River Oaks is a Houston, TX, neighborhood of more than 1,100 acres located between Uptown and Downtown. It was established in the 1920s by two brothers as a model of community planning. River Oaks is the most affluent community in all of Texas and one of the top ten wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. Real estate values top $20 million.
Brothers William and Michael Hogg, sons of former Texas Governor Jim Hogg, partnered with attorney Hugh Potter to create River Oaks. In 1923, Mr. Potter purchased 200 acres of land near the River Oaks Country Club. The next year, William Hogg formed Country Club Estates to support and promote development of the planned community. In 1928, lots in the subdivision were sold for $2,200 each. Meanwhile, the Hogg brothers started construction of Bayou Bend, a southern-style mansion on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou.
The upscale development plan included parks and green spaces with trees, shrubs and flowers, and the community was billed as “a distinguished experiment in fine living.” The neighborhood became a model for high-end community planning. Photos of the community featuring architecture and landscaping were seen in design journals, newspapers and real estate publications. Home values were required to be $7,000 or more, and minorities were excluded. Specific architectural guidelines were in place, especially along Kirby Drive, where only American Colonial and English Tudor architectural styles were allowed. Before the close of the decade, River Oaks had already become the most expensive area in Houston. By the end of World War II, it had become an exclusive enclave for Houston’s wealthiest residents.
River Oaks Boulevard traverses the center of the neighborhood and is flanked on both sides by stately gated mansions which are set well back from the road. The community includes almost 8,200 homes, almost all of which are single-family residences. Although some estates are thought to be overdone, most are described as “tasteful and graceful mansions with lovely gardens.” River Oaks adults have a median age of about 47, and most of them are upper class professionals. Although this is a residential area, River Oaks offers fine dining, night life, shopping, entertainment and cultural events.
Constructed in 1927 and designed by architect Hugh Prather, this retro-glam shopping center was Houston’s first retail mall designed for those with automobiles. Additional high-end shopping at the Houston Galleria is just across I-610 with everything from Neiman Marcus to Baby Gap. The historic River Oaks Shopping Center includes the original River Oaks Theatre. Considered an “art house theatre,” it features foreign and independent films. Built in 1939, it still retains the original Art Deco style and is one of the few remaining neighborhood movie theaters in the country.
River Oaks is home to the River Oaks Country Club. The upscale club boasts a golf course designed by architect Donald Ross and hosts an international tennis tournament every year.
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