive that deed restrictions on houses forbid the use of "For Sale" signs. In this neighborhood, houses are sold starting at $400,000. To

Houston skyline. ()
keep up the prestige, the neighborhood's streets are named after notable golf and country clubs from across the country.

The South Main neighborhood's most notable institution is the Texas Medical Center, which keeps 51,000 Houstonians employed in 41 different departments. A smaller division of South Main is Boulevard Oaks. Appropriately named, the section has gained notoriety for its beautiful old oak trees, originally planted in magnificent geometric patterns along the streets. One particular street became internationally recognized when The New York Times labeled it one of the most marvelous streets in the country.

North Houston

North Houston has more defining characteristics than other areas, with its older smaller neighborhoods completed in the 1930s and 1940s. Where young people once left the area in droves, now many professional couples are attracted by the relatively easy downtown commute and the many tree-lined streets. This area symbolizes neighborhood renewal, not through new concrete and steel but through housing renovation in the old neighborhoods.

The Woodlands neighborhoods are appropriately named, with a quiet and spacious atmosphere complete with an abundance of greenery. Housing in the Woodlands, though almost all constructed in the 1970s, is characterized by the use of brick, and some of the houses have up to two acres of land. There is also a 1,000-acre Research Forest set aside especially for nonprofit and academic research institutes and industry.

The small town of Conroe is situated about 56 kilometers (35 miles) from Houston. In the late 1800s, Isaac Conroe built a sawmill in the area, and it was consequently named after him. By 1903 the town became the county seat, and by 1930s Conroe became emblematic of Texas itself. It was during this time that oilman George Strake unearthed "black gold," the discovery that really put Conroe on the map. Conroe is notable for its many available country properties. Some plots are so large (24 to 40 hectares/60 to 100 acres or more) that horses and other livestock are permitted.

Northeast Houston

Northeast Houston allows for small-town rural living only minutes away from the big city. It is especially attractive for its recreation areas, including Lake Houston and several golf courses.

Known as Hunter's Paradise to early settlers, Humble (pronounced "Umble") was named after P. S. Humble, a settler who in the mid-1800s operated a ferry across the San Jacinto River. Though there is spacious, rural living in Humble, it is only minutes away from Houston by way of Highway 59. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport employs a large number of Humble residents.

Sitting on heavily wooded territory ten kilometers (six miles) east of Humble is Atascocita. Coming from the Spanish word for "obstruction," Atascocita was once employed as a stronghold of the Spanish government against the French. The area is characterized by both large country-club homes and meticulously planned subdivisions, offering smaller houses.

South Houston

The south Houston area is located along I-45, nicknamed the "Gulf Freeway." This area developed around rice farms, orange and fig orchards. In the 1930s, oil field development allowed many residents to work in the Texas City area. Today, South Houston is one of the quickest expanding areas in the entire region.

Clear Lake is home to the third largest boating center in the United States, the NASA Johnson Space Center, various computer and petrochemical industries, and Hobby Airport is only a few miles away. Originally an agricultural and fishing locale, the federal government's decision to locate NASA's Space Center in Clear Lake helped its development tremendously. Twenty-seven percent of the area's population is employed by aerospace-related companies, and recreation and tourism account for more than 25 percent of the work force. Space Center Houston opened in October 1992. Situated on a 16-hectare (40-acre) visitor center, the $70 million complex depicts the history and future of manned space flight through a visual timeline. Walt Disney created various programs and hands-on exhibits for Space Center Houston, including Imagineering, which allows visitors to experience the inner workings of the manned space program. New housing construction is constant in Clear Lake. Waiting lists have been established because of the extreme shortage of homes and apartments, and occupancy rates are close to 100 percent.

Southwest Houston

The southwest area of Houston (encompassing part of Harris and all of Fort Bend County) is one of the most expansive areas. Home to several manufacturing and electronic firms, Fort Bend is notable as one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. Between 1980 and 1990, the population of the county increased more than 50 percent. In fact, the county was ranked with the top ten fastest growing counties in America in 1994.

The communities of Alief and Sharpstown experienced major growth spurts in the 1960s and 1970s. Brick tract homes are prevalent in the area, being small and mid-sized, but the importance of the area is its plurality. In the Alief-Sharpstown area, many cultural and ethnic influences are evident, including African American, Asian, and Hispanic communities.

Imperial Sugar, the state's oldest company, is located in an area appropriately named Sugar Land. Still in operation, the sugar refinery is located in the city's old business district. Residents of Sugar Land are recreation-oriented with three highly ranked golf courses. The George Observatory, the largest publicly used observatory, is located nearby, along with Brazos Bend State Park.

First Colony was the first Anglo settlement in what was once Hispanic Texas, hence its name. Led by William B. Travis early in the 1830s, 300 colonists settled north of what is now Richmond, on the banks of the Brazos River. The area's fertile soil was historically the basis of sugar cane, cattle, and rice cultivation. Today, First Colony is representative of the growth of greater Houston. Many of the homes in the master-planned community are new, most of them less than ten years old.

7. Government

Houston is the official seat of Harris County, operating under a mayor-council form of government. In 1992, the total number of City employees was 21,045.

22. For Further Study


Houston Real Estate Information. [Online] Available at http://houstontexashomes.com/ neighborhoods (accessed on January 5, 2000).

Houston's history. [Online] Available at www.texasbest.com/houston/history.html (accessed on January 5, 2000).

Visitor Information. [Online] Available at www.ci.houston.tx.us (accessed on January 5, 2000).

Government Offices

Houston City Hall
901 Bagby St.
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 247–2200

Mayor's Office
901 Bagby St.
City Hall, 3rd Floor
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 247–2200

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
801 Congress
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 227–3100

Harris County Historical Society,
P.O. Box 27143, Houston, TX
(713) 655–1912


Official Guide to Houston, Fall 1997
Published by the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
801 Congress
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 227–3100


McComb, David G. Houston: the Bayou City. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969.

McMurtrey, Larry. Terms of Endearment. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975.

Schmittroth, Linda and Mary Kay Rosteck, eds. Cities of the United States, 2nd ed. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1994.

Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State. New York: Hastings House Publishers, 1947.

Winningham, Geoff & Reinert, Alan. A Place of Dreams: Houston, An American City. Houston, TX: Rice University Press, 1986.