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TIMELINE: Houston’s firsts, from the momentous to the mundane and everything in between

Aerial view of Houston skyline.
Aerial view of Houston skyline. (Pixabay)

Since its founding in 1836, Houston has had some unforgettable and historic firsts, such as the first Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (then known as the Houston Fat Stock Show & Rodeo) in 1932 or that time back in 1969 when "Houston” was the first word spoken from the lunar surface during the first manned mission to the moon, an undertaking controlled from the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston mind you. The city’s also had some less momentous and memorable firsts: Anyone ever think back fondly on the Houston Stonewalls’ brutal 35-2 win against the Galveston Robert E. Lees in the city’s first recorded baseball game? Yeah, probably not. But still interesting, no?

Okay, so here it is, for your viewing pleasure: a timeline of Houston’s firsts, from the momentous to the mundane, and everything in between.

1836

Houston is founded on August 30 by brothers Augustus C. and John K. Allen, who pay just over $1.40 per acre for 6,642 acres near headwaters of Buffalo Bayou.

1837

Houston’s first mayor, James S. Holman, is elected.

The Laura is the first steamship to visit Houston.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office was founded. It is now the largest sheriff’s office in Texas and the third largest in the country.

1838

A bucket brigade, Protection Fire Company No. 1, is formed to fight fires.

1840

On April 4, seven Houston businessmen form the Houston Chamber of Commerce.

1841

The Houston Police Department is formed.

1842

Houston’s first city hall is built at Old Market square. It burned down just 30 years later.

Texas’ oldest newspaper, The Galveston County Daily News, is first published.

1850

First census after Texas joins the United States counts 2,396 Houstonians. Galveston, with 4,117 residents, is the state’s largest city.

1853

Houston’s first railroad, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railroad, begins operations.

1866

Houston’s first bank, First National Bank, is founded.

1867

Houston Stonewalls defeat Galveston Robert E. Lees 35-2 in first recorded baseball game in Houston.

1868

Houston’s first trolley cars, drawn by mules, appear.

1872

Emancipation Park was opened in 1872, becoming the city’s first park.

1874

Congregation Beth Israel, established in 1854, opened the city’s first synagogue in 1874 on Franklin Avenue.

1877

Houston’s first telephone is installed.

Houston’s first free public schools are established.

1882

Houston Electric Light Co. is organized. Houston and New York are the first cities to build electric power plants.

1887

Sisters of Charity open Houston’s first general hospital.

1888

Houston’s first professional baseball team, The Houston Buffaloes, an American minor league baseball team, and the first minor league team to be affiliated with a Major League franchise, begin playing.

1891

Houston is first Texas city with electric streetcars.

1897

Houston's first asphalt street paving is laid on Franklin Street.

Automobile first appears in Houston as an advertising gimmick.

1898

Galveston Country Club opens with Texas’ first recorded professionally designed golf course.

1899

Sam Houston Park, the first Houston city public park, opens. This site contains several of Houston’s earliest buildings.

1909

Houston Country Club opens with Houston’s first professionally designed 18-hole golf course.

1912

Rice Institute (now Rice University), Houston’s first institute of higher learning, begins classes.

1913

The symphony now known as the Houston Symphony is established and its first concert takes place.

1914

The 25-foot-deep Houston Ship Channel is completed and formally dedicated.

1915

The first deep water vessel, the S.S. Satilla, calls at Houston.

1923

Second National Bank becomes Houston’s first air-conditioned building.

1922

The Houston Zoo opens.

1924

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston opens. It was the first art museum in the city and in Texas. The museum is now among the 10 largest art museums in the U.S. with more than 65,000 works of art.

1927

Houston’s first airport, William P. Hobby Airport, opened in 1927 as W.T. Carter Field.

Houston’s first skyscraper, the Niels Esperson Building, located at 808 Travis, was completed. It still stands today.

1932

The first Houston Fat Stock Show & Rodeo, now the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, is held.

1943

The Texas Medical Center is founded.

1946

Houston Golf Assn. hosts its first PGA Tour event — now the Houston Open, 10th oldest event on the PGA schedule.

1948

Houston voters reject formal land use regulations.

1949

Houston’s first commercial TV program, KLEE-TV broadcasts, later known as KPRC-TV, signs on.

1952

The state’s first freeway, Gulf Freeway, was completed to the Galveston Causeway.

1953

KUHT-TV, the nation’s first public broadcast TV station, goes on the air.

1955

Houston Grand Opera Association and Houston Ballet founded.

1960

Houston’s first professional football team, the Houston Oilers, begin playing. During their inaugural season, the Oilers won the championship, winning Houston it’s first national sports title and becoming the first champions of the American Football League.

1965

First event held in the Astrodome, the first full-enclosed sports stadium.

1968

Dr. Denton Cooley performed the city and the country’s first heart transplant.

1969

Houston Intercontinental Airport begins operations.

Apollo 11, the first manned mission to the moon, was controlled from the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. “Houston” is the first word spoken from the lunar surface.

1970

The Galleria opens.

1976

Hermann Hospital launches Life Flight, the first private hospital air ambulance service

1982

Houston elects its first female mayor, Kathy Whitmire, into office.

Lee Brown was hired as Houston’s first African-American police chief by then-mayor Kathy Whitmire.

1983

Voters approve creation of Harris County Toll Road Authority.

1991

Houston City Council mandates first zoning regulations.

Texas Heart Institute releases first patient in the world with an electric, portable, battery-powered heart pump.

1994

Houston Rockets win the NBA Finals in 1994. The win is Houston’s first NBA championship.

1997

Houston elects its first African-American mayor, Lee P. Brown, into office.

2000

Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, opens.

2002

NRG Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, opens.

2003

Toyota Center, home of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, opens.

2004

Houston’s first modern light rail line, 7.5-miles long, begins operations.

2010

Houston elects its first openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, into office.

2012

BBVA Compass Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, opens.

2015

With the addition of international air service at Hobby Airport in ’15, Houston became the only city in Texas with two airports offering international service and one of only eight such cities nationwide.

2017

With their World Series win in 2017, the Houston Astros brought the city its first World Series Championship.

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Sources: City of Houston, Greater Houston Partnership, Texas Medical Center


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