It's tough enough to get around in Houston with traffic, accidents and the messy spider web of freeways. If you just moved here, you're probably having a difficult enough time figuring out the difference between the Southwest Freeway and U.S. 59 (hint: there is none, but more on that later) and then one day you are driving along minding your own business when the street you are on suddenly has a different name. You can't figure out what you did. You didn't turn. Don't feel bad. You're not crazy. The streets are.
That's because there are numerous major roads in our fair city that change names with no warning. Weird, right? Even those of us who have lived here for years are still surprised to find out we are lost thanks to a street that went from one name to another for seemingly no reason.
Now, before we get to this list, a couple notes: This list does not include directional streets. So, while it may be weird that there is a North Shepherd and a South Shepherd or, worse yet, a variety of Main Streets around town, that's not what we're talking about. Also, this is not about divided roads. The fact that, for a stretch, North Shepherd splits into Shepherd (moving northbound) and Durham (going south) is unsettling, but not technically a name change.
Finally, there are nearly as many streets that end through a merge with another thoroughfare as there are ones that change names, but as confusing as it may be that 20th crosses North Main onto Cavalcade or Washington Avenue divides into three streets as it passes under I 45 into downtown, it just ends, it doesn't change.
Now, with that out of the way, let's do this.
East T.C. Jester Boulevard/Rosslyn Road
If this tree-lined winding road with a split into east and west at Ella Boulevard doesn't throw you, just wait until you get past the railroad tracks in Oak Forest, when it becomes Rosslyn Road (not to be confused with North Houston Rosslyn, which we'll see later in this list).
Heights Boulevard/Waugh Drive
This beautiful historic street through Houston's oldest neighborhood is easy to understand until you cross Washington Avenue and it suddenly becomes Waugh, which, incidentally, splits in half south of West Gray. You heard me.
Holcombe Boulevard/Bellaire Boulevard
Holcombe, which begins as a split-off from Old Spanish Trail near the Medical Center, changes to Bellaire west of Stella Link. Don't even get me started on the Bermuda Triangle formed by Bellaire, Bissonnet and South Rice.
Richmond Avenue/Wheeler Avenue
Richmond is one of several streets forced into a name change by the intersection of Main Street and the light rail. Mercifully, Wheeler dead-ends into the University of Houston.
Weslayan Street/Willowick Road
River Oaks, the home of old money and giant houses, has a way of changing things, street names included. In this case, Weslayan turns into Willowick as it enters the well-known subdivision north of Westheimer. Ella Boulevard/Wheatley Street
Ella makes its change at Pinemont as it heads north. If you want to see a rather dramatic change of scenery, take the drive and go from the urban neighborhood Candlelight to the remarkably rural Acres Homes.
34th Street/Kempwood Drive
One of numerous street name changes involving Hempstead Highway, 34th passes through Garden Oaks and Oak Forest before changing to Kempwood east of the very diverse Spring Branch area.
43rd Street/Clay Road
One of the longest streets in Houston, after Hempstead Highway when it becomes Clay Road, it remains under that name all the way to Katy.
Wirt Road/Chimney Rock
Interstate 10 offers another dividing line for a number of street names, and this is one example. Chimney Rock continues through the Galleria area and ultimately merges onto the Fort Bend Parkway.
Fountain View Drive/Renwick Drive
Fountain View begins as a tiny side street off Woodway but becomes a busy road through the Galleria area before returning to its humble beginning as it morphs into Renwick south of U.S. 59. West Gray Street/Inwood Drive
I imagine that, at some point, West Gray probably ended at Shepherd because there is such a dramatic difference between it and Inwood Drive. From four lanes to two, shopping centers to mansions. Perhaps the most interesting changes in the city.
In yet another very long road beginning way out west of town, it begins as Westheimer and traverses strip malls, the Montrose and, eventually, the Fourth Ward near the University of Houston after becoming Elgin.
Bissonnet Street/Binz Street/Calumet Street
And now we move into the streets that change names multiple times. And you thought two was weird. Bissonnet makes for the longest stretch, connecting the far west part of Houston with the Museum District, the Medical Center and even the area around Texas Southern University.
San Felipe Street/Vermont Street/Willard Street
After splitting off from Memorial Drive, San Felipe passes through the Galleria area and River Oaks before becoming Vermont and, ultimately, Willard in the Montrose.
Claremont Lane/Buffalo Speedway/Willowbend
Once again, River Oaks lays waste to a street name as Claremont Lane leaves that moniker behind at Westheimer, where it turns into Buffalo Speedway. In one of the stranger changes, it becomes Willowbend at a random bend in the road out near South Main. Montrose Boulevard/Studemont Street/Studewood Street
All right, get ready for this one. Montrose (the street, not the neighborhood), after crossing Allen Parkway, becomes Studemont, which is logical given the fact there is a bridge there over Buffalo Bayou. But north of I-10, Studemont turns into Studewood. Why? Who knows?
FM 1960/Highway 6/Addicks
FM stands, in this case, for "Farm to Market" road, which this was until it became a mess of strip malls and apartment complexes. FM 1960 has various names including Humble Westfield and Cypress Creek Parkway, but its primary name remains 1960...except, of course, until it turns into Highway 6, which is also referred to as Addicks-Howell Road. Remarkably, the entire stretch of road runs from Lake Houston, well north of Houston and ends near the causeway crossing Galveston Bay.
6th Street/White Oak Drive/Quitman Street/Liberty Road
Soon, 6th Street will finally connect Shepherd with Yale Street -- something folks in the Heights have wanted for years -- but once it passes Heights Boulevard, White Oak takes over, winding along White Oak Bayou before becoming Quitman and ultimately Liberty, which heads out north of the Ship Channel.
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Fairbanks North Houston/Blalock Road/Echo Lane/Blalock Road
Yet another street affected by its intersection with Hempstead Highway, this oddball route has the unique characteristic of being named the same thing in two separate stretches of road. Once it becomes Blalock south of Hempstead, it crosses I-10, where it turns into Echo Lane for a brief stretch before returning to Blalock once more. You'll definitely need Google Maps for that one.
Bammel North Houston Road/North Houston Rossyln/Bingle Road/Voss Road/Hillcroft Avenue
And here we have it, the magical Houston street that has -- count 'em -- five different names. Beginning well north near FM 1960 as Bammel North Houston (which connects with T.C. Jester, but not the same road that is much farther south in Oak Forest...I know), changes to North Houston Rosslyn (no relation to the Rosslyn that is also T.C. Jester...God help us) after Tomball Parkway. At Little York, Bingle emerges and continues south through Spring Branch until I-10, when Voss appears. Stay with me. Finally, after passing through Memorial, Westheimer creates the final change to Hillcroft. If you are lost, you're not alone.