A look at the evolution of The Heights since 1891

Thursday, August 20, 2020
A look at The Heights history: Then and now
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The Heights is such a well-known neighborhood today, but how did it come to be?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Heights is considered hot property now that a wave of new buyers are interested in living close to the shopping and dining district.

In 1891, it was primarily forested land discovered by investors from New York and the Midwest who saw financial opportunity.

The investors purchased 1,800 acres and began selling it to people who wanted to make a home for themselves at a reasonable cost.

SEE MORE: Preserving the history of The Heights neighborhood inside one 1896 Victorian home

Heights historian Anne Sloan, who was raised and continues to live in the Heights, has written two books on its early days and transition into what it now is.

"They appealed to those who wanted a house for their own at an affordable price. The lots were sold for $250, which came out to about $6 a month. The developers also built the houses, which is where they made their money," Sloan said. "They also promoted it as a healthy place to live, being 23 feet higher than the elevation of Houston, so you wouldn't have mosquitos and yellow fever, which was terrifying."

The Heights was the first master planned community in the state and perhaps the nation, according to Sloan.

Many of the houses were ordered from catalogues, such as Sears, and built on site. Now, about one third of the original homes remain, after a new generation of developers and builders saw their own financial opportunity to build inside the 610 Loop.

The 70s saw a lot of people leaving for newer subdivisions in the area.

"People asked why we wanted to live in an old Victorian home that needs fixing," Sloan said. "Now, it's the reverse for buyers who restore them to what had once been."

Heights Boulevard remains the impressive grand entrance, lined with trees, benches and walking paths.

"Now, there are community art installations," Sloan said. "It's still a wonderful gathering place. Dan Rather once referred to it as Houston's Champs Elysees."

The first electric trolley that ran along the boulevard also brought in visitors from Houston.

"It was almost like an excursion where people from all over Houston would ride out to the Heights on the street car."

Real estate prices remain high in the Heights. There are no more lots for $250, and there's a dwindling and finite supply of vintage fixer uppers.

"For me, the Heights provides a sense of place," said Sloan. "I wish for everyone to have that, wherever they live, because that's the definition of a neighborhood."

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