Houston history: The major historical anniversaries coming in 2022

TSU, Alley Theatre and The Houston Zoo are among the Houston institutions marking major anniversaries this year

Color postcard, with scenes of animals at Hermann Park Zoo, Houston, Texas, circa 1920. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images) (Archive Photos, 2015 Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Here’s a look at some of the key Houston historical anniversaries coming up during this particular calendar year.

150 years ago: Emancipation Park opened

Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in the South in 1863, Texas did not receive news of the proclamation until Union General Gordon Granger proclaimed it in Galveston on June 19, 1865. Freed people began celebrating the day as Juneteenth. Houston Reverend Jack Yates, a Baptist minister and former slave, led an effort among the city’s African-American community to collect money and purchase land dedicated to Juneteenth celebrations. Yate’s church, Antioch Baptist, and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church formed the Colored People’s Festival and Emancipation Park Association and in 1872, they pooled $1,000 to purchase ten acres of land which they named Emancipation Park.

110 years ago: Rice University opened

Adminstration Building, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 1926. From The Architectural Forum Volume XLIV [Rogers and Manson, New York, 1926] Artist: Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images) (The Print Collector)

On Sept. 12, 1912, Rice University opened with 77 students and a dozen faculty members. Four years later, at the university’s initial commencement, 35 bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree were awarded. The first doctorate was conferred two years later in 1918.

100 years ago: Houston Zoo opened

Color postcard, with scenes of animals at Hermann Park Zoo, Houston, Texas, circa 1920. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images) (2015 Getty Images)

In 1922, the City of Houston moved its collection of animals to a fenced area in Hermann Park, establishing the beginnings of what we recognize now as the Houston Zoo, according to Barrie Scardino Bradley’s “Houston’s Hermann Park, A Century of Community.” Under the direction of eclectic zookeeper Hans Nagel, the zoo acquired hundreds of additional animals, including two Asian elephants, over the preceding decades.

75 years ago: Texas Southern University established

Texas Southern University was established on March 3, 1947 by the fiftieth Texas Legislature. The institution became the first state-supported institution in the City of Houston. In 1951, the university’s name changed from Texas State University for Negroes to Texas Southern University after students petitioned the state legislature to remove the phrase “for Negroes.”

75 years ago: Texas City Disaster

19th April 1947: Clouds of smoke pouring from the blazing Monsanto plant at Texas City before it exploded and set the Pan American Refinery Corps and neighbouring buildings on fire. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) (Getty)

On April 16, 1947, the S.S. Grandcamp, which was docked in Texas City and loaded with 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, exploded. 16 hours later, a nearby ship which was also loaded with ammonium nitrate, exploded. The combined explosions resulted in the country’s largest industrial disaster, claiming the lives of an estimated 500 to 600 people and injuring thousands more, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

75 years ago: Alley Theatre established

In 1946, San Jacinto High School drama teacher Nina Vance took a leave of absence to direct plays for the Jewish Community Center. With encouragement from her friends, Vance soon began assembling a local theatre group. Using $2.14 she found in her purse, Vance purchased 214 penny postcards. On them she wrote “It’s beginning! ‘’ Do you want a new theater for Houston?” and on Oct. 7, 1947, more than 100 postcard recipients met Vance to discuss a new theatre company. The group assembled in a small dance studio at the end of a long alleyway, which inspired the company’s name: The Alley. Just two months later, on Nov. 18, 1947, the new company presented its first production, a war play titled A Sound of Hunting.

50 years ago: Space Shuttle Program began

President Richard M Nixon and Dr James C Fletcher discuss the proposed Space Shuttle vehicle in San Clemente, California, January 5, 1972. Image courtesy National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images) (Getty)

On Jan. 5, 1972, President Richard Nixon announced the creation of the Space Shuttle Program. Humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttles represented a giant leap forward in space travel technology. NASA launched Columbia, the first space shuttle, in 1981.

50 years ago: Contemporary Arts Museum Houston opened

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 09: CAMH, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images) (Getty)

In 1972, the Contemporary Arts Museum opened on the corner of Montrose Boulevard and Bissonnet Street, across from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

25 years ago: City elected its first Black mayor

403419 03: Houston Texas Mayor Lee P. Brown speaks at the Foreign Press Center April 5, 2002 in Washington, DC. Brown spoke about the state of the U.S. energy industry post Enron and the view from Houston. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) (Getty)

Houston elected its first Black mayor, Lee P. Brown, into office in 1997. Brown was re-elected twice and served as the city’s mayor from 1998 until 2004.

20 years ago: The Houston Texans joined the NFL

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 8: Running back Jonathan Wells #32 of the Houston Texans knocks over defensive tackle Brandon Noble #75 of the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL game on September 8, 2002 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Texans won their first regular season game 19-10. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) (2002 Getty Images)

The Houston Texans began their inaugural NFL season at Reliant Stadium (Now NRG Stadium) in 2002. The team won their opening game victory against the Dallas Cowboys on September 8, 2002. The Texans remain the youngest franchise in the league.


Sources: Alley Theatre website, City of Houston website, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Contemporary Arts Museum website, Barrie Scardino Bradley’s “Houston’s Hermann Park, A Century of Community,” Texas Southern University website, Rice University website, NASA website, NFL website


About the Author:

Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team as a community associate producer in 2019. During her time in H-Town, she's covered everything from fancy Houston homes to tropical storms. Previously, she worked at Austin Monthly Magazine and KAGS TV, where she earned a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for her work as a digital producer.