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Lake Jackson and Vicinity (Brazoria County)

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Lake Jackson was founded in 1941 by the Dow Chemical Company as a planned new town to house the employees of the magnesium and styrene plants Dow constructed in Freeport, five miles to the southeast. Freeport, Velasco, and Angleton discouraged Dow from developing housing, schools, and services for its employees within their domains. So Dow bought sixty-five hundred acres, including the former Lake Jackson Plantation between the Brazos River and Oyster Creek, and retained Alden B. Dow and engineer T. J. Dunbar to transform the flat, low-lying, heavily wooded site into a new town for four thousand residents. Site work began in December 1941 and the first residents arrived in January 1943. Dow designed the original housing as well as the first buildings in the commercial center. Of more lasting impact than his buildings is the town plan. It is a super-subdivision of curvilinear streets that purposefully but unobtrusively form neighborhood enclaves. Oyster Creek Drive, flanked by one-hundred-foot-wide landscaped reserves, preserves Dow's planning vision. At the northwest corner of the triangular townsite, where Oyster Creek and Plantation drives intersect, is the commercial and civic center.

Lake Jackson is a mid-twentieth-century vision of the good community as conceived by middle-class progressives such as Dow. Except along Oyster Creek Drive, it is almost indistinguishable from other, less high-minded examples. The townsite is totally car oriented. Lake Jackson was all middle income and, until the mid-1960s, all white. Because it had the advantage of mature tree growth, Lake Jackson was never spatially oppressive. But it seems to derive little benefit from its architecture, which failed to spatialize the image of new community that modernist polemics of the 1930s and 1940s anticipated.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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