The Early Years: The Houston Heights, which has an elevation 23 feet higher than downtown, began as a small town in the northwest suburbs of the City of Houston. The visionary behind the development was Oscar M. Carter, who in 1887 purchased the 1,765 acre tract of land, and began selling lots in the 1890’s. The Heights was a development that would have it all, from a grand boulevard dotted with Victorian style houses, a streetcar system enabling residents to travel from the Heights to the nearby City of Houston, schools, parks, churches, a hotel, an opera house, food and drug stores, and commercial and industrial development. Although the Heights was later annexed to the City of Houston in 1918, it continued to maintain its character as a small town.
Period of Decline: Due to population growth and the advent of the automobile, many residents began moving out to the suburbs. Like many other cities in U.S. during the 1950’s – 1970’s, this resulted in the Heights experiencing a time of decline and deterioration. Several of the grand Victorian homes, such as the Cooley house and the Mills house, were unfortunately demolished in the 1960’s.
Growth and Gentrification: Just like other inner-loop neighborhoods in Houston, the Heights has been experiencing gentrification over the last decade with a significant increase over the last several years due to the growing local economy and people relocating from all over to come to Houston. As a result, the Heights has seen a rush of developers and investors flooding into the area, investing in rehab of older homes, new townhome developments, and other residential, retail and dining developments.
Today: The Heights today is a very vibrant and diverse community, from those who have lived in the Heights for over 50 years to the young couples just starting families. There are several ways in which residents can get involved, such as through the voluntary Houston Heights Association, the Heights Women’s club, and donating to the Heights constable program. Although the generation from 50 years ago would say the Heights looks very different today, what hasn’t changed is the small town community feel and architecturally diversified walkable neighborhood. While known locally as a top neighborhood to live in, the Heights has even garnered national attention, being named by CNN Money as one of America’s 10 best neighborhoods in 2013. O. M. Carter and his team of founders all passed away decades ago, but I expect that they would be proud to see what their community has become.