Pasadena is the capital of the Houston Ship Channel, which forms the city's northern boundary. The fifty-four-mile-long Houston Ship Channel is the eighth-largest seaport in the world, the second-largest seaport in the United States in terms of total tonnage, and the largest in terms of foreign water-borne commerce. The La Porte Freeway (TX 225), paralleling the channel, is refinery row. Nearly half of the petrochemical processing in the United States occurs along the ship channel, with 30 percent of the American petroleum refining industry concentrated here. After Houston, Pasadena is the second-largest city on the upper Texas Gulf Coast. Its urban identity is hard to detect, though, since the historical core, consisting of a few blocks on the north rim of TX 225, was largely abandoned in the 1960s when the center reformed along E. Southmore Avenue. By the mid-1980s, Pasadena's business and institutional center had drifted three miles farther south to Fairmont Parkway.
Founded in 1893 and named after Pasadena, California, Pasadena, Texas, became the center of strawberry cultivation on the Texas Gulf Coast in the early twentieth century. The transformation of Buffalo Bayou into the Houston Ship Channel between 1902 and 1914 led oil companies to locate their refineries along the channel's rural banks. Thanks to Houston businessman Jesse H. Jones, chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation during the New Deal era, the creation of an American petrochemical industry to produce synthetic rubber and other synthetic chemicals during World War II changed Pasadena into an Anglo-American, working-class industrial city. This gave Pasadena the mythical identity popularized in James Bridges's film Urban Cowboy (1980). In the 1980s and 1990s, Mexican and Central American immigration dramatically transformed the older neighborhoods of Pasadena while, in time-honored Houston fashion, new, more affluent development moved southward toward Pasadena's border with Clear Lake City.
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