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Houston History

From swampy, rough-and-ready frontier town to sparkling oil hub, Houston has grown stratospherically.

Fondly known as the Bayou City, once nicknamed Space City, and widely recognised as the energy capital of the world, Houston was founded in 1836 (by brothers Augustus and John Allen) on the banks of Buffalo Bayou.

The city is named after General Sam Houston, of the Texas Army, that won independence from Mexico. Within a year of its foundation, Houston became the capital of the Republic of Texas until 1840, when that honour was transferred to Austin. However, this republic was rather short-lived as Texas joined the USA in 1845.

Houston’s early days weren’t what you’d call glamorous. Muddy, boggy and rife with yellow fever, it’s a wonder anyone chose to stay at all. Yet stay they did. The Allen brothers sold lots faster than they could count their fortune, the city began to sprawl, and it hasn’t stopped since.

Houston emerged as a thriving commercial centre, particularly for cotton. Railroads converged here, and boom times were ahead when oil gushed out of the land at the very beginning of the 20th century which resulted in the deep-water Port of Houston being established.

Demand for petrol escalated in WWII and associated industry mushroomed. The population increased as people sought jobs in the oil industry as well as the newly opened space centre. However, the oil crisis in the 1980s sent the city into a deep recession.

Houston has emerged as a city with more diverse industry, less reliant on oil, and is at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. In the 21st century it is a city of science, medicine, engineering and high finance with many headquarters of global companies based here.

Did you know?
• Houston opened its first theatre three years before its first church.
• Houston was the first word uttered from the moon. Or was it? Buzz Aldrin disputes this, and says he actually said ‘Contact light, engine stop’ as the shuttle touched down.
• Houston has sprawled so far, it now covers an area larger than New Jersey.

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Featured Hotels

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The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa

Set in eight hectares (18 acres) of parkland close to the Galleria, this award-winning hotel has an old world charm and oozes sophistication. The rooms are tastefully decorated and have floor-to-ceiling windows. The excellent facilities include a health club, three pools and a spa facility. There are four restaurants serving regional American dishes and lighter meals.

Hotel ZaZa

After making a huge splash in Dallas Hotel ZaZa is a fun addition to the Houston hotel scene. The 315-room 12-storey property features a dynamic mix of rooms bungalows and suites - including the city's largest and most decadent accommodations with contemporary chic and bold designs. Among concept suites are the 'Rock Star' and the 'Casablanca' and there's a fabulous spa and outdoor pool too.

La Quinta Inn & Suites

Part of a chain of extremely good-value hotels this one is in the upscale Galleria area. There are 173 bright clean and spacious rooms featuring free high-speed internet access. The hotel also features a pool spa and fitness centre. Breakfast is included in the rate. It is extremely good value for its location but far enough away to not be too noisy.

Hilton Americas

This impressive 1,200-room Houston hotel is connected to the George R Brown Convention Center. Hilton Americas' rooms have modern facilities including internet, a fitness room and pool and three restaurants serving American fare with The Skyline Grill on the 24th floor having panoramic views of the city.

La Colombe d'Or Hotel

This tiny luxury hotel is situated just a few minutes from downtown with just five luxury suites and nine villas with one- and two-bedroom suites, each with a private dining room and marble bathroom. Built in 1923, the elegant French furnishings in this hotel are complemented by original art and antiques. La Colombe d'Or has a stylish restaurant serving modern French cuisine with a Texan twist, a library and a bar.

Comfort Inn Downtown

Part of a chain of budget hotels, this property is close to the Downtown Aquarium and just minutes from many major attractions. All rooms are comfortable, modern and spacious and some even have fridges and microwaves. There are limited facilities on site but there is a swimming pool. Breakfast is included.