Portal:Houston/Selected article archive/2007

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Allen's Landing Houston park view.jpg

The six wards of Houston are a social and cultural phenomenon. When the city of Houston was founded in 1836 and incorporated in 1837, its founders, John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, divided it into political geographic districts called "wards". The ward system, a precursor to today's City Council districts, was a common political tool of the early 19th century.

In 1839, Houston's civic leaders divided the city into four wards. The Fifth Ward was added in 1866 to accommodate the city's growth and the Sixth Ward a decade or so later. The idea was not to have an equal number of residents in each. Instead, the lines were drawn along natural boundaries: Buffalo Bayou, Main Street, and Congress Street. (September 30)


METRORail is the light rail service in Houston, Texas, United States that started on January 1, 2004. It is the second major light rail service in Texas. It began operating about sixty years after a previous streetcar system was closed down, which had left Houston the largest city in the United States without a rail system. With a daily ridership of 40,000, the METRORail system is the eleventh most-ridden light rail system in the United States. (October 5)

The Port of Houston is the busiest seaport in the United States in terms of foreign tonnage, second-busiest in the United States in terms of overall tonnage, and sixth-busiest in the world. The post includes a 25-mile-long complex of diversified public and private facilities located just a few hours' sailing time from the Gulf of Mexico. (October 11)

Uptown Houston, or the Uptown District, is mainly centered around Post Oak Boulevard and the Galleria, the largest and most prestigious shopping mall in Houston. In its role as a high-end fashion and hotel district, it is approximately the Houston equivalent of San Francisco's Union Square and Los Angeles's Beverly Hills. At 23.6 million square feet (2,193,000 m²) of office space, Uptown is also known for its skyline - it is Houston's second largest business district, and the nation's 14th largest, about the size of downtown Atlanta, Denver, and Los Angeles. (October 16)

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The Texas Medical Center, with more than five million patient visits annually and one of the highest densities of clinical facilities and basic science and translational research of any location, is the largest medical district in the world. The center is located in Houston, Texas. It contains 42 medicine-related institutions, 13 hospitals, and two medical schools. Adjacent to the center is Rice University, Hermann Park, Reliant Park and the Museum District. (October 21)

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The Houston Police Department is the primary law enforcement agency serving the City of Houston. HPD currently employs approximately 4,700 officers throughout the city. According to the HPD, "The mission of the Houston Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in the City of Houston by working cooperatively with the public and within the framework of the U.S. Constitution to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear and provide for a safe environment." (October 29)


Reliant Astrodome, previously known as "the Astrodome", is a domed sports stadium, the first of its kind. It is located in Houston, Texas, and is part of the Reliant Park complex. It opened in 1965 as Harris County Domed Stadium and was nicknamed the "Eighth Wonder of the World". On August 31, 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Harris County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the State of Louisiana came to an agreement to allow at least 25,000 evacuees from New Orleans, especially those that were sheltered in the Louisiana Superdome, to move to the Astrodome until they could return home.

Ellington Field is an airport located in southeast Houston that was established when aviation was in its infancy — in 1917, during the height of World War I. Originally created as a training facility for the United States Army Air Corps, the field is now used by military, commercial, government and general aviation sectors. It is one of the few airfields built for WWI training purposes still in operation today.

Ellington Field has mostly been used for military purposes, for flying NASA aircraft, flying packages for the United Parcel Service, and for flying the United States President into the Houston area. For most of its history it has been an Army or Air Force base, but is now in civilian management. However, the Texas Air National Guard and National Guard still maintain a presence at the base, including the 147th Fighter Wing. The base is also the location of NASA's fleet of T-38 Talon jets, the Shuttle Training Aircraft, and the Vomit Comet, a zero-g trainer. All three types of aircraft are used for astronaut training.

Continental Airlines is a certificated air carrier of the United States. Based in Houston, Texas, it is the fourth-largest airline in the U.S. and the eighth-largest in the world by revenue passenger miles. Continental's marketing slogan, since 1998, has been Work Hard, Fly Right. Continental operates to destinations throughout the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Principal operations are from its three hubs at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (in Cleveland, Ohio), George Bush Intercontinental Airport (in Houston, Texas), and Newark Liberty International Airport (in Newark, New Jersey near New York City). With a relatively small number of focus cities, the airline is arguably the most concentrated of all 6 major U.S. carriers around the hub and spoke system of airline travel. An operating unit, Continental Micronesia, operates between Honolulu and central Pacific islands in Polynesia and Micronesia, and to Australia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia from its hub at Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport in Guam. (March 2007)

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Tropical Storm Allison was a tropical storm that devastated southeast Texas in June of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. The first storm of the season, Allison lasted unusually long for a June storm, remaining tropical or subtropical for 15 days. The storm developed from a tropical wave in the northern Gulf of Mexico on June 4, and struck the northern Texas coast shortly thereafter. It drifted northward through the state, then turned back to the south and re-entered the Gulf of Mexico. The storm continued to the east-northeast, making landfall on Louisiana and then moving across the southeast United States and Mid-Atlantic. The storm dropped heavy rainfall along its path, peaking at over 40 inches (1000 mm) in Texas. The worst of the flooding occurred in Houston, where most of Allison's damage occurred. There, 30,000 became homeless after the flooding destroyed 2,744 homes. Downtown Houston was inundated with flooding, causing severe damage to hospitals and businesses. 23 people died in Texas. Throughout its entire path, Allison caused $6.05 billion (2006 USD) in damage and 41 deaths. Aside from Texas, the places worst hit were Louisiana and southeastern Pennsylvania. (April 2007)

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The architecture of Houston includes a wide variety of award-winning and historic examples located in various areas of the city. From early in its history to current times, Houston inspired innovative and challenging building design and construction, as it quickly grew into an internationally recognized commercial and industrial hub.

Some of Houston's oldest and most unique architecture are found in the northern sections of downtown, as the city grew around Allen's Landing and the Market Square historic district, where several fine representations of 19th-century urban architecture still stand.

Houston is home to various styles of residential architecture, from the mansions of River Oaks and Memorial to row houses in the several wards. A number of Houston's earliest homes are now located in Sam Houston Park, including the Kellum-Noble House, which was built in 1847 and is Houston's oldest brick dwelling. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Kellum-Noble House served as a public office for the City of Houston's Park Department, and it is listed as an Historic American Building by the U.S. Library of Congress. (May 2007)

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Allen's Landing is the birthplace of Houston, Texas. In August 1836, just months after the Republic of Texas won its independence from Mexico, two brothers (and real estate developers) from New York, John Kirby Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen, purchased 6,642 acres in the area and settled there on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. Allen's Landing is at the confluence of White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou and serves as a natural turning basin. A dock was quickly opened on the site, and the steamer Laura was the first ship to anchor at the landing on January 26, 1837. In 1910, the United States government approved funding for the dredging of a ship channel from the Gulf of Mexico to the present turning basin four miles to the east of Allen's Landing. (June 2007)