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Houston & Galveston

Houston is the fourth biggest US City after Chicago, and it certainly has a big city feel with the center of the city a mass of high rise buildings, the tallest being the J P Morgan Chase Tower (600 Travis Street) that is 75 storeys high with its Sky Lobby on the 60th floor to see over the city.

While Houston has its big Freeways and traffic jams and is very spread out it has also embraced new Urban and Public transport options too with the METRORail north, east and south-east lines, B-Cycles, Free Greenlink buses that head around a fixed route in Downtown, and Zipcars (car sharing) and Uber cars are here too. Yes, there are lots of Taxis and Limos to hire, but certainly in the downtown, you have lots of options including in downtown a Yellow Cab for a fixed fare, to places inside the downtown area, currently $6.

There is also a Jitney service too – a shuttle van that also runs a fixed route – and of course walking is an option too, particularly around the Historic District, Museum District and the Buffalo Bayou (river area) where there are walking/bike trails that lead you along both sides of the Buffalo Bayou.

Below ground there is also an amazing array of Tunnels that link many of the bigger buildings in the City to each other, with many of the tunnels air-conditioned. There are 6 miles of Tunnels linking some 84 buildings into the tunnel network, with shops also along many of the tunnel sections.

The City of Houston's History began in 1836 when two New York brothers, Augustus C. Allen and John K. Allen bought 6642 acres of land next to a small waterway called the Buffalo Bayou, before completing a survey of the land and setting out a grid pattern of roads and land blocks to sell potential settlers. This was only months after Sam Houston and his Texan Volunteer Army had won the Battle of San Jacinto and formed the Republic of Texas.

The Battle of San Jacinto was fought next to the Houston Shipping Channel is located, and there is a museum and monument here to see. See www.sanjacinto-museum.org 1 Monument Cir. La Porte.

Naming the City 'Houston' after the new President of the Republic, Sam Houston, was no doubt a smart move, and the city was incorporated in 1837 and between 1837 and 1840 it was the Capital of the new Republic.

The City had continued to grow since those early days, and being close to the Bay of Mexico, it developed early as a Port City. This was not however an easy task. The Buffalo Bayou is shallow and in the early days, ships bringing goods to Houston, would offload their cargo in Galveston (A Barrier Island 50 miles from Houston), and then barges would bring the goods to Houston.

In 1900 a massive hurricane hit Galveston, and destroyed much of the city and port, with around 8000 people losing their lives. The idea of creating a new Port away from the coastline became a necessity, and as trade grew in cotton and then in Oil, the first steps were made towards dredging a deep sea channel for ships to come closer to Houston.

Even so, it was not until 1912 that work began on building the 52 mile long Shipping Channel, and it was completed on November 10, 1914.

Today the Port of Houston handles more imported and exported goods than any other port in the USA, with around 200 million tons of cargo handled through the Port. A $15 Billion Petro-Chemical Complex is built here too, and within 700 miles of the Port, some 60 million people live, creating a vast population to service.

With the development of the Port, Houston also grew rapidly, and Houston became both a center for the Oil Business, but also chemicals, banking, insurance, logistics, with some 90 nations having consular offices here today.

In 1962, NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center moved to Houston, and this created a whole new development of new business activity in Houston – with aeronautics, engineering, computer sciences, education developing as a consequence. Medical Research and Bio-Technology followed, and while Space Exploration has had its ups and downs in funding, today Houston is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.

Happy Travelling!

Geoff Stuart

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