Looking down the wide swath of a bustling IH-10, gleaming glass office towers lining the concrete corridor, it’s hard to imagine that one of the nation’s fastest-growing business districts has always been West Harris County’s epicenter of commerce.
But then this place has always drawn dreamers who made good on their dreams.
Now home to some 300 multi-national, national and local companies, plus their 91,000 employees, The Energy Corridor continues to draw leading-edge businesses with its strategic location, skilled workforce and desirable neighborhoods and schools.
But in the 19th century, it was prairielands full of farming and hunting potential that beckoned German homesteaders, who would one day have the vision to capitalize on the San Felipe Trail that Texas’ founding fathers used to transport goods westward from Houston.
The Germans built rough-hewn pier-and-beam homes from the hardwood trees towering above the area’s bayous and creeks, forged close-knit communities in places they would call Addicks and Bear Creek, and constructed turnvereins – octagonal buildings where neighbors barbecued and danced together. They grew corn and cotton and milled both in Addicks. They raised cattle and formed dairy coops to quench a young Houston’s growing thirst for milk. And they traded food for wild game brought in by Alabama-Coushatta Indians.
By the late 1890s, the Addicks cotton gin was humming with activity.
When the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (MKT) Railroad laid steel along the old trail connecting Cane Island (now called Katy) to the burgeoning port hub of Houston, long-lost towns like Barker and Letitia (known as Addicks) bustled with farmers and ranchers going to market. They often gathered at the MKT rail depot – the same spot where the Addicks Park and Ride serves commuters today.
Today, old Addicks, Barker, Bear Creek and their turnvereins have faded into dust, but the German entrepreneurs’ dreams of commerce live on, driven in part by a new San Felipe Trail, the 18-lane Katy Freeway that connects The Energy Corridor and its 300 businesses to the world.