From The Beginning
Historic, diverse and the backbone of the city’s early industry, the East End is bounded on the west by downtown Houston and on the east by the Port of Houston. Buffalo Bayou runs right past the site of old Harrisburg, an early Texas trading post and seat of government for the Republic of Texas in 1836. Founded by John Harris, for whom Harris County is named, Harrisburg was initially sought by the Allen brothers for their development. The City of Houston annexed this early town in 1926. A history of Old Harrisburg is available in our Document Resource Center.
After the Civil War, Houston became known as the city where 17 railroads meet the sea. The East End continues today as the hub of Houston’s transportation systems, linking the industrialized centers of the US and Canada with the Port of Houston and Mexico. Railroads crisscross the area, and interstate highways 59 and 10 outline the East End’s west and north boundaries. Hobby Airport, a city-owned airfield in 1936, served as Houston’s only airport until 1969, when all scheduled airlines moved to the city’s new Bush Intercontinental Airport. Houston’s demand for air service has continued to grow, making Hobby once again a major transportation hub. Today, the airport is one of the 40 busiest in the country.
Port Of Houston
Houston’s city fathers had long worked to make Houston a seaport, and the first channel from the Gulf of Mexico was completed in 1875. In 1914, the Houston Ship Channel, newly deepened, was inaugurated with a cannon shot activated by President Woodrow Wilson in Washington DC. The discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901 ensured Houston’s future as a major transportation and trading center. Oil refineries and the businesses that serve them filled the Ship Channel’s banks. Today, the Port of Houston is home to the second largest petrochemical complex in the world. The Port of Houston is one of the ten busiest ports in the world, leading the nation in foreign tonnage. The port generates a $118 billion impact to the state and local economy and supports 785,000 jobs throughout Texas.
Business and Commerce
After World War II, Houston began its move westward and the East End began to experience a slow but steady decline. Houston’s economic downturn in the 1980s greatly affected the East End. Today, however, our community of just under 100,000 people and over 5,000 businesses is experiencing a renaissance. Businesses from neighborhood refresquerias to community giants are prospering. A variety of family owned companies continue into the second and third generation. A significant number of businesses are adding manufacturing and warehouse space, or are buying adjacent property for future expansion. The East End is home to over two dozen private bus lines with annual sales of $42 million. This homegrown industry carries 850,000 passengers per year to and from Mexico to US destinations throughout the Midwest and Southeast.
Always culturally diverse, the East End was a melting pot for the Germans, Italians and Mexican Americans that settled in areas near the port. Second Ward and Magnolia Park are two of Houston’s oldest Hispanic neighborhoods.
Developed in 1913, the Eastwood subdivision is considered one of the first master-planned communities in Houston, along with Montrose and the Heights. It remains among the most lovely in our city, and young professionals and empty nesters are beginning to restore its vintage homes. Many well-known Houstonians including Howard Hughes lived in Eastwood as children.
Culture and Community
East End Latino culture is celebrated at Talento Bilingue de Houston, the largest cultural arts center of its kind in the United States. The 100 seat Carlos Garcia Theater at Houston Community College-Southeast campus was dedicated in late 1997.
The East End is also home to The Orange Show, an internationally recognized folk art environment, historic Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Mutalistan Hall, Benito Juarez Chapter, a significant Chicano mural by artist Leo Tanguma on Canal Street and a growing number of community murals.
East End Sees Retail Growth
In 1956, Gulfgate Mall opened to great fanfare as the first enclosed mall in Texas. Wulfe & Co. purchased the property in 1998. Tenants for Gulfgate’s $50 million redevelopment include Lowe’s Home Improvement, an HEB Supermarket, Marshall’s and Old Navy. Gulfgate will offer as many as 2,000 new retail jobs and will generate $170 million annually in sales.
Weingarten Realty Investors acquired and redeveloped the Telephone Road at I-45 shopping complex with Sellers Bros. as a major tenant. New retail centers along Harrisburg Boulevard and Lawndale and 75th Street offer additional shopping alternatives to East End residents. The East End’s newest CVS Pharmacy opened in summer, 2009, at Harrisburg Boulevard and Lockwood, the site of the old Stewart and Stevenson manufacturing facility, where more retail development will flourish along the East End light rail line.
East End Redevelopment
Downtown redevelopment and the opening of Houston’s new baseball stadium created strong interest in properties east of I-59. Just under $100 million in new loft apartments and town homes are now under construction between I-59 and Dowling Street. Development recently moved directly into the East End with the sale of the old Myers Spalti Mfg. Co. (El Mercado Del Sol) to Trammel Crow Residential by The Transamerica Group, Ltd. for development as the Alexan with 250 rental loft apartments. Perry Homes bought amd developed the adjacent parking lot for 72 town homes. Much more information on Economic Development within the East End is available here, and additional information on Real Estate within the East End is also available.
Community Facilities and Schools
In July 1999, the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans opened the new $3.6 million AAMA Multi-Purpose Education Center at 6001 Gulf Freeway. The center includes state-of-the-art computer and science labs and is an expansion for the George R. Sanchez High School and for adult literacy programs and social services. In summer, 2009, a new AAMA facility was dedicated at the same site that will house additional classrooms. The Ripley House-Neighborhood Centers, Inc., the heart of the Second Ward neighborhood, successfully completed a capital campaign to raise $9 million to replace its 60-year old, aging physical structure with a new 60,000 square foot center now in full operation.
Other East End community centers include the Cossaboom YMCA, Community Family Center, and the Latino Learning Center.
Education and Higher Learning
The East End is home to major educational institutions. The University of Houston, Houston Community College-Southeast and Texas Engineering Extension Service, Texas A&M University all have campuses in Houston’s East End. Houston Community College broke ground on its newest facility, the Felix Fraga East End Early Learning Center on Drennen near Navigation Boulevard in summer, 2009, and construction is also underway for a workforce development center on the same property.