Heritage, Summer 2003 Page: 19
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Seemingly lost within Houston's almost endless urban sprawl
lies the City of Bellaire. Few who pass through this quiet innercity
of homes realize it's there unless they see the signs that mark
the city's limits or notice that street signs have changed from
Houston's green to Bellaire's red.
F ewer still, including most locals, realize that the
City of Bellaire would not exist today had it not been for the
endeavors of William Wright Baldwin, an entrepreneur and
vice president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy
Railroad who came to Houston seeking investment opportunities.
Houston was growing rapidly in the early 1900s, and
the influx of people looking for homes offered excellent
opportunities for new residential development.
Present-day Bellaire occupies land that was once part of
the vast holdings of William Marsh Rice, founder of Rice
Institute, now Rice University. W.W. Baldwin had already
developed Westmoreland Place, a broad boulevard of fine
homes in Houston, when he purchased the Rice Ranch in
1908. Baldwin's South End Land Company subdivided the
9,700-acre ranch and surveyed 3,000 acres on its eastern edge
for the development of Westmoreland Farms. It was
described as a "unique suburban agricultural development" in
an advertisement that appeared in the Houston Daily Post in
February 1910. Located on treeless land that was miles from
Houston, the development's success hinged on the marketing
of this new housing concept and providing reliable access to
Houston's commercial markets and cultural amenities.
Westmoreland Farms' unique master plan may well have
been influenced by emerging city-planning concepts that
evolved around the turn of the century. Spawned by reaction
to the deplorable living conditions found in congested urban
centers created by the Industrial Revolution, city planners
began seeking ways to create a better quality of life in urban
environments where factories,
housing, and recreation would
harmoniously coexist. Given
birth in western Europe, this
reform movement saw several
popularized efforts to create the
"utopian" community. A wellknown
example was Ebenezer
Howard's concept for the
"Garden City," which proposed a
model that combined the virtues
of the city with that of country
living. In this plan, an inner belt
of housing and commercial development
with ample green space
radiated from a central park that
was surrounded by civic struc- A man with a vision: Devi
A man with a vision: Dev
tures. This residential and com- Baldwin. Opposite: First
Baldwin. Opposite: First
mercial area would be encircled Bellaire trolley, DecembE
by a broad transportation boule- Both images from t
Both images from tl
vard, and beyond, an outer belt Women Civic Club Coo
Women s Civic Club Coo
for industrial and agricultural
Evidence that Howard or other contemporary planners
possibly influenced Baldwin's concept can be found in a 1909
advertisement for lots in the new town (page 21). In that promotion,
the proposed plan is graphically illustrated, showing
"Bellaire Town" as an orderly grid of streets around a linear
central park, surrounded by large agricultural tracts, highlighting
the town's location "Right in the Heart of
Westmoreland Farms." Further illustration of this plan can be
run of the
wr 28, 1910.
H SUMMER 2003
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Summer 2003, periodical, Summer 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45377/m1/19/: accessed July 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.