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.
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.
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.
A bucket brigade, Protection Fire Company No. 1, is formed to fight fires.
On April 4, seven Houston businessmen form the Houston Chamber of Commerce.
The Houston Police Department is formed.
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.
First census after Texas joins the United States counts 2,396 Houstonians. Galveston, with 4,117 residents, is the state’s largest city.
Houston’s first railroad, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado Railroad, begins operations.
Houston’s first bank, First National Bank, is founded.
Houston Stonewalls defeat Galveston Robert E. Lees 35-2 in first recorded baseball game in Houston.
Houston’s first trolley cars, drawn by mules, appear.
Emancipation Park was opened in 1872, becoming the city’s first park.
Congregation Beth Israel, established in 1854, opened the city’s first synagogue in 1874 on Franklin Avenue.
Houston’s first telephone is installed.
Houston’s first free public schools are established.
Houston Electric Light Co. is organized. Houston and New York are the first cities to build electric power plants.
Sisters of Charity open Houston’s first general hospital.
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.
Houston is first Texas city with electric streetcars.
Houston's first asphalt street paving is laid on Franklin Street.
Automobile first appears in Houston as an advertising gimmick.
Galveston Country Club opens with Texas’ first recorded professionally designed golf course.
Sam Houston Park, the first Houston city public park, opens. This site contains several of Houston’s earliest buildings.
Houston Country Club opens with Houston’s first professionally designed 18-hole golf course.
Rice Institute (now Rice University), Houston’s first institute of higher learning, begins classes.
The symphony now known as the Houston Symphony is established and its first concert takes place.
The 25-foot-deep Houston Ship Channel is completed and formally dedicated.
The first deep water vessel, the S.S. Satilla, calls at Houston.
Second National Bank becomes Houston’s first air-conditioned building.
The Houston Zoo opens.
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.
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.
The first Houston Fat Stock Show & Rodeo, now the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, is held.
The Texas Medical Center is founded.
Houston Golf Assn. hosts its first PGA Tour event — now the Houston Open, 10th oldest event on the PGA schedule.
Houston voters reject formal land use regulations.
Houston’s first commercial TV program, KLEE-TV broadcasts, later known as KPRC-TV, signs on.
The state’s first freeway, Gulf Freeway, was completed to the Galveston Causeway.
KUHT-TV, the nation’s first public broadcast TV station, goes on the air.
Houston Grand Opera Association and Houston Ballet founded.
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.
First event held in the Astrodome, the first full-enclosed sports stadium.
Dr. Denton Cooley performed the city and the country’s first heart transplant.
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.
The Galleria opens.
Hermann Hospital launches Life Flight, the first private hospital air ambulance service
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.
Voters approve creation of Harris County Toll Road Authority.
Houston City Council mandates first zoning regulations.
Texas Heart Institute releases first patient in the world with an electric, portable, battery-powered heart pump.
Houston Rockets win the NBA Finals in 1994. The win is Houston’s first NBA championship.
Houston elects its first African-American mayor, Lee P. Brown, into office.
Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, opens.
NRG Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, opens.
Toyota Center, home of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, opens.
Houston’s first modern light rail line, 7.5-miles long, begins operations.
Houston elects its first openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, into office.
BBVA Compass Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo, opens.
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.
With their World Series win in 2017, the Houston Astros brought the city its first World Series Championship.
Sources: City of Houston, Greater Houston Partnership, Texas Medical Center