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Texas History: A look back at what Bellaire looked like nearly 100 years ago

A group of 39 residents, men, women and children, and three operators and conductors stand on and around the first trolley car to Westmoreland Farms.
A group of 39 residents, men, women and children, and three operators and conductors stand on and around the first trolley car to Westmoreland Farms. (Houston Public Library, Bellaire City Library Collection)

BELLAIRE, Texas – Located along Loop 610, you’ll find a 3.6 square mile city surrounded by Houston, West University Place and Southside Place. Known as the City of Bellaire, this suburb of Houston offers plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and parks for its population of nearly 17,000. Yet,100 years ago, this town was incorporated with just 200 residents.

Neighborhood guide: Everything you need to know about Bellaire

Founded in 1908 by William Wright Baldwin, president of the South End Land Company, Bellaire was an exclusive residential neighborhood in southwest Harris County. In the early development of the city, Bellaire was targeted by Midwestern farmers as an agricultural trading center.

According to Bellaire’s historical marker, Baldwin founded the city and Westmoreland Farms on part of a 9,449-acre ranch owned by William Marsh Rice.

It’s believed the city of Bellaire was named for the area’s Gulf breezes according to promotional advertising, others believed the city was named after Bellaire, Ohio, a town which served Baldwin’s railroad.

At the time, the city was bounded by Palmetto, First, Jessamine and Sixth (now Ferris) streets.

In 1910, Bellaire Boulevard was constructed connecting the town to Main Street in Houston, and Westmoreland Railroad Company built an electric streetcar line called “Toonerville Trolley” that would take residents eastbound to Houston.

A group of 39 residents, men, women and children, and three operators and conductors stand on and around the first trolley car to Westmoreland Farms.
A group of 39 residents, men, women and children, and three operators and conductors stand on and around the first trolley car to Westmoreland Farms. (Houston Public Library, Bellaire City Library Collection)

Although the city was founded in 1908, it wasn’t until ten years later on June 24, 1918, with a population of nearly 200 residents, that Bellaire was chartered and C. P. Younts served as the first mayor of the city.

In 1941, the population reached 1,124 residents and the city began seeing a rapid increase in population after World War II. By 1949, Bellaire adopted a home-rule charter with a council-manager government.

Today, Bellaire continues to operate as a council-manger form of government and has successfully resisted annexation by Houston. Visitors and residents can find several markers placed around town, sharing its history dating back to 1908.


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