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South Central Houston

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From the 1840s to the early 1900s the South Side Buffalo Bayou, as it is described in property title documents, was formed by a grid of streets and blocks that advanced southward along the axis of Main Street. Between 1870 and the 1910s, the area known as the South End (called Midtown since the 1980s) was Houston's most elite residential sector. It began to be challenged in the early twentieth century by more comprehensively planned neighborhoods to the west, of which the Montrose Addition is the best known. Where Main Street and Montrose Boulevard converge was where Houston's City Beautiful civic arena took shape in the 1910s. The campus of Rice University ( HN7), Hermann Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston ( HN7HN7), and additional elite neighborhoods were drawn into a new spatial order framed with avenues of live oak trees. The formation of the Texas Medical Center adjoining Hermann Park and Rice University marked the apogee of Houston's Main Street era. The fragmentation of city space so characteristic of Houston in the second half of the twentieth century is visible in the old South End, where new construction too often seems to obliterate, rather than build on, the architectural legacy of Montrose, the Museum District, and the Medical Center.

Farther south, two independent suburban towns—West University Place (founded 1917, incorporated 1925) and Bellaire (founded 1910, incorporated 1918)—were the nodes around which Houston's southwestern suburbs grew after World War II. Today, these are highly desirable residential neighborhoods. Although West University Place and Bellaire both have zoning, it has not prevented them from being implicated in the mid-twentieth-century suburban sprawl that frames them.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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