Life in Houston during the 1980s from Street Scenes to Skyline Changes in Vivid Photos

The 1980s were a rollercoaster time for Houston, with big ups and downs that really tested how strong and flexible the city’s economy was. The decade started with a lot of success because of the oil industry, promising more good times ahead. But then, things went downhill fast when the oil market crashed. This crash brought big changes and challenges to Houston, pushing the city to grow in new ways and start different kinds of businesses that would shape its future.

At the start of the 1980s, the oil business was doing really well. High oil prices and a lot of demand from around the world meant Houston, the heart of energy, got a lot richer. This led to a lot of new buildings, more jobs, and more people moving to the city. Houston was building a lot, with tall skyscrapers changing how the city looked and new places to live and work spreading out.

The Bad Turn

But by the middle of the decade, things changed dramatically. The world oil market fell apart, and since Houston’s economy was so focused on oil, the city had a hard time. The crash in oil prices caused many people to lose their jobs, many businesses to fail, and a big problem in the real estate market. Construction stopped, and there were many empty buildings and offices around the city.

Changing Direction

Because of these hard times, Houston had to think differently about its economy. The city started to look at other types of businesses, like healthcare, technology, trade, and finance. The Texas Medical Center grew even more, making Houston a big place for medical research and health services. The city also welcomed new tech and research companies, which helped make the economy more diverse.

Growing and Changing

Even with the economy struggling, the 1980s were still a time when Houston grew and changed a lot. The city got bigger and more diverse, with more immigrants adding to its culture and economy. Houston worked on making its infrastructure, public transportation, and public services better, getting ready for even more people and making sure the city could handle the changes.

#1 Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin and Elizabeth Mackey’s car is surrounded by media after leaving the People’s Republic of China consulate in Houston, 1981.

#2 Don’s Le Patois restaurant located at 428 Westheimer, Houston, 1981.

#3 The Spud-U-Like restaurant at 416 Westheimer, Houston, 1981.

#4 Caligula XXI Gentlemen’s Club, Houston, Texas, 1981.

#5 Texas Cowgirls Gentlemen’s Club, Houston, Texas, 1981.

#6 Four young men outside Mary, a popular hangout in Montrose, Houston, Texas, 1981.

#7 A water main break creates an unplanned fountain at Milam and Prairie streets, Houston, Texas.

#8 The Houston Police Department Chicano Squad members pose together, Houston, Texas, 1981.

#9 Houston Oilers quarterback Ken Stabler leaves the field after defeating the LA Rams, Anaheim, California, 1981.

#10 Evening rush hour train crossing Westheimer Road inside Loop 610, Houston, Texas.

#11 Travelers wait for flights at Houston Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas.

#12 Princess Margaret and guests at a party hosted by Lynn and Oscar Wyatt, Houston, Texas, 1982.

#13 Astronauts Henry W. Hartsfield and Ellen S. Baker in mission control during STS-3, Houston, Texas, 1982.

#14 A grandmother and her grandson crossing a street, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#16 Two African American boys play with two Asian immigrant girls, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#17 Inside a tenant’s apartment in Allen Parkway Village, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#18 Elderly white seniors pass an Asian mother and her children, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#19 An Asian immigrant mother with her two daughters on their front porch, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#20 KTSU general manager Charles Porter Jr. with radio staff at KTSU-FM, Houston, Texas.

#21 Early arrivals for a benefit concert at Jones Hall, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#22 Houston skyline reflected in a puddle at Allen Parkway Village, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#23 Sinh Thang and Anh Bich Tin walk between rows of apartments in Allen Parkway Village, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#24 Protesters and police during a Ku Klux Klan march in downtown Houston, Texas, 1983.

#25 People protest the $3 parking fee at the Astrodome, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#26 Houston police officer T.J. Boyle aids motorists in trouble, Houston, Texas.

#27 Competitors in the 100-meter run at the University of Houston Invitational track meet, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#28 Photo of the downtown Houston skyline from North Freeway, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#29 Crowds at the Houston opening of “Return of the Jedi” at Meyerland Cinema, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#33 Guadalupe I. Fernandez, a dedicated street cleaner for the city, Houston, Texas.

#34 Continental Airlines press conference with executives, Houston, Texas, 1983.

#35 The sign in front of Houston Police Headquarters, Houston, Texas, December 6, 1983.

#36 Tenneco Oil building in downtown Houston, Texas, December 18, 1983.

#37 The Post Oak Central buildings’ architectural elegance, Houston, Texas, 1984.

#38 The Alley Theatre exterior on the night of an event honoring Arthur Miller, Houston, Texas, 1984.

#39 Houston firefighters’ “Fill the Boot” campaign for Muscular Dystrophy Association, Houston, Texas.

#40 Neal Austin of Fire Station 28 A shift juggles at Westheimer and Hillcroft while collecting for muscular dystrophy, Houston, Texas.

#41 Chefs Robert Del Grande of Cafe Annie and Amy Ferguson of Charley’s 517 collaborate for a Houston Culinary Guild dinner.

#42 The Go-Go’s perform at the Music Hall in Houston, Texas, 1984.

#43 Three domed vessels are installed at Exxon Company USA’s Baytown refinery, part of an upgrade project to process crude oil more efficiently, Houston, Texas, 1987.

#44 Jane Thompson admires Carol Strittmatter’s “The Calico Kitten” quilt at the YWCA Masterson Branch, part of “The Birth Project” by Judy Chicago, Houston, Texas.

#45 Ed Brandon, Marvin Zindler, Dave Ward, Bruce Gietzen, and Shara Fryer in the KTRK-TV Channel 13 news studio, Houston, Texas, 1985.

#46 Mourners attend the memorial service for the Space Shuttle Challenger crew at Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, 1986.

#47 Low gasoline prices at an Exxon station at Hwy 149 and 1960, Houston, Texas, 1980s

#48 Larue Forbes prepares Challenger’s Modular Auxiliary Data System tapes for analysis at Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, April 8, 1986.

#49 Thanksgiving eve travelers at Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas, November 26, 1986.

#51 Crews move two sections of a home from Westmoreland Street in Montrose to Sam Houston Park, Houston, Texas, December 14, 1986.

#55 Aerial photo of Uptown before New Year’s Eve fireworks, Houston, Texas, December 31, 1986.

#56 Participants in the Houston Tenneco Marathon, Houston, Texas, January 18, 1987.

#57 Moonrise over downtown Houston from the Fourth Ward, Houston, Texas, February 11, 1987.

#58 Undocumented individuals line up at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service office before the amnesty period ends, Houston, Texas, May 1, 1988.

#59 The Port of Houston Authority develops the $110 million Omniport, expected to enhance Houston’s status as a leading Gulf Coast port for agricultural products.

#61 A Houston police patrol car bursts into flames after colliding with another patrol car during a high-speed chase, Houston, Texas.

#63 Terminal D under construction at Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas, February 2, 1989.

#64 A worker uses a shovel during construction of Terminal D at Intercontinental Airport, Houston, 1980s

#65 Caligula XXI, located at 2618 Winrock, is one of the businesses ordered to shut down by March 31, 1990, Houston, Texas.

#67 An airport police officer writes tickets for vehicles blocking traffic at Houston International Airport’s Terminal C during a dispute with Eastern Airlines, Houston, Texas.

#68 Craig Bradley enjoys sunny weather at Hermann Park’s duck and goose pond, Houston, 1980s

#69 Jon Fontenot attempts to dissuade animal control officers from shooting a coyote at the border of the Sharpstown Park Golf Course, Houston, Texas.

#70 A crane lifts a wall panel for the Commons at Greenspoint shopping center, under construction at Interstate 45 North and Beltway 8, Houston, Texas.

#71 John Rowland sorts food at the Houston Food Bank, part of a pilot program targeting one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods to eradicate hunger, Houston, 1980s

#72 Baldwin Piano & Organ Company sells its three Houston stores to H&H Music, which becomes a dealer for Baldwin pianos, Houston, 1980s

#73 Animal rights protestors demonstrate in front of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, 1980s

#74 Ruby Peek and Carlos Vivo read the insolvency notice on the door of Katy National Bank, Houston, 1980s

#76 Sidney Pennie sprays insecticide in a Houston suburb following floods, as part of the Harris County Mosquito Control District’s efforts.

#77 Houston Area Woman’s Center holds a protest rally in front of city hall against former police officer James Cebula’s probated sentence, Houston, 1980s

#78 Family and friends of Mickey Leland attend his memorial service at Texas Southern University with an empty pine casket, Houston, Texas, August 18, 1989.

#79 Sarah, Duchess of York, attends a party hosted by Lynn Wyatt in Houston, 1980s

#80 Sarah Ferguson stands in the rain on a polo field with her father, Major Ronald Ferguson, during her visit to Houston, Texas.

#81 American Atheists protest outside St. Theresa Catholic Church against churches being used as polling places, Houston, Texas.

#82 A Greyhound bus at the bus station on Texas Avenue, Houston, Texas, 1985.

#83 George Bird, an American Airlines employee, dresses as Santa to help direct traffic at Houston Intercontinental Airport.

#84 Houston model Dallas Hill models designer Charlotte Ford’s burgundy jeans and top from Saks Fifth Avenue, 1981.

#85 The mission operations control room at Johnson Space Center during the Space Shuttle Columbia’s first flight, Houston, Texas, 1981.

#86 Galleria Plaza Hotel and parking entrance to Galleria II on Sage Road, opposite Houston Oaks Hotel and Galleria I along Westheimer, 1980.

#87 HPD Officer W.T. Howard inspects a “street cave” caused by a leaking water main at Travis and Polk, near the Houston Natural Gas Building, 1980.

#88 Company dancers Cindy Hoffmaster and Carl E. Long rehearse for the New Year’s Eve opening of the Vaudeville Theater, Houston, Texas.

#89 A drilling rig towers above traffic and shops on 20th Street, Houston, Texas, February 7.

#90 The last 99.9 cent gas sign before prices rise above $1 at the Shamrock station on La Porte Highway, Houston, Texas, February 9.

#91 Bob Olson uses a kayak on flooded Empress Drive near Edgebrook after heavy rains in Houston, Texas, May 3, 1981.

#92 Artist Judy Chicago discusses The Birth Project with Houston women at a Texas Arts and Cultural Organization meeting, July 1981.

#94 The Alley Theatre during a benefit honoring playwright Arthur Miller, Houston, Texas, 1984.

#95 Vietnamese children play at the Allen Harway apartments on the edge of downtown Houston, Texas, March 18, 1985.

#96 The Happy Buddha restaurant at 516 Westheimer, site of frequent fires, set for demolition, Houston, Texas, March 16, 1987.

#97 View south over NASA Road 1, Houston, Texas, April 17, 1987.

#98 View of the downtown Houston business district, Texas, June 1987.

#99 Participants in the Tour de Houston bicycle race take a scenic ride, Houston, Texas.

#100 Freedom Fest at Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas, September 6, 1987.

#101 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo parade, February 20, 1988.

#102 Rain disrupts traffic on Fannin near Hermann Park during thunderstorms, Houston, Texas.

#103 Wild horses in a pen at an auction, Houston, Texas.

#104 U.S. citizens wait in the rain outside the Immigration and Naturalisation Service, Houston, Texas, April 29, 1988.

#105 Adriana Banks applies makeup to models, Houston, Texas.

#106 About 2,000 members of The Metropolitan Organization question Houston Mayor Jim McConn on community issues, January 16, 1980.

#110 Jack Yates House angled front view, Houston, 1989

#111 New Zion Temple Church side view, Houston, 1980s

#115 Protest of Fred Paez’s death at City Hall, July 23, 1980.

#119 Christie’s Restaurant sign featuring cowboy shrimp in Houston, Texas, 1983

#120 Capt’n Benny’s Half Shell restaurant in Houston, Texas, 1983

Avatar of Kevin Clark

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *