The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988

Book Reviews

The Woodlands: New Community Development, 1964-1z983. By George T.
Morgan, Jr., and John O. King. (College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M
University Press, 1987. Pp. xii+162. Preface, prologue, photo-
graphs, maps, tables, graphs, notes, bibliography, index. $27.50.)
Building a new city is an enormous challenge of physical and political
coordination. Residents of new cities on the nineteenth-century fron-
tier commonly found that it took two decades to develop basic services.
In the twentieth century, community builders have often thought they
could do better by programming the development of new settlements
according to comprehensive master plans. One product of this assump-
tion was federal legislation in 1970o that promised loan guarantees and
supplemental grants to builders of economically and socially inclusive
"new towns." The Woodlands, north of Houston, is one of the very few
of these federally assisted new towns to have come anywhere close to its
original plans.
The present study is a thorough and balanced presentation of the
management history of the Woodlands. The book focuses on the inter-
nal decisions through which energy entrepreneur George P. Mitchell
conceived and planned the Woodlands and through which his Wood-
lands Development Corporation oversaw the transformation of plans
and ideas into drainage ditches, houses, and commercial buildings.
Written largely from internal documents, the community press, and in-
terviews with top management, the study offers an unofficial "insider's
story." Although frequently skeptical of management decisions, its view-
point remains that of the head office. Residents, politicians in nearby
communities, and federal officials appear essentially as outside factors
to be dealt with or accommodated. A brief sketch of city-planning
thought and a good summary of the legislative history of the new-
towns initiative provide context for the experience of the Woodlands.
In journalistic accounts of America's metropolitan future, the Wood-
lands often appears as the leading edge of urban form-tomorrow's en-
vironment of self-contained, dispersed centers already on the ground
in the pine forests of Texas. In George T. Morgan, Jr., and John O.
King's more sober account, the development is a more ordinary but
also more understandable community. Many of the development deci-
sions, such as the manipulation of municipal utility districts to shift
capital costs to future residents, have been standard in Texas suburban-
ization. From initial design work in 1966 until 1975, the development's
future was always in jeopardy because of lax internal management, the
inability or unwillingness of HUD to deliver on commitments, and
weaknesses in the local housing market. Corporate reorganization and

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed September 1, 2014.