Brownwood: Baytown's Most Historic Neighborhood
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This thesis argues for the need for a historical marker for the Baytown Nature Center in Baytown, Texas. Before the City of Baytown made the decision to transform this site into a nature preserve, it was the Brownwood subdivision. Brownwood was created by Humble Oil & Refining Company executives in 1937 hoping to build an exclusive waterfront neighborhood along the Burnet, Crystal, and Scott Bays for their families. These Humble Oil executives designed the neighborhood, but the residents were the ones who made it a community. After Hurricane Carla in 1961, residents noticed that their yards were sinking and the bay waters invading their backyards. They soon learned that their neighborhood was sinking. For years, Humble Oil and the surrounding municipalities were extracting excessive amounts of groundwater to sustain their growth. This withdrawal caused the clay layers underneath to collapse, which caused the surface to sink. Even worse, the subsidence made the subdivision vulnerable to flooding from tropical storms, hurricanes, torrential flooding, and eventually, high tides. When Hurricane Alicia made landfall in 1983, the subdivision had sunk about ten feet. Therefore, the hurricane completely destroyed it. Local and federal governments were tired of chronic flooding and flood insurance payouts, so they made the decision to buy out the property. Residents had to leave the subdivision, but some resisted the buyout process. They protested, filed lawsuits against the city, and remained in the subdivision as city officials finalized their plans to transform the site into a nature park. With the help of the French Limited Task Fund, the city was able to begin this project. State and federal departments, along with local companies, also helped transformed the former subdivision into the Baytown Nature Center. Regardless of its transformation into a nature preserve, the site still holds artifacts and vegetation pertaining to the former subdivision. However, most visitors simply know it as a natural preserve for fishing, kayaking, and walking. This study recommends a historical marker for the site to preserve its history and acknowledge it as Baytown’s most historical neighborhood.