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70 Stunning Vintage Photos of Houston from the 1960s

The 1960s in Houston weren’t just about bell bottoms and beehive hairdos. It was a decade of immense growth and transformation, where the city shed its sleepy Southern image and embraced a bold, futuristic spirit. From space exploration to architectural marvels, Houston in the 60s was a place where big dreams took flight.

Downtown Houston was the city’s beating heart. Main Street, with its classic department stores like Foley’s and Sakowitz, was a shopper’s paradise. The air buzzed with activity as people strolled along, window-shopping and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere.

The skyline was changing too.  Modern skyscrapers, like the iconic One Shell Plaza, began to rise, transforming the cityscape and marking Houston’s arrival as a major metropolis. These architectural wonders symbolized the city’s ambitions and its embrace of the future.

Space City Takes Off

The 1960s were synonymous with the Space Race, and Houston found itself at the very center of it. NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center, later renamed the Johnson Space Center, opened its doors in 1963.  Suddenly, astronauts were the new celebrities, and Houston became known as “Space City.” The excitement around the Apollo missions was palpable, and everyone felt a sense of pride in being part of this historic moment.

Cruising and Grooving

When Houstonians weren’t gazing at the stars, they were cruising down Main Street or Westheimer in their flashy cars.  Teenagers flocked to drive-in restaurants like Prince’s Hamburgers, where they could grab a burger and a milkshake while listening to the latest tunes on the radio.  Music was a major part of the 60s culture, and Houston had its fair share of iconic venues. The Catacombs, a psychedelic club downtown, pulsed with the sounds of rock and roll, while the Sam Houston Coliseum hosted legendary acts like Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

A Taste of the Sixties

Dining out in Houston during the 60s was an experience in itself.  Families enjoyed classic American fare at places like Kelly’s Country Kitchen, while upscale restaurants like Maxim’s and Tony’s offered a taste of continental cuisine.  For a quick bite, James Coney Island hot dogs were a local favorite, and a trip to the Shamrock Hotel for their famous green ice cream was a special treat.

Beyond Downtown

The city’s growth wasn’t confined to downtown. New suburbs like Sharpstown and Meyerland sprung up, offering affordable homes and a suburban lifestyle to young families.  Shopping malls, like the Gulfgate and Sharpstown Centers, became popular destinations, providing a one-stop shop for all your needs.  The Astrodome, nicknamed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” opened its doors in 1965. This colossal domed stadium, with its air-conditioned comfort and futuristic design, became a symbol of Houston’s ambition and innovation.

#1 Essex-Houck Building entrance exterior, Houston, Texas, 1962.

#2 First telegraph lines in Houston, 1860. A.D. Bruce Religion Center construction frame, 1964.

#3 Blue wing construction of M.D. Anderson Library, 1968.

#4 M.D. Anderson Library photomontage with Blue Wing addition, 1968.

#5 A.D. Bruce Religion Center construction frame, 1964.

#7 Science & Research Building 1 construction, Houston, 1969.

#9 Moody Towers architectural drawing, Houston, 1969.

#10 Wood house on Victor Street, Houston’s Fourth Ward, 1960s

#11 NASA Space Center pond and buildings, Houston, 1965.

#13 View of Houston from street with wood buildings, 1960s

#14 NASA Space Center buildings tour, Houston, September 11, 1968.

#15 Antioch Missionary Baptist Church view, Houston, early 1960s.

#16 Antioch Missionary Baptist Church side view, Houston, circa 1960s.

#17 Jefferson Davis Hospital oblique elevation, Houston, 1960s

#21 Houston Astrodome and Astrohall aerial view, circa 1960s.

#29 President John F. Kennedy motorcade, Houston, circa 1960s.

#32 Children watching President Kennedy motorcade, Houston, 1962.

#33 Crowd at Hobby Airport for President Kennedy, Houston, 1962.

#34 Elevated freeway construction, Houston, circa 1960s.

#36 Cars driving towards Gulf Freeway, Houston, 1961.

#38 Protestors at National Education Association event, Houston, March 31, 1968.

#40 Dwellings near Texas Gulf Sulphur Company plant in Gulf, Texas, 1960s

#43 Southwestern Bell Telephone Building, Houston, Texas, 1960s

#44 Jefferson Davis Senior High School, Houston, 1960

#53 Synagogue of A. F. Kattmann’s Canvas Goods, 1960s

#54 F. J. Schlueter Residence with a woman on patio, 1960s

#55 Kennedy-Johnson Campaign Workers in Houston, 1960.

#56 Americana building under construction, Houston, 1960.

#57 Oak Forest Neighborhood Library, Houston, opened October 6, 1961.

#59 Sociedad Mutualista Obrera Mexicana members, 1960s.

#60 Group leaving for Austin for State Board exams, 1960s

#62 Volkswagen Beetles being refueled at the Houston harbor after importation, 1960s.

#63 Elevated view of Houston’s skyline at twilight, showcasing urban sprawl, 1960.

#64 Volkswagen Beetles being refueled at the Houston harbor after importation, 1960s.

#65 Ground view of NASA’s Manned Space Center, later renamed the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, 1960s.

#66 Interior of a computer room at NASA’s Manned Space Center, later renamed the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, 1960s.

#68 The Apollo 12 crew arrives in the Mobile Quarantine Facility at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas, 1969.

#69 The future site of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, featuring a cow pasture, 1960.

#70 Two men paving a road with a steam roller, with a Minute Maid orange juice billboard in the background, 1960s

#71 The future site of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, featuring a cow pasture, 1960.

#72 The Veteran’s Administration Building, a leased office for the Gemini Spacecraft Project in Houston, Texas, 1962.

#73 The Project Mercury Summary Conference was held at the Houston Coliseum, Texas, 1963.

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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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