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YEARS OF DIVERSIFICATION (1960-1965)

The formal opening of what was being called Houstonís "big bubble", "miracle on South Main", "rain-or-shine stadium", "eighth wonder of the world", and "Astrodome", was set for April 9, 1965. The Houston Astros and the New York Yankees drew the honors of playing baseball for the first time "under glass". Despite a home run by Mickey Mantle, the Astros won the game, and thus the dream of Judge Roy Hofheinz and the courage of the Harris County Commissioners Court as well as the supporting faith of the Harris County electorate came into being on the 230-acre site on South Main Street.

From the time the officially-named Harris County Domed Stadium opened until the end of the year, 3,780,000 customers passed through its gates. Four hundred thousand of these paid one dollar each just to get inside and gaze at the yawning vastness of the stadium. Although the Houston Astros finished in ninth place in the National League, they drew more than two and one-half million fans to see them play at home. Billy Graham drew a total attendance of 376,419 for his revival, with a record of 57,225 at one service. In six home games, the University of Houston Cougars played before 210,106, while Ringling Brothers Circus broke a 95-year attendance record at each performance as well as for a one-location stand. It has been estimated that activities in the Astrodome added $80,000,000 to Houstonís economy in 1965.

In a decision that also had major economic significance to the area, the U. S. Budget Bureau on March 24th redefined Houstonís Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area to include Brazoria, Fort Bend, Liberty and Montgomery Counties along with Harris County. This opened a new era of economic opportunity for the entire Houston-Gulf Coast region. It climaxed a seven-year effort by the Houston Chamber of Commerce to get its metropolitan area more adequately defined. Until it was expanded, metropolitan Houston, limited to one county, suffered obvious disadvantages when compared with multi-county metropolitan areas. This was becoming increasingly vital since the overflowing of population beyond municipal boundaries is making statisticians turn increasingly to metropolitan areas for comparisons. The population of this five-county area increased 15 percent from 1960 to 1965, from 1,420,743 to 1,673,500. (It was 940,405 in 1950.) In five years, the areaís work force increased from 550,504 to 682,500. Its retail sales were up 23.6 percent in four years, from $1,820,469,000 to $2,249,496,000. And its wholesale sales climbed 23.5 percent from 1958 to 1963, from $3,694,963,000 to $4,561,483,000.

Houston was building all over the place in 1965. With four office buildings, having 765,000 square feet, being opened in 1964, the totals went up to five buildings and 1,320,000 square feet in 1965. Under construction at the end of the year were the 25-floor Houston Lighting and Power Building with 450,000 square feet, the Houston Natural Gas Building, also 25 floors, with 300,000 square feet, and the Chimney Rock Bank Building, a 14-floor, 200,000-square-foot structure. The 47-floor Shell Building was announced early in 1966.

High-rise apartments continued to be a new factor in Houston, with the completion of the 27-story 2016 Main Apartments with 350 units, the 32-story Houston House with 403 apartments, and the 11-story Alabama House with 120 units, as well as other high-rise structures throughout the west and southwest areas of Houston.

Thus was 1965 a year of successes: the Harris County Domed Stadium, the $4,000,000 Houston Livestock Show facility, the redefinition of Houstonís SMSA, the sale of bonds and groundbreaking for the Trinity River project, the creation of a Hospital District to operate the Charity Hospital, the creation of four different groups to study local government, the Houston Intercontinental Airport, the opening of the Federal Aviation Agencyís regional Air Traffic Control Center, developments in the Civic Center on the National Space Hall of Fame and the Jones Hall as well as the Alley Theatre, the shifting of the control of NASAís manned flights to Houston, a growing interest in oceanography, and the beginning of construction on major downtown buildings.

With the growing influence of the federal government in urban affairs, the Houston Chamber of Commerce established closer liaison in Washington. Congressmen Albert Thomas and Bob Casey were particularly cooperative, as were the United States Senators from Texas. Because of his long tenure, and despite his failing health, Congressman Thomas commanded unusual respect in the nationís capitol. Following his death February 15, 1966, the Chamber of Commerce said in an official resolution:

"The Honorable Albert Thomas was a respected citizen of Houston and Harris County, a distinguished member of the Congress of the United States for thirty years, and a great American statesman. He was committed with deep dedication to the interests of his District, and the division of Harris County into two Congressional Districts did not in any way alter his effective service to the entire County

His cooperation with the Houston Chamber of Commerce was consistent and significant. His leadership in connection with the location here of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center was an outstanding example of his thoroughness and effectiveness . . . Congressman Thomas always seemed to find inspiration and new strength through person-to-person associations with his constituency. A courtly man, with a courteous but positive approach, he campaigned actively every two years for re-election, traveling the highways and by-ways of the County, shaking hands with those he represented and listening to their views on public issues, even in more recent years when there was not even a remote possibility of his defeat."

Climaxing this fruitful year came the December announcement by the U. S. Steel Corporation, with some 200,000 employees and annual sales of over four billion dollars, that it had acquired options on several thousand acres of land on Cedar Point, near Baytown, where it will construct electric furnaces and a 160-inch plate-mill unit including heat-treating facilities. Construction is expected to begin in 1967. This location will enable U. S. Steel to better serve its plate customers and will provide an initial base for serving other large and expanding steel markets in the Southwest.

Throughout the twelve months of 1965, the year sharply reflected the swiftly accelerating tempo of the times. Out of an atmosphere of discontent, tension and struggle, there came a new and much sharper awareness of the problems within and among the nations of the world. The war in Vietnam reached an intense and sinister stage, as the United States began to commit both manpower and prestige to the goal of halting Communist aggression. The split between the Communists of Russia and those of China widened. The exploration of the universe continued with men walking in space for the first time and with Gemini 6 and 7 rendezvousing in space. Thus 1965 was a thought-provoking and exciting but uncomfortable year.

America at mid-decade showed a pattern of broad shifts in population, rising incomes, changes in-age groupings, and shifting political power as well as buying power. Two-thirds of the nationís 195,000,000 people live in or near big cities, and for the first time in our history more than half of all white Americans 25 years of age or older had at least a high school education. One out of every five families had an income of as much as $10,000 a year. The population as a whole was becoming somewhat younger although the birthrate had been declining for several years.

Yet, after twenty decisive years, since World War II, the people of America were inclined to be unhappy and confused in the midst of an era of unprecedented prosperity. They were concerned about the war in Vietnam, about high prices and taxes, about race problems and the increasing number of people depending upon government checks, about juvenile delinquency and crime, and about the growing incidence of all types of accidents. To give the nation better direction in this dynamic age, there has been a national movement to establish "Goals for America", and many cities are also. trying to develop community goals.

Houston seeks to place higher priority on goals than on concerns, without any relaxation of efforts on problems on which its government, its business and its voluntary associations can be effective.

Houston closed 1965 with all-time record highs in the number of new business developments and in the total investment these represented. Announcements were made for more than a half-billion dollars in new capital investments, to provide an additional 8,000 industrial jobs. Leading this list were the announcements of U. S. Steel and of the Armco Steel Corporation that it will increase its production at the Houston plant from 1,365,000 ingot tons per year to 2,500,000. A total of 17,600 new jobs were created during the year, with 5,200 of these being in manufacturing.

The total construction volume in Harris County was approximately $600,000,000 in 1965, including 12,700 single-family residences and 8,000 apartment units. The total public-works program in Harris County in 1965, including projects for all branches of government, amounted to $136,000,000. A total of $8,000,000 of church construction was done during the year, with an estimated $16,000,000 scheduled for 1966. Among the primary growth areas, as 1965 closed, were the Texas Medical Center area, the Domed Stadium, the "Magic Circle" near Post Oak and Westheimer, the Katy Road-Loop 610 area, at the North Loop and Hempstead Highway, at the Gulf Freeway and Almeda-Genoa Road area, and in the Clear Lake area.

Recognizing that human geography is the organization of man and his environment, increasing consideration will have to be given to planning for the Houston area as the integrated development of a geographic whole. Thus environmental planning is the geographic expression of the areaís economic and social policy. No master plan can be established and enforced for the redistribution of industry and services for the areaís space, people and resources. Guidelines can be established, however, to encourage voluntary environment planning. The goal of environment planning is to develop a harmonious society wherein urban life, with its broader rule, will satisfy the new requirements of higher living standards and increased leisure time. Economic planning and environment planning of necessity must be based on the concept of the indivisibility of economic development.

Fifty years ago, Texas had 4,500,000 people, with 80 percent of them living in rural areas, and with the state government spending $18,000,000. As population soared and urbanized, state services focused more upon people and peopleís problems, and in 1966 Texasí government expenditures have been estimated at more than $1,800,000,000. Of this amount, about $850,000,000 will go for public and higher education, $300,000,000 for public welfare subsidies and services, and $75,000,000 for state hospitals and mental health programs.

 

 

 


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