Anyone who has lived here for even 10 years would not argue that the city of Houston has changed a lot. Go back two decades and it is even a more marked difference. But what about 40, 50, even 70 years ago? How far has our city really come? Thanks to the Google Earth history function and a major assist from Houston Press art director Monica Fuentes (who lives for this kind of thing), we get to find out.
We took snapshots of various parts of the city dating back to the 1940s and pieced them together into animations that demonstrate the radical growth of the Houston/Galveston region and the massive changes that have taken place.
Click any of the animations to see a larger view.
CLEAR LAKE/45 SOUTH
While there were no decent images of NASA under construction to add to the animation, it is easy to see the spread of homes around Clear Lake turning a fairly quiet waterfront area into one of the most densely packed residential neighborhoods in Houston.
This run of photos purposefully goes back just a few years to right before Hurricane Ike devastated Bolivar Peninsula. In case you had forgotten what devastation and hurricane can bring to a community, watch as dozens of homes just disappear from the landscape.
It's hard to imagine a better illustration of the explosion of growth in Houston than this view of the far west side from what was once literally just a prairie to what is now a vast expanse of homes and subdivisions.
This might best be described as "OMG, NO LAKE HOUSTON!" Many Houstonians probably don't even realize that the lake didn't come into existence until 1953 when the city dammed up the San Jacinto River as an additional water supply source for the region.
Note that the area around Richmond wasn't even photographed until the 1990s because what the hell was even there? Of course there wasn't much of anything in the entire area beyond sugar refineries until the '90s when population exploded and the Fort Bend County community grew to one of the most diverse in the country.
WEST END/PIRATES BEACH
There wasn't a good way using Google Earth to demonstrate the changes to the west end of Galveston Island, so we instead focused on Jamaica Beach. It is easy to see how quickly houses sprouted up along the now popular community in just about a decade.
Urban sprawl has been a problem for Houston for decades triggered initially by an oil boom that brought the need for cheap housing closer to refineries than downtown office buildings. But, we often believe that sprawl was fostered by developments well out of town which filled in the areas between. This animation tells a different story.
Just yesterday, I wrote about the nightmare that is the construction to Highway 290. Here, we can see it cutting a line through northwestern parts of the city that have expanded exponentially over the last 30 years giving rise to the desperate need for freeway expansion.