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History Of The Woodlands?


IronTiger

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One of the things I've been kind of curious about is the history of The Woodlands, Texas, which doesn't seem to be very well-documented since it was only built in the 1970s. Some tidbits I've gleaned include the Wharf, which was actually built (something I doubted initially) and contained an ice rink and boutique shops. It was eventually renovated into a conference/resort center, but I have seen no pictures of the inside as it was. An article I read on George Mitchell mentioned how The Woodlands didn't have a lot of grocery stores (if any) at first, but the Chron refers to (through article searches) that an upscale local grocery chain called Jamail's sold out two stores to Randalls in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Apparently the shopping center at Sawdust and Interstate 45 had both a Wal-Mart and a Kmart in there at some point (the Kmart being one of the extra-small late 1970s prototypes). Is there a place where I could find out more of the history of these types of things?

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In the early 60's friends and I used to go swimming between here and Conroe, if I am not mistaken it was about where the Woodlands are now. It was a popular swimming spot with sandy beaches. It was on the west side of US 75 now I-45. I remember it was privately owned and you were charged a fee to get in. I think it was owned by a member of the Allan Shivers family. For the life of me I can't remember the name of it now. Any help on the name and exact location would be a great help.

 

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In the early 60's friends and I used to go swimming between here and Conroe, if I am not mistaken it was about where the Woodlands are now. It was a popular swimming spot with sandy beaches. It was on the west side of US 75 now I-45. I remember it was privately owned and you were charged a fee to get in. I think it was owned by a member of the Allan Shivers family. For the life of me I can't remember the name of it now. Any help on the name and exact location would be a great help.

 

Lakeland? My grandparents owned property there. Believe it or not, the subdivision is still there, it's probably not "private" anymore. The entrance was/is where the BMW dealership is now, south of Tamina.

Edited by cowboybud
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Lakeland? My grandparents owned property there. Believe it or not, the subdivision is still there, it's probably not "private" anymore. The entrance was/is where the BMW dealership is now, south of Tamina.

 

I remember it now, it was Ashe Lake, it is located just west of the Hardy toll road and I-45 split

 

Edited by Michelle C
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<_<  I was referring to more of the "post-built" Woodlands, something that would be more than just broad strokes. However, since HAIF never had much of a following that lived in The Woodlands (much less today), I doubt I'll find anything useful on the HAIF, admittedly.

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<_<  I was referring to more of the "post-built" Woodlands, something that would be more than just broad strokes. However, since HAIF never had much of a following that lived in The Woodlands (much less today), I doubt I'll find anything useful on the HAIF, admittedly.

 

 

....yeah....not sure you'll find much about the history of grocery stores in the woodlands.  what does the "post-built" woodlands mean?  are you interested in the progress of development from inception to now?

 

the most interesting thing to me about the woodlands is the planning that came before the development.  the months spent walking thousands of acres to determine flood plains and the mitchell's and environmentalists planning how natural run-off to area creeks was central to determining how/where each village was placed.  it was very detailed and no clear cutting (originally....now days they almost have to, to meet epa requirements/yes, the environmental protection agency makes it necessary to remove thousands of trees and makes it uneconomical to preserve existing vegetation)  

 

interfaith was a key factor in providing a sense of community. interfaith was the welcome wagon for all new residents and became a major community outreach for everything from food pantries, senior services, counseling....interfaith brought/brings people of all faiths together to support common humanitarian/community ideals.

 

in grogan's mill, the wharf/convention center, was a lone island of development for a long time, then panther creek, cochran's crossing/indian springs, research forest, the mall/pavilion, harper's landing, alden bridge, sterling ridge, town center, the waterway, eastshore, creekside......if you look at the interactive map on the woodlands website and look at my list (maybe not exactly in order but close) you can see the development pattern.

 

the location of retail initially was intended to be completely hidden but this made it difficult for retail to survive and prevented certain franchises from having interest in the village retail centers. inevitably, retail has creeped front and center over the years.

 

one genius idea of the master plan was to leave the freeway frontage area undeveloped until the population of the area could support large scale retail.  most developers would have cashed in on the easy frontage right away, mitchell and his crew knew that it would benefit the region and the woodlands proper to have space for large corporations, retail and hospitality closer to build out.

 

the woodlands is more than the built environment.  when someone asks about the history of the woodlands, it's easy for locals to think you might mean the actual history of the woodlands.

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I actually am checking out "Houston Today", a great book from the 1970s that includes compiled plans and renderings of numerous projects in and around Houston from that era. AllenCenter, The Woodlands, Galleria II, Westbury Square, and a bunch more. But since so much of The Woodlands has changed, it's hard to get a feeling for what the area was like in the "early days".

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  • 2 months later...

I lived in The Woodlands in the early 90's, in middle school. We spent quite a bit of time on our bikes on the dirt roads, past the "No Trespassing" signs that existed on the then-edge of development around Kuykendahl, just exploring. We moved there right as the supermarket in Grogan's Mill Shopping Center was closing. The name Jamail's sounds right. The Kroger shopping center at Research/Gosling opened about 1994. Before that, it was basically Randall's at Panther Creek, Piggly Wiggly in Oak Ridge, or the now-closed Randall's and Kroger that were near Sawdust/Budde. We spent a lot of time at that Kroger shopping center, and Panther Creek saw a marked decline when it opened. There used to be a video store where the Starbuck's is now, called Take One Video, and that's where we would rent our games. That was eventually bought out by Blockbuster though, who already had a store by the new Kroger.

 

I know that, in about 1995, I found a book at the library in The Woodlands that was about its history, mostly in terms of Mitchell's initial development. The one thing that interested me the most was the master plan for the community that he had drawn by hand, incorporating office and industrial (the "Trade Center" area that was finally built up only a few years ago) into housing. And the housing was spread out into different densities for different incomes. I may head over there tomorrow to see if it's still on their shelves.

 

That old Wal-Mart on Sawdust sat vacant for many, many years. I recall it being vacant as late as 1999, with the outline of the sign still visible above the doors. That now-Hobby Lobby K-Mart (I believe it was even a Super K-Mart) opened around 1993, IIRC. I don't recall what else was in that old strip mall with Kroger and Wal-Mart, except for Ninfa's, Cici's, and a Sundale Donuts.

 

Just thought I'd add that.

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Hobby Lobby was too small and opened way too early to be a Super Kmart, and it was gone long before Kmart pulled out.

 

In terms of pre-development stuff, I was able to get something from that Houston Today book I've been showing off (Houston Center, mostly--see the Houston Potential thread), that does have that, but I'm not interested in that right now.

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You're probably right about it not being "Super," but it did have a Little Caesar's inside. I remember being really excited about that.

Oh. OHHHHHHHHH.

 

I'm an idiot, for some reason I thought the store to the east of the original Wal-Mart was the old Kmart...that appears to be an old Kroger.

 

So when did the Kmart close? The only things I can pull up is that Kmart did open a 107,000 square foot project (store + surroundings) around 1993 and about 50k square feet were leased to Hobby Lobby in 1996, but that doesn't confirm or deny that it closed in that time. In the meantime, it definitely closed before 2002 because it wasn't on the list of store closings in 2002 or 2003.

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Bear with me on this and feel free to ask me anything and i'll do my best to answer questions about the early days of The Woodlands.

 

There's a lot to be said about the early days in The Woodlands. My family moved there in '90-'91. When we moved there, the original Montgomery County library had just burned down and was temporarily relocated to what is now the Shell training center in the Grogan's Mill shopping center. The original was located near Lamar Elementary on Many Pines Rd.  

 

The only theater was the Cinema 6 or 8 (it was a number) in what is now the Pier 1 Imports on I-45. You could go there or drive down to the Loews in Spring which was next to the Blimp Base for the Good Year Blimp (that today is a Loew's and other big box retailers.

 

As far as Grocery stores go, the main places to go were the Randalls in Panther Creek, the Randalls on Sawdust (today it's a 99 cent store), or the Kroger on Sawdust, as mentioned earlier in this thread. HEB came in a little later in the same place it is today, but oriented towards Sawdust. It was next to a Blockbuster Video and an Eckerd Drug.

 

IronTiger, you're right about Kmart, it closed mid 90s. It wasn't open too long.  After the original walmart (Big Lots now) closed, that space was a Craft store (Ben Franklin something i think).

 

Since it wasn't as populated as it is now, there was no overpass at Woodlands Parkway, the foundation was there though.  Every car had to exit to the light and wait to continue on Woodlands Parkway.  That used to be the location of the Christmas event "Lighting of the Doves" as well.  They stood facing east where the overpass is now.

 

Pretty much the only thing to do in the early 90s before the mall and tinseltown was the bowling alley and the small theater i mentioned earlier, unless you went into town.

 

There were also very few stop lights back then, everything was a 4 way stop sign.

 

The golf courses were originally designed to flood in order to prevent the flooding of neighborhoods, which is why when it flooded badly in '93, a lot of homes were spared.

Edited by zstrater86
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HEB came in a little later in the same place it is today, but oriented towards Sawdust. It was next to a Blockbuster Video and an Eckerd Drug.

 

Yes, it was originally a 1970s-era Safeway that closed in 1987. H-E-B Pantry came in a few years later. The whole thing was wrecked around 2002 to build the new store (about the same time CS upgraded its Pantry store to full-line, though in that case, it moved)

 

The Kroger in question closed February 2009 after its lease ended (a 15 year lease, though it looks far older)

Edited by IronTiger
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I remember the Ben Franklin being there and, while it was open, you could still see the outline of the Little Caesar's sign at the top. Hobby Lobby was originally where Fitness Connection is now, on Sawdust, IIRC. I never went into either store, though I recall going to the K-Mart a couple of times (which, I think was actually "Big K").

 

I forgot about the "HEB Pantry" period. My dad told me a story about that place in the early 90's the other day, about it smelling like death and they couldn't find the source, so they tore it down. Not sure if that's true, but I believe it was totally closed for close to a year in the mid-90's while they completely redid it.

What's most surprising to me about that corner is that Hartz Chicken Buffet, Thomas BBQ and Sam's Cafe (the sign, at least) are still there today. Sam's was a Kettle for a long time; at least until the mid-90's. Also: 19th Hole. Even when I was 12, my friend's parents would bring us over there to see bands. That was a sketchy little place. Lots of cocaine.

Is the bowling alley on I-45 not there anymore? At McCulloch HS, they bused us over there for the bowling unit in PE.

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Hobby lobby has always been where it is now after the K-Mart closed, i think it was a Big K too.  Fitness Connection used to be a Bally Total Fitness.  The Kettle I think you are talking about wasn't the Sam's. It was over near the La Quinta and is currently a Denny's near Research Forest. It had the best breakfast buffet.

 

As for the bowling alley, i think it's getting redone right now, i drove by last weekend and it was painted new colors.

 

I never went to the 19th hole but i do remember it was near a jazzercise place that my mom went to. There were a lot of those back then.

 

The WAC (Woodlands Athletic Club) next to the Grogan's Mill shopping center was the only pool to go to before they built all the other public pools out there now.

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Big Kmart I think came in-line 1996 and 1997 and were facelifts of the existing Kmart stores (they got nearly all of the stores), so I don't think the Woodlands Kmart was ever branded as such. It must have been a regular Kmart. However, Little Caesar's was introduced into Kmart in the early 1990s.

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It may not have been a Hobby Lobby, but it was some crafts store, originally. I knew a girl who worked there for a period in high school. It had the reputation of smelling like sewage.

 

There were two Kettles on I-45 for a brief period. I have this old interstate exit guide from about 1989, that included Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, and showed all the businesses around the exits on the interstates. I'll have to pull it out when I get back to CA, because some of the businesses there were pretty interesting. That Popeye's has been there forever too.

And I meant to mention before, regarding the '93 flood, there were houses on the golf course that flooded in Grogan's Point. I was always surprised that they built the land along Spring Creek up so much after that, though maybe the Corps finally came in and did something about the problems. There was a plan to put a reservoir in at both the east (I-45) and west (Kuykendahl) sides of the then-Woodlands. The western one was shown in that Mitchell master plan I mentioned. The first structure at Northgate Crossing was some sort of water thing on the north side of the toll road, and I was told it was for the reservoir but was never used. It was pretty vandalized the last time I saw it, and I think they removed it when they built the housing development on that side (it was first on the south side). The Palmer Course also flooded really badly because of Bear Branch, but I don't think any houses were damaged. We rode our bikes around on the day the flood occurred, all the way out to Cochran's Crossing and back via Research. We had to wade through the water to get over the bridge.

 

I drove by the mall today and realized another weird retail shift: what is now Bonefish Grill used to be Blockbuster Music. I think it was empty for a really long time, too.

 

I also just got reminded of the Teen Center. I believe this is just "Woodlands Recreation Center" in Bear Branch Park now, off Research. They had a carpeted, indoor basketball court surrounded by little rooms that you could rent and use for band rehearsal. These were absolutely destroyed, so they stopped that activity. I'm not sure when it ceased being the "Teen Center."

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have this old interstate exit guide from about 1989, that included Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, and showed all the businesses around the exits on the interstates.

 

 

That is really cool.

 

Anyway, a little something I found--it's a partial facade of what the H-E-B Pantry sign in The Woodlands used to look like, added to the Safeway facade when they opened (the Galveston one got no such fancy facade). The College Station one used to look almost identical to this, except it wasn't green.

post-4782-0-70952700-1399505618.gif

Edited by IronTiger
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  • 1 year later...

What then, was the store at Briar Forest and Interstate 45? It's empty in the 2002 Google Earth aerial (and has since been completely redeveloped) and has a garden center and everything! It probably isn't a Kmart given its proximity and timeline with the other one (though one can never be too sure, they have engaged in some rather questionable locations and moves). Was it a big hardware store if not, then?

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What then, was the store at Briar Forest and Interstate 45? It's empty in the 2002 Google Earth aerial (and has since been completely redeveloped) and has a garden center and everything! It probably isn't a Kmart given its proximity and timeline with the other one (though one can never be too sure, they have engaged in some rather questionable locations and moves). Was it a big hardware store if not, then?

 

Is the street still called Briar Forest? I tried looking it up on GE but could only find the Briar Forest over by Highway 6.

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I had a roommate in college (mid 70's) whose parent's lived in Newport, a Diamond Head development on Lake Houston. He was bragging about how Newport would become more successful and stay desirable for a longer time because the Mitchell's used HUD money to develop their properties and that they would have to provide "affordable" housing because of that. Hah!

I'd like to find that guy today and ask him how his parent's fared with their investment.

 

I think The Woodlands has to be one of the most successful suburban developments of all time.

 

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  • 2 years later...
  • 2 years later...

I go to the Hobby Lobby on Sawdust Rd which happened to be a Kmart or Big-Kmart once upon a time, I just love how they still very much have a Kmart façade ex: (the doors still have the Kmart Welcome stickers, they still have the big vents, they still have the Kmart tile, etc) it just really reminds me of going to Kmart when I was younger.

Also if I remember correctly, wasn't "Ba-Mien2" a Blockbuster at one time? and Wasn't there a Cingular Wireless where "Luminous Dental" is now in the former Randalls parking lot?

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11 hours ago, FilioScotia said:

My favorite "repurposed" store is the huge Spec's Liquor store in the building formerly occupied by Academy Sports and Outdoors. I stop there when I'm in that area because of the huge supply of everything "spiritual". 

 

That strip center parking lot was a nightmare when Specs was in the small space next door to Academy.   Especially on the weekends. 

 

Anyone ever skate at The Wharf ice rink? 

 

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  • 5 months later...
On 4/22/2014 at 5:05 PM, zstrater86 said:

The teen center was called the Gorilla Hole for a while. There used to be dances and roller hockey there too.

 

 

Yep I remember waiting in line to buy tickets to the dances before they sold out. Played roller hockey there as well. Miss those days!

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On 4/22/2014 at 12:08 AM, Colin said:

I lived in The Woodlands in the early 90's, in middle school. We spent quite a bit of time on our bikes on the dirt roads, past the "No Trespassing" signs that existed on the then-edge of development around Kuykendahl, just exploring. We moved there right as the supermarket in Grogan's Mill Shopping Center was closing. The name Jamail's sounds right. The Kroger shopping center at Research/Gosling opened about 1994. Before that, it was basically Randall's at Panther Creek, Piggly Wiggly in Oak Ridge, or the now-closed Randall's and Kroger that were near Sawdust/Budde. We spent a lot of time at that Kroger shopping center, and Panther Creek saw a marked decline when it opened. There used to be a video store where the Starbuck's is now, called Take One Video, and that's where we would rent our games. That was eventually bought out by Blockbuster though, who already had a store by the new Kroger.

 

I know that, in about 1995, I found a book at the library in The Woodlands that was about its history, mostly in terms of Mitchell's initial development. The one thing that interested me the most was the master plan for the community that he had drawn by hand, incorporating office and industrial (the "Trade Center" area that was finally built up only a few years ago) into housing. And the housing was spread out into different densities for different incomes. I may head over there tomorrow to see if it's still on their shelves.

 

That old Wal-Mart on Sawdust sat vacant for many, many years. I recall it being vacant as late as 1999, with the outline of the sign still visible above the doors. That now-Hobby Lobby K-Mart (I believe it was even a Super K-Mart) opened around 1993, IIRC. I don't recall what else was in that old strip mall with Kroger and Wal-Mart, except for Ninfa's, Cici's, and a Sundale Donuts.

 

Just thought I'd add that.

The Candy House was a fun place to stop while riding bikes to Panther Creek. You might remember Ruby Begonias there as well. Over by Sundale donuts there was the bars Rookies and Barney's pool hall and across the street was the 19th hole.

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  • 7 months later...
Posted (edited)

That Walgreens was there when I was a kid in the late 1990s and also its architecture looks similar to some other Walgreens or former Walgreens I've seen, are you sure it was a hobby shop?

I think there was a Ben Franklin Crafts somewhere in that shopping center. I vaguely remember the little Walmart that was the Big Lots, it moved across the road into the building that's now a self storage warehouse. The Hobby Lobby and Dollar tree further to the west was a Kmart.

What a blast from the past though. That shopping center had a bunch of neat things. There was a pet store called Wet Pets, the owners came to our elementary school and brought snakes and other critters for us to touch.

Across the road in that old Randall's was a Marco's mexican restaurant our family ate at a lot, those used to be a big thing but now seem to have vanished. Also next to that Randalls was a video store that rented/sold NES games which was pretty awesome.

Late 90's our family moved out of state and to other various places and even though I live in Houston again I honestly never venture to that area of the metro.

Edited by zaphod
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  • Highrise Tower changed the title to History Of The Woodlands?

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