Alief, Houston facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
“The friendliest, most diverse community in Houston.”
|• Total||36.6 sq mi (94.7 km2)|
|Elevation||79 ft (24 m)|
|• Density||7,008/sq mi (2,711/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (CST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1329364|
Alief is a large suburban community in Harris County, Texas, United States that is mostly within the city limits of Houston. The Alief Community Association defines the boundaries of Alief as, "Westheimer on the north, Sam Houston Tollway on the east, Fort Bend County Line on the west and Interstate 69/U.S. Highway 59 on the south," while the Alief Independent School District boundaries extend as far east as Gessner in some places. Portions of Alief are in Southwest Houston while other portions of Alief are within unincorporated Harris County.
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Early settlement (1861–1917)
In 1861, Reynolds Reynolds claimed 1,250 acres (5.1 km2) of land near Brays Bayou. The land was sold to Jacamiah Seaman Daugherty in 1888 and in the following year, he allowed the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway to build on his land. Daugherty sold his land in 1893 to Francis Meston who planned to engineer a community. Daugherty stayed to oversee land sales in Meston's Houston office. In 1894, the community was surveyed and recognized by Harris County. Surveyors named the town Dairy, Texas. The first two town settlers, Dr. John S. Magee and his wife, Alief Ozelda Magee, moved from Ellis County to Dairy the same year.
Alief Ozelda Magee, acting as the town's first postmistress, applied to open the first post office in 1895. On August 16, 1895 the post office opened. The postal service referred to the office as "Alief" in her honor to help avoid confusion with mail intended for the similarly named town of Daisy, Texas. The site of the post office, which was operated from her home, was honored with a Texas State Historical Marker in 1990. The marker (number 10644) is located on the south side of 7th Street between F Street and G Street.
Meston deeded property to Dr. John S. Magee, Newton Gentry, and Hardy Price for use as a cemetery in 1900. Alief Ozelda Magee, who died in 1899, is buried in the cemetery. The cemetery is located at what is now the intersection of Bellaire Blvd. and Dairy Ashford. The Texas Historical Commission recognized Alief Cemetery with a historical marker (number 10589) in 1984.
The Flood of 1899 and the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 destroyed the Methodist Episcopal Church along with the town's cotton and corn crops, forcing 24 of the 30 families that resided in Alief to relocate. The town reverted to prairie and wolves openly roamed during daytime. Daugherty found a positive side to the flooding; He persuaded the remaining six families that rice was better suited to grow in Alief's flood plains than previous crops and spent his own money to help cultivate the first rice crops. Daugherty succeeded: his rice became an instant cash crop that persuaded many to return to Alief. In 1901, Alief's first immigrant families, a small group of Germans arrived. In 1904, the majority of those who had left in the wake of the 1900 hurricane returned. The rapid growth period created a commercial district along the railroad tracks, convincing the San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railway to construct a depot.
Due to its propensity for flooding, the citizens established the Harris County Flood Control District in Alief in 1909. The chairman of the Harris County Drainage District was Daugherty. Trustees S.B. (Shorter) Burleson and Will and Eddie Garmond for the Prairie Grove Missionary Baptist Church purchased land in 1910 which would later become the church's home. The historic African American church's congregation met in the home of S.B. (Shorter) Burleson before the construction of the sanctuary. Credit for the church's name is primarily attributed to Mamie Burleson. In 1911, the Dairy School District was established and a three-story school was built.
The town was officially renamed "Alief, Texas" in 1917 and the Dairy School District became the Alief Independent School District (Alief ISD).
Automobiles arrived in Alief by 1920. The sanctuary for Prairie Grove Missionary Baptist Church was constructed between 1921 and 1922. The Cane Belt Canal, which "ran from the Brazos River, eight miles north of Richmond, through Alief and south to Alvin," according to the Westchase District, was completed in 1934. Daugherty promoted the canal, which was used for irrigation by rice farmers. The year after the canal was completed, Alief obtained electricity. Education in Alief was segregated. From 1927 to 1937, African American children used Prairie Grove Missionary Baptist Church's sanctuary as a schoolhouse. Previously, African American children attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. Alief ISD's three-story schoolhouse was condemned in 1939, and its students attended classes in a nearby building until a new school annex was added in 1940. Also in 1940, Melissa Outley died. Melissa Outley was married to David Outley. He was the first African American educator in Alief. Hers is the first known burial in Prairie Grove Cemetery, which was adjacent to Prairie Grove Missionary Baptist Church. The church's sanctuary was demolished in the 1940s as attendance fell. Alief Community Church first opened its doors in 1941. Population fluctuated wildly, ranging from a low of 35 in the 1930s to 200 by 1942. Population fluctuated wildly, ranging from a low of 35 in the 1930s to 200 by 1942. Alief acquired telephone service in 1943. E.W.K. "Andy" Andrau opened Andrau Airpark in 1946. In 1964, Alief ISD built its oldest remaining school, Alief Elementary School (later renamed for teacher Cynthia Youens). By the same year, oilman Robert E. "Bob" Smith owned 11,000 acres of land including what is now the Westchase area.
Growth, diversification, and annexation (1970–1989)
In 1970, Alief was still primarily pastureland and major thoroughfares, such as the Sam Houston Tollway, were still gravel roads. The 1970s were a prosperous time for Houston, and Alief continued to grow as people came to the area in search of housing. Houston began expanding westward with the development of River Oaks and Memorial, and the trend continued to Alief. Many of the new residents were low-income apartment dwellers. The community's population increased by a factor of four between 1970 and 1985. Between 1980 and 1985, approximately a third of the population growth experienced by Harris County occurred in the southwest quadrant of the county bounded by the Katy and South (288) freeways, with Alief accounting for half of that, or one-sixth of the overall growth of the county during that five-year time frame. The Alief Independent School District struggled to find room for all of the new students.
As the population of Alief increased in the 1980s, the community began to diversify. In 1978, close to 80% of the people in the community were white. Less than 4% of the people in the community were African American. The shift was primarily for socio-economic reasons. Many low-income Spanish-speaking immigrants settled in traditionally low-income areas of Houston inside Loop 610. Many African-Americans who could afford to left traditional African-American neighborhoods to move to Alief and other parts of Southwest Houston during the 1980s. White people who could afford to move to newer suburbs further from Houston than Alief began to leave the community. In addition, many people of Asian ancestry settled in Alief, Sharpstown, and Westwood, creating one of the largest Asian-American concentrations in Houston. Southwest Houston's Asian population included mainly immigrants from China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Korea. In addition, Southwest Houston became home to many people from Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, Laos, and Indonesia. By the late 1980s, white students accounted for less than half of the students enrolled in Alief ISD.
In addition changes in population and demographic, the community underwent several other important changes. Robert E. "Bob" Smith died in 1973, and his widow sold 760 acres of land to the Westchase Corporation which began developing the Westchase District. Houston began annexing Alief in 1977. The City of Houston voted to annex the Alief-Fondren area on November 23, 1977. In 1978, Brown and Root built a large engineering complex at the corner of Bellaire Blvd. and Beltway 8. Houston continued to annex pieces of Alief into the 1980s. West Oaks Mall opened in 1984 and was annexed by the City of Houston the same year. The community feared that annexation would lead to neglect by Houston's government and protested further annexations. Despite these efforts, Houston succeeded in annexing most of the area. Agriculture began to fade. The last cotton gin in Alief closed in 1976, and the area ceased growing cotton altogether by 1982. Alief was one of the last places where cotton had been grown in Harris County. Dairy, cattle, vegetable production, and rice production also declined. Urban development took the place of agriculture. In the spring of 1985, Houston Fire Station #76 was opened to serve the Alief area. The Alief Branch Library (since renamed the David M. Henington-Alief Regional Library) was also opened in 1985. As a sign of the community's growing diversity, the Houston Chronicle noted that the library staff spoke, "a variety of languages, including Hindi, Mandarin Chinese and Farsi (referring to Persian," when the library first opened. West Houston Medical Center was constructed in 1985 as well. The Alief General Hospital building was abandoned. The Fame City entertainment complex and water park (which later became Fun Plex and Adventure Bay) held its grand opening in 1986. Fame City featured roller skating, movie theaters, a sound studio, miniature golf, bumper-cars, bowling, alley, games, rides, an arcade, restaurants and shops indoors, and a 10-acre water park outdoors. The Alief Brown and Root building closed in May 1987, but was reopened in November 1988 when the industry saw increased growth. Andrau Airpark was sold to the Camden Trust in 1988, although the airport continued to operate.
Population boom (1990–2005)
The size and diversity of Alief's population continued to grow. Alief's population increased by 45% from 1990 to 2005. By 1991, Alief ISD was growing at a rate of approximately 1,500 new students per year. Houston City Council District F (which included Alief and Sharpstown) had a population that was approximately 46% white with quickly growing African American, Hispanic, and Asian segments. Previously, District F had a mostly white population. Alief ISD's student population was 24% African American by 1991. By 1993, there were 34% more Asian businesses than there had been in 1982. Canterbury United Methodist Church began offering services in Vietnamese in 1995. By 1996, Alief was one of the most ethnically diverse school districts in the country. The district's students spoke a total of 57 different languages. Christ the King Episcopal Church was offering an "African Thanksgiving Feast" since many of the church members had African heritage. The district's main high schools, Hastings and Elsik, were the two largest high schools in Texas. Alief ISD estimated a total enrollment of 39,000 students in the district, with 8,582 students attending either Hastings or Elsik. Mik Giglio of the Houston Press said in 200 that in 1997 Alief "was a blend of its affluent, white former self and the predominantly poor, ethnic enclave it has since become."
By 1997, street signs in Alief near Bellaire and Corporate were in both English and Chinese. The Chinese signs had the Chinese phonetic pronunciations of the English names so that English and Chinese speakers could understand each other. In 1997, Hong Kong Development announced plans to build a center called Hong Kong City at the corner of Bellaire and Boone. The developers hoped that building west of Beltway 8 would move the center of the growing Asian business community further west. The Hong Kong City Mall opened in 1999. At the same time that the African American, Hispanic, and Asian populations increased, the white population decreased. Researchers cited social class differences as the reason most white people moved away from Alief. People with greater financial means of all ethnicities moved to further outlying suburbs with greater amenities and better performing schools during the period, while people with lesser financial means moved into the area to take advantage of newer housing and better amenities and schools than those that they left behind. The change was seen disproportionately in the white population since the white population was disproportionately wealthier. Allen G. Breed of the Associated Press wrote: "Alief is an impoverished, multicultural enclave where many of the business and street signs are in both English and one of several Asian languages. The district's 47,000 students speak nearly 70 tongues, and the number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch over 70%.".
Many developments in education took place in the 1990s in Alief. In 1993, Alief ISD instituted a rule which made passing the statewide standardized test, the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) Exit Exam, a requirement for high school graduation. Many parents protested the measure. In 1995, voters decided to allow Alief ISD to build the Hastings and Elsik Ninth Grade Centers. In 1998, voters approved funds for Alief ISD to use to build a new high school, which would later become Alief "Doc" Taylor. The period was also marked with political scandals. In 1991, a ballot box from the Boone Elementary polling location containing over 700 ballots went missing after the poll closed.
In late 1994, David M. Henington, the director of the Houston Public Library, retired. In an article about his retirement plans he told the reporter he wanted personal computers placed in all of Houston's branch libraries so that all Houstonians could access the internet "information superhighway" during their visits. In 1996, the Henington-Alief Library began offering free internet access to the public. The service was text-only and was limited to 20 minutes when other users were waiting to use the computers. The move by the Houston Public Library was intended to bring internet access to Houstonians who did not have a home computer and therefore did not have home access to the internet.
In 2005, Alief became home to many Hurricane Katrina evacuees. More than 3,000 evacuees enrolled in Alief ISD schools. Alief ISD spent $12 million to accommodate Hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005. The United States government promised to reimburse the district, but in 2006 Alief had not yet received the money. Many of the students who were displaced by the hurricane were academically behind their Texas peers. In 2006, former United States President George H. W. Bush and Houston Mayor Bill White led a fundraising campaign to help Alief ISD and other districts pay for educating the displaced students.
In the first 1991 Mayor of Houston election, most Alief voters voted for Bob Lanier. However, in the community Sylvester Turner, Lanier's opponent, had a large second-most following in terms of votes. In 2008, M. J. Khan represented the District F (which includes Alief). By December 3, 1991, increases in crime and changes of demographics in southwestern Houston neighborhoods led to many challengers desiring to fill the city council seat of District F.
The annexed portion of Alief had a population of 108,971 people which was growing at a rate of 1.15% annually in 2009. The City of Houston stated on its website that the "legendary diversity" in Alief "is evident in the large section of Asian residents and businesses along Bellaire Boulevard." According to the Alief Independent School District in 2011, "Virtually every culture of the modern world is represented in [the district's] 45,000 student enrollment; more than 80 languages and dialects are spoken," among its students. The population was 11.1% white(non-Hispanic), 27.4% black(non-Hispanic), 21.2% Asian, and 37.9% Hispanic in the annexed portion of Alief in 2009. The number of Asians and Hispanics in the annexed portion of Alief increased between the years 2000 and 2009 while the number of people from all other ethnic groups listed by the City of Houston Planning Department either declined or showed no change. The number of households in the annexed portion of Alief increased from 31,033 in 2000 to 33,654 in 2009. The average size of households in the area increased as well, from 3.15 to 3.22. The median age of residents in the annexed portion of Alief was 29.6 in 2009. The median household income in 2009 was $50,028 annually and the average household income was $54,295 annually for Alief households located in Houston. The unemployment rate increased significantly, from 7.4% in 2000 to 11.5% in the annexed portion of Alief.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) provides local bus services to the area.
METRO Park & Ride locations in Alief include:
- Gessner Park & Ride located at Westpark at Gessner, Houston, TX 77036 (Considered to be located in Alief when Gessner is considered the boundary line for Alief)
- Mission Bend Park & Ride located at 13855 Alief Clodine Rd. (at METRO Blvd.), Houston, TX 77083
- Westchase Park & Ride located at 11050 Harwin Dr., Houston, TX 77072
- Westwood Park & Ride located at 9990 Southwest Fwy. (south of Bissonnet), Houston, TX 77036 (Considered to be located in Alief when Gessner is considered the boundary line for Alief)
Andrau Airpark operated in Alief from 1946-1998 when it was closed to make room for the Royal Oaks Country Club and subdivision.
Parks and recreation
The Alief Community is home to public parks maintained by Harris County, public parks maintained by the City of Houston, and private parks and venues.
Harris County parks
Harris County operates parks throughout Alief which is in Precinct 3. Harris County parks are maintained by the Precinct's Parks Division.
Harris County operates the 11-acre (45,000 m2) Alief-Amity Park at 12509 Alief Clodine Road with a .17 mile trail. In 1975, the county acquired what is now the park site from the Cloud family. The park was dedicated in the early 1980s. The park, once upon a time, was the site of the original Alief railroad depot.
Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Park
Harris County operates the 1.25-acre (5,100 m2) Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Park at 4025 Eldridge Parkway. This park includes a .6 mile trail. Located on part of a Harris County Flood Control District site acquired in 1988, the park opened and was dedicated on June 11, 1999. It was named after Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston bishop Joseph Fiorenza.
Arthur Storey Park
In addition, the county operates the 175-acre (0.71 km2) Arthur Storey Park at 7400 West Sam Houston Parkway South (Beltway 8). In August 1995, the Harris County Flood Control District began acquiring land along the Brays Bayou, and in October of that year it agreed to allow the establishment of a park, called Brays Bayou Park, along that property. The commissioner's court voted to rename the park in January 1997 after Arthur L. Storey Jr., who worked for the Harris County Flood Control District. Storey is credited with "modernizing and streamlining the county's flood control district operations while simultaneously considering [the district's operations'] environmental implications." The park opened and was dedicated on September 26, 1997.
Mike Driscoll Park
Mike Driscoll Park is a 46-acre (0.19 km2) park located at 13534 West Houston Center Blvd. (the street formerly known as Old Westheimer Rd.) along the Westpark Tollway and Alief-Clodine Rd. The park hosts a playground and a 1.13 mile asphalt walking trail.
City of Houston parks
The City of Houston operates parks in the annexed portion of Alief. City of Houston parks are maintained by the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.
Alief Community Park
Alief Community Park is located at 11903 Bellaire Blvd. on the southwest corner of Bellaire Blvd. and Kirkwood Rd. The park was acquired by the City of Houston in 1993. The City of Houston purchased the park, which is the former Quillian Memorial Center, from the First United Methodist Church of Houston for $3.5 million. The city originally named the park Southwest Park, but changed the name to Alief Community Park in 1997. It is home to Alief Community Center and Alief Pool. The park also boasts basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, playgrounds, paved trails, and multi-purpose fields. In addition, groundbreaking took place on June 25, 2011 for a new hike and bike trail funded by a Texas Department of Transportation grant. The park is a 37.3-acre (0.151 km2) property. In May 2011, the city announced that it was closing Alief Pool due to budget cuts, however corporate donors, Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips, agreed to sponsor the pool.
Boone Road Park
Boone Park is located at 7700 Boone Rd. It was created by the City of Houston in 1984, and has since been improved by the city, oil companies, and volunteers. The parks amenities include a 1.06-mile walking trail system, cricket field, playground, picnic pavilion, and multi-purpose fields, as well as a nature preserve recognized by the Texas Forestry Department.
Hackberry Park is located at 7777 S. Dairy Ashford. The park features a nearly mile-long outer-loop trail. In addition, the park has a community center, a sprayground, and a playground. The park is the former home of Hackberry Golf Course and rests on a 22.5-acre (0.091 km2) piece of land. The park was acquired in 2007 and was dedicated two years later on March 21, 2009. The cost to acquire the property was $5 million.
Harwin Park is located at 11305 Harwin and contains multi-purpose fields, a trail system, and a playground. The park is a 8.3-acre (0.034 km2) area property and was established in 1989.
Private parks and venues
Fun Plex is an indoor entertainment facility located at 13700 Beechnut St. in Alief. Opening in 1986 as Fame City, the venue features, roller skating, bowling, a ferris wheel, a two-story playport, bumper cars, go-karts, and an arcade. The company's website claims that the facility is the largest indoor entertainment facility in Texas, measuring 5 acres. Visitors may pay for each attraction individually or purchase a package entry to multiple attractions.
Royal Oaks Country Club
Royal Oaks Country Club is located at 2910 Royal Oaks Club Dr. It and the surrounding Royal Oaks Community was built on the old Andrau Airpark. The country club has a clubhouse, golf course, fitness center, tennis center, aquatic center with pools and a water park, the Palm Grille restaurant, and a child care area. The country club was developed by the Sunrise Colony Company.
Community events and festivals
Lunar New Year Festival
The Lunar New Year Festival is an annual event which was first held in 1996. The event has featured dancing, cooking, and a beauty contest. The festival claims to be the "largest international celebration in the southwest."
The International Parade was first held in 2008. The parade is held annually near the end of September. The parade strives to include many different ethnic groups and promote the diversity of the community. The route travels down Bellaire Blvd.
Images for kids
HCC Alief Campus in Westchase
Alief, Houston Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.