Best of Houston

The Changing Face of Houston - Meyerland

In the postwar years of the early '50s, Houston was experiencing enormous population growth and a surge in development. Americans were in love with their cars, and new subdivisions and planned communities were being constructed further and further away from the city's downtown and the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it. It was during that time period that George Meyer decided to develop 1,200 of the 6,000 acres of rice fields, which his family had owned for decades, into the Meyerland neighborhood. In 1955, the first section of the new subdivision on the southwest side of Houston became available, celebrated by a ribbon cutting ceremony presided over by then-Vice President Richard Nixon. The single family homes in Meyerland were popular, and there was no shortage of people interested in moving into the new development.

A couple of years later, in 1957, Meyerland Plaza Shopping Center opened in a gala event, themed as an "Around the Shopping World in 80 Acres." While not exactly an amazing sounding event name, it was still very successful at introducing the new multi-store shopping center to Houstonians who were eager to experience it for themselves.

Meyerland promised, and delivered on, post war suburban dreams of quiet neighborhoods, with nice homes that were located just close enough to Houston's central areas for convenient commutes to work, but far enough away from the growing perception of inner city noise and dangers.

In the '50s, the neighborhoods on Houston's southwest side began to see large numbers of Jewish people moving in. Some relocated from early Houston Jewish enclaves such as Riverside Terrace, while others were newcomers to the Houston area. As a result of that migration, Meyerland became a central hub of Jewish life in the Bayou City, with several synagogues being established, along with other institutions serving Houston's Jewish community.

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Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.