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The 1920s in Houston: A Visual Journey Through the City’s Rapid Growth and Iconic Moments Captured in Photos

The 1920s were a defining decade for Houston, marked by unprecedented growth and prosperity that mirrored the broader economic boom experienced across the United States. Known as the “Roaring Twenties,” this period in Houston’s history was characterized by rapid industrial expansion, significant population growth, and a flourishing cultural scene, all amidst the backdrop of the burgeoning oil industry.

The Oil Industry and Economic Growth

The discovery of oil near Houston in the early 20th century continued to drive the city’s economy in the 1920s. The completion of the Houston Ship Channel in 1914 had already positioned Houston as a key player in the oil trade, and the 1920s saw further expansion of refineries and petrochemical plants. Companies like Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil) became major employers, attracting workers from across the country and stimulating secondary industries, including construction, engineering, and manufacturing.

Population Surge and Urban Expansion

Houston’s population soared during the 1920s, nearly doubling in size as people arrived in search of employment and opportunity. This demographic boom prompted extensive urban development, with new neighborhoods emerging to accommodate the influx of residents. The city’s infrastructure also saw significant enhancements, including the expansion of roads, the introduction of new public services, and the construction of landmark buildings, which contributed to the shaping of Houston’s modern skyline.

The economic boom spurred a real estate frenzy in Houston during the 1920s, with developers rapidly building residential, commercial, and civic structures. Architectural innovation was evident in the construction of art deco skyscrapers, which became iconic features of the city’s skyline. Notable buildings from this era include the Gulf Building and the Rice Hotel, symbols of Houston’s prosperity and ambition.

Challenges and the End of the Boom

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression began to affect the city towards the decade’s end, leading to economic slowdowns in various sectors. However, Houston’s diversified economy, particularly its foundation in the oil industry, helped buffer the city against the worst impacts of the economic downturn.

#1 Firefighters of Station 12 on a fire engine, Vernon Dorsett far left, 1927.

#2 Houston Negro Hospital exterior view from a distance, 1926.

#6 Motorized Fire Chief’s Car, Central Fire Station, 1923

#7 Firefighter with equipment, Central Fire Station, 1921.

#8 Firefighters with horse-drawn truck, Central Fire Station, 1921.

#9 Bird’s-eye view of Downtown Houston from above, 1920.

#10 Decorated doorway and balcony with “San Jacinto Trust Company” embossed, 1920s.

#11 Downtown Houston aerial view from above McKinney Avenue, 1920

#13 Travis Street south view from Texas Avenue, Houston, 1920.

#14 900 block of Texas Avenue, east view, Houston, 1920.

#15 Main Street view from Lamar Avenue during construction boom, Houston, 1927.

#16 800 block of Main Street, north view, Houston, 1923.

#17 Main Street with Rice Hotel and Binz Building, Houston, 1923.

#19 Houston skyline view from street level bridge, 1927.

#21 Ewing family home front view with Presley Kittredge and family, Houston, 1920s

#24 Golfers at Hermann Park Golf Course, Houston, 1928.

#25 Fontaine Service Station exterior, Houston, 1928.

#29 Building construction with Neils Esperson Building, Houston, September 1, 1927.

#30 Dumble Street at railroad intersection, Houston, 1928.

#31 Daniel Denton Cooley house and garden, Houston, 1920s.

#32 Railroad shop workers at fire prevention demonstration, 1920s

#33 Deepwater Oil Refinery Company aerial photograph, Houston, circa 1920s.

#34 Flood at Franklin and Milam streets, Houston, May 31, 1929.

#35 South End Ice Company truck fleet, Houston, 1926.

#37 Rice Institute graduates walking to ceremony, Houston, June 6, 1927.

#38 Rice Institute graduation ceremony, Houston, June 6, 1927.

#39 Men in front of C. L. Bering Company store, Houston, November 6, 1920.

#41 Alexander Bergamini-Simon Peter Coughlin house and garden, Houston, 1920s

#42 Young girls outside Colored Carnegie Library, Houston, circa 1920s.

#43 Train making at Gulf Hill for Santa Fe, Texas Gulf Sulphur Company, Gulf, Texas, February 8, 1924.

#44 Loaded railroad box cars at Texas Gulf Sulphur Company, Gulf, Texas, February 8, 1924.

#46 Frank J. Schlueter, photographer, beside automobile, Houston, 1920s

#48 San Jacinto Hotel under construction, Houston, 1926.

#49 National Democratic Convention Hall under construction, Houston, 1928.

#50 Long line of railroad boxcars, Texas, February 1924.

#53 Rice Institute graduates walking to graduation, Houston, 1927.

#54 Main Street south showing new viaduct, Houston, 1920s

#58 Pipes and pit structure at Texas Gulf Sulphur Company, 1924.

#59 Placing oil-loaded tank cars on unloading tracks, 1924.

#60 Jehu W. Johnson-James Oliver Wesley Ross house, Houston, 1920s

#66 Abe M. Levy house with nearby commercial buildings in Houston, 1920s

#69 Neil T. Masterson home on Montrose Boulevard, Houston, 1920s

#71 Paul B. Miller house in Southmore, Houston, 1920s

#72 Tugboat pulling barge, Houston Ship Channel, 1926.

#73 Ship loading or unloading at Port of Houston, 1922

#76 Exterior of F. P. Sterling home in Houston, 1929.

#79 Houston Public Library view from Lamar Street, 1920s

#80 Interior of unidentified building, possibly an ice skating rink, 1920s

#83 Charging room at Prest-O-Lite Company, Houston, 1929.

#86 Water tower beside unidentified commercial building, 1945.

#88 Intersection of Main and Texas Streets, Houston, 1925.

#90 Smokestack between building and petroleum storage tanks, 1920s.

#94 Linde Air Products Company building, Houston, 1927.

#98 Texas Avenue tracks of Houston Electric Company, 1928.

#104 Chamber of Commerce and Palace Theatre, Houston, 1920.

#106 Merchants and Manufacturers Building, Houston, 1929.

#107 National Bank of Commerce and other buildings, Houston, 1920s

#108 National Democratic Convention Hall, Houston, 1928.

#109 Motorcycle race track spectators, Houston, 1920s.

#118 Heat-Treating Building of Hughes Tool Company, Houston, 1924.

#119 Laboratory machine shop, Hughes Tool Company, Houston, 1920s

#120 Men working in a production phase at Hughes Tool Company, Houston, Texas, 1920s

#121 DeGeorge Hotel at 1418-20 Preston Avenue, Houston, Texas, 1928.

#123 Union Station at 501 Crawford at Texas Avenue, Houston, Texas, 1928.

#124 People under palm trees on the Rio Grande River bank, 1920s

#125 800 block of Main Street with automobiles and Bender Hotel, Houston, 1920s

#127 Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, Texas, 1920s

#129 Sterling Mansion construction, La Porte, TX, completed in 1927.

#130 City Hall building in Bellaire, TX, 7008 Rice Avenue, 1920s

#131 Stewart Building, downtown Houston, Texas, 1920s

#132 Sterling Mansion construction, east face, La Porte, TX, completed in 1927.

#133 Passengers in Southern Pacific “Sunset Limited” car, August 1928.

#134 Saint-Thegonnec (Finistere) L’Ossuhire et le Calvaire, 1924.

#136 Group gathered around a fireplace in the convalescent building at Camp Logan, Houston, Texas, 1920

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Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

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