Mapping Houston Heights — Houston’s First Suburb – Save Texas History

Mapping Houston Heights — Houston’s First Suburb – Save Texas History


Houston Heights was one of the first planned communities in Texas and Houston’s first suburb. The development promised to be “a new field of enterprise worthy of close cultivation by the Home-seeker and Capitalist”. Further, a community where residents could live and work in health and safety.

Curiously, the suburb is named after its location as it was developed 23 feet higher than downtown Houston. This was and still is quite helpful to avoid the flooding. In addition, it also helped to keep residents save from a yellow fever epidemics taking over the city.

The Omaha & South Texas Land Company, a subsidiary of the American Loan and Trust Company is the original owner and developer of Houston Heights. They purchased this land on May 5, 1891.

Subsequently, Daniel Denton Cooley, company treasurer, soon became the “Father of Houston Heights”. He wanted to make the Heights Boulevard an elegant community and modeled the street after Boston’s Commonwealth Boulevard. And his desire came true. A Houston Chronicle article from 1955 said the Heights Boulevard is “the most gracious street in all of heavenly Houston.”

The Map of Houston Heights

This map shows the extent of planning necessary to create an appealing and functional community. In addition to the features resulting from Cooley’s influence, Houston Heights included a steam railroad that connected the community to the twelve railroad depots in the city proper, as well as residences, businesses, and other buildings upon the 1,756 acres of land purchased for the venture. Construction began in 1892.

These efforts combined “to make up the grand sum total of the choicest and most desirable real estate ever put on the market in the Southwest”. The company also invested in schools and parks. A post from The Galveston Daily News indicates that the Omaha & South Texas Land Company spent around $1 million to develop Houston Heights.

Houston Heights: The Construction

Cooley’s home was one of the first houses built in the Heights by 1893 and served as an example of the type of house to be constructed on Heights Boulevard: ornate Victorian-style homes, made of cypress to set a standard of sophistication. Unfortunately, this admirable house was demolished in 1968.

Housing was relatively inexpensive, considering the elegance of the houses along Heights Boulevard, especially the opulence of Cooley’s home. They platted lots in a variety of sizes so that people of all economic levels could afford to move into the neighborhood.

Additional buildings featured on the map include red-brick structures, indicating the industrial and commercial appeal of the neighborhood. For instance, there was The Electric Light and Power Company, the Houston Heights Brick & Tile Works, a basket factory, a furniture factory, and the Houston Heights Sash Door & Blind Factory.

Houston Heights made history as one of the first planned communities in Texas, and the first suburb of Houston. Developers invested heavily to build the community rapidly. The town was incorporated in 1896 and by 1908, our population reached the 6,000.

Today, Houston Heights has regained its popularity as an ideal spot for the citizens of Houston to work and play.