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Montgomery is a town of approximately 2,000 people. It is 15 miles west of Conroe and 50 miles northwest of Houston, at the junction of Texas 105 and FM 149 in western Montgomery County. In 1826 Montgomery was established as a trading post, then was chartered in 1837. It is known as the birthplace of the Texas Lone Star Flag. History enthusiasts will enjoy Cedar Brake Park, Fernland Historical Park, the N. H. Davis Pioneer Complex, Memory Park, and 37 historical sites in the area. Montgomery also hosts festivals throughout the year, and offers numerous casual and upscale restaurants. Enjoy great antique shopping, tree-lined streets, and well-planned subdivisions.
Bellaire is located on I-Loop 610 approximately 10 miles southwest from downtown Houston. It is south of The Galleria area and north of Meyerland. The city of Bellaire has a population of approximately 19,000. In 1908, William Wright Baldwin, president of the South End Land Company, founded Bellaire by purchasing the 9,440-acre Rice Ranch. Baldwin built Bellaire Boulevard from Bellaire to Main Street in Houston, with an electric streetcar line built down the center that operated from 1910 until 1927 when replaced by bus service. In 1918 Bellaire obtained a city charter. Growth blossomed after World War II, but was halted when Houston annexed the land surrounding Bellaire in 1948. Bellaire is a residential community known for its family recreation. The Bellaire Town Square Family Aquatic Center has a 14-foot dive well, lap lanes, splash pad, and a waterslide. Eveyn’s Park is a 5-acre park built on the site of the historic Tea’s Nursery. Bellaire has an additional 14 parks and a dog park. Bellaire is also known for its baseball. Its little league team won the U.S. National Championship at the 2000 Little League World Series.
Located approximately 40 miles north of downtown Houston, Conroe has a population of 98,000. Conroe was founded in 1881 when retired Civil War veteran Isaac Conroe came from Illinois to build a sawmill at the I-GN rail junction. Agriculture and the lumber industry helped Conroe grow quickly until the Great Depression. The economy revived when George Strake discovered oil 7 miles southeast of Conroe in 1931. Today the Conroe area offers a historic downtown, historic Montgomery, plus several museums and galleries. There is also a variety of family-friendly entertainment, including go-karts and paintball, plus restaurants and taverns. Conroe is bordered by Lake Conroe and two forests, the Sam Houston National Forest and the W. Goodrich Jones State Forest. Lake Conroe offers boating, bass fishing, and riverboat dinner cruises. The forests offer hiking and more than 300 bird species to watch.
Cleveland is a town of 8,400 in Liberty County. It is 45 miles northeast of Houston on I-69. In 1836 the Texas General Land Office started giving land grants in exchange for army service, opening the area for settlement. In 1878, Judge Charles Lander Cleveland deeded 63 acres of land to the Houston, East & West Texas Railway for just $1 with the request that the station bear his name. With the appearance of the Gulf, Colorado, and Sante Fe Railroad in 1900, Cleveland became a junction for these major railways. The lumber industry continued to grow, and sawmill towns proliferated. In 1939 Cleveland was incorporated. While most of the sawmills are gone now, Cleveland is still an important shipping point for lumber, lumber byproducts, sand, and gravel. Oil, gas, cattle, and farm products are also important to the town’s economy. Cleveland is in the midst of mixed pine and hardwood forests and surrounded by the East Fork and San Jacinto Rivers. Many Houstonians come to camp, hike, hunt, and fish in the forests, including the Sam Houston National Forest.
Founded in 1974, this master-planned destination is located 28 miles north of downtown Houston. Developed around 28,000 acres of piney woods, it’s appropriately named The Woodlands. The Woodlands provides a range of outdoor activities. The Woodlands Resort Golf Course offers 36 holes of championship golf. There are more than 220 miles of hike-and-bike trails and 110 parks. Lake Woodlands and The Woodlands Waterway offer rentals for swan boats, water bikes, stand-up paddle boards, and kayaks. There’s also Texas TreeVentures, an aerial adventure course. There’s also a variety of luxury experiences, too. Shop at Market Street or one of the more than 200 stores at The Woodlands Mall, identified as one of America’s best shopping destinations by Southern Living Magazine. Dine at one of the more than 150 restaurants in the area. Enjoy an afternoon of pampering at one of the area’s numerous spas. The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is the cultural gem of The Woodlands. It’s ranked as one of the top ten amphitheaters in the world, and regularly hosts live musical performances by top artists and groups from all genres.
Willis is a town of approximately 7,000 that is located 8 miles north of Conroe. Willis began to develop in 1870 after the Union Pacific Railroad was built through the area. The economy was primarily based on lumber and agriculture. In the early 1960s I-45 was extended through Willis, helping to further integrate the area into the regional economy and providing for suburban development. Willis is close to the many water activities available at Lake Conroe, including boating, fishing, jet skiing, and dinner cruises.
Lake Conroe is approximately one hour north of downtown Houston. Lake Conroe was built on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River in 1973 as an alternative water source for the City of Houston in response to a seven-year drought in the 1950s. With 150 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 20 feet, Lake Conroe offers clean, clear water for a variety of recreational activities: boating, fishing, water skiing, etc. Lake Conroe is surrounded by luxurious waterfront real estate developments, hotels and condominiums. Many of Lake Conroe’s communities have marinas and valet boat launching, plus superior golf courses and tennis facilities. The Margaritaville Resort on Lake Conroe is a major attraction in the area. The 186-acre resort features 18 holes of golf, a water park, two restaurants, boating, and fishing. It also has 72,000 square feet of meeting space.
Panorama Village is a city of approximately 2,500. It is located on the west side of I-45 approximately 5 miles north of Conroe, and just south of Willis. In 1964 the Bamwood Development Company developed 660 acres at the headwaters of White Oak Creek into the Panorama Golf Club, then developed the subdivision around it. In 1969 the civic association organized and then purchased the golf club. Panorama Village incorporated in 1972 with a population of 304. Panorama Village is governed by a mayor and 5 council members. It has its own city ordinances, fully staffed police department, and a fire station maintained by the City and staffed by the North Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department. It also has its own water and sewer system. Panorama Village is in the Willis Independent School District.
Walker County is bordered by Grimes, Montgomery, and San Jacinto Counties on the south. It has a population of approximately 73,000. Its county seat, Huntsville, is 30 miles north of Conroe. What is now Walker County, Texas, was first colonized in the early 1830s. Pleasant Gray and his brother Ephraim established a trading post that eventually became Huntsville, Texas. Steamboat navigation on the Trinity River, primarily cotton, spurred early commerce. In 1837 the area was included in Montgomery County when it was separated from Washington County. In 1846 the first legislature of the new state of Texas established Walker County, with Huntsville as its county seat. It was originally named for Robert J. Walker, Secretary of the Treasury in President Polk’s Cabinet, but was renamed Walker in 1863 in honor of Capt. Samuel H. Walker, Texas Ranger who was killed in action in Mexico. Lumber and livestock became important businesses in the 20th century. Area historical attractions include the Texas Prison Museum, Sam Houston Memorial Museum and the Sam Houston home, and the Sam Houston statue. The county is also surrounded by 55,000 acres of the Sam Houston National Forest.
Huntsville is 30 miles north of Conroe. Located In the center of Walker County, Huntsville is also the county seat. It has a population of approximately 42,000. In 1835 or 1836 Pleasant and Ephraim Gray founded an Indian trading post named Huntsville, after their former Huntsville, Alabama home. The 1840s and 1850s saw more arrivals from the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. In 1849 Huntsville became the site of the first state penitentiary and lost the bid for state capital to the city of Austin. In 1872 the 8-mile Huntsville Branch linked Huntsville to the Houston & Great Northern Railroad. In 1879 the first teacher-training institution in Texas, Sam Houston Normal Institute (later Sam Houston State University) opened in Huntsville. Lumber, livestock, farming, and tourism have formed the base of the city’s economy. In the 1970s and 1980s the local economy was revitalized by growth in metropolitan Houston, the penitentiary system, and Sam Houston State University. Home to Sam Houston, Texas hero and first President, Huntsville was called the “Mount Vernon of Texas.” Historical attractions include the Sam Houston Memorial Museum and the Sam Houston home. Outdoor attractions include Lake Livingston, Sam Houston National Forest, and Huntsville State Park.
Oak Ridge North
Oak Ridge North is a town of approximately 3,000 located along I-45 approximately 10 miles south of Conroe and 35 north of Houston. One of the youngest cities in Montgomery County, Oak Ridge North was developed by the Spring Pines Corporation of Arkansas in 1964. The area was bordered by Budde Road on the west, Blueberry Hill on the east, Woodson Road on the north, and Oakwood Drive on the south. Most of the subdivision was east of I-45. In 1969 United Diversified, Inc., took over the development. As Houston annexed cities in the 1970s, it didn’t always provide services. Residents of Oak Ridge North asked if Conroe was interested in annexing the area, but Conroe wasn’t. In 1979, on the second attempt, the residents voted to incorporate the City of Oak Ridge North.
Shenandoah is a town of approximately 3,000 in Montgomery County. Nine miles south of Conroe, it consists of two square miles that straddle I-45. Most of Shenandoah is boundaried by The Woodlands. In the 1960s land on the east bank of Panther Creek was developed as Shenandoah Valley. It was popular with Houstonians seeking relief from lower city’s high real estate, tax, and insurance costs. Shenandoah incorporated in 1974. Shenandoah’s more than 40 stores offer a variety of shopping experiences, ranging from big box stores to discount fashion retailers to specialty shops. It has four major shopping centers: Sam Moon Shopping Center, Metropark Square, Research Forest Shopping Center, and Research Plaza Shopping Center. Additional shopping in The Woodlands is also close by. Shenandoah also has nearly 50 restaurants that offer a variety of price points and cuisine. For family fun, Shenandoah has the Urban Air Adventure & Trampoline Park and Six Flag Hurricane Harbor Splashtown.
Porter is an unincorporated area on the eastern edge of Montgomery County. Traveling north from Humble along U.S. 59 (now I-69), Porter is the first area just across the county line. It’s on the Southern Pacific line at the intersection of State Highway 494 and FM Road 1314. The town’s population is around 2,000 while the surrounding area has a population of approximately 25,000. Porter was founded in the 1800s. From 1896 to 1915 it was the county seat. It had a post office form 1892 through the 1930s. The town was known for lumber, livestock, and two general stores. In the 1960s more people began moving to Porter as the Houston area expanded. In 1965 the Porter schools were incorporated into the New Caney Independent School District. Growth and development continue to erase the boundaries between these two communities.
New Caney is an unincorporated area on the eastern edge of Montgomery County, located north of Humble. Traveling north along U.S. 59 (now I-69) from the county line, New Caney is just after. It has a population of approximately 22,000. Austin and Sarah Presswood came from Georgia in 1862 and founded what was then known as Presswood. In 1882 James J. Robinson wanted a post office, which required having an official town name. He wanted Caney, presumably because of the dense cane brakes along the area creeks, but there was already a Caney in Texas, so the town used New Caney instead. New Caney was known for its sawmill, as well as Robinson’s mercantile, grist mill, and steam cotton gin. New Caney experienced most of its growth in the 1980s due to its proximity to the Houston area. Today it and the nearby Porter have grown into one another, and share the New Caney Independent School District.
New Waverly is a town of approximately 1,000 located 17 miles north of Conroe and 55 miles north of Houston on I-45 in Walker County. From 1835 to the 1850s, what is now known as Old Waverly was settled by people from Alabama. The community was named after the Waverly novels by Sir Walter Scott, which at the time were very popular. In 1870 the Houston & Great Northern Railroad Company wanted to run a railroad line through Waverly. The residents refused, so the railroad laid its track 10 miles west and allocated land for a town to be called Waverly Station. Many residents of Old Waverly moved to the new community, which soon became known as New Waverly. From 1870 to 1902 many Polish immigrants came to assist landowners. The economy was largely based on cotton, then later lumber. In 1952 the community incorporated as New Waverly. By 1990 the largest employer was the lumber company Louisiana-Pacific.
Spring is an unincorporated area 20 miles north of Houston along I-45. Most of Spring is in North Harris County; a small part is in Montgomery County. It has a population of approximately 80,000. The Spring area was first settled in the 1820s by some of Stephen F. Austin’s colonists. In 1838 William Pierpont established a trading post on Spring Creek. Immigrants then came from Germany (in the mid-1840s), then Louisiana and the post-Civil War South. In 1871 the Houston & Great Northern Railroad built a line through Spring, which led to substantial growth. In 1873 a post office was established in Spring. By 1904 the International-Great Northern Railroad connected Spring to Fort Worth, and Spring became a major switchyard with a round house and 14 trackyards. In 1923 the railroad moved the roundhouse to Houston, which led to a decline in population. The population later rebounded, especially during the expansion of Houston suburbs in the 1970s. During this era some old homes were restored and opened as shops, which later grew to a tourist attraction of more than 80 shops by 1989. Spring was the base of one of the three Goodyear airships from 1962 to 1992.
Farm-to-Market Road 1960 (FM-1960) is 47 miles long. Its western terminus is the intersection of TX-6 and TX-290. From there it intersects TX-249, I-45, and I-69 to end at TX-321 in Dayton in Liberty County. It used to include what is now designated TX-6. It goes through 26 zip codes. The area now known as FM-1960 was first settled in 1838 by Benjamin Page, George Delesdenier, and Daniel Harmon. Their land tracts were more than 4600 acres each, and covered all the land from present I-45 west to Cutten Road, and from FM 1960 north to Louetta. Part of modern FM-1960 was the southern boundary of the Delesdenier tract. The area remained largely agricultural until the late 1940s, when Jackrabbit Road and Bammel Road were connected by the county. In the 1950s the state took over the road, designating it “Farm-to-Market Road 1960” (FM-1960). The road helped enable the development of the 1960s and 1970s, as great numbers were drawn by Houston’s low cost of living, low taxes, aerospace industry, and petrochemical companies. Today it is one of the Houston area’s major commercial corridors.
Klein is 22 miles north of Houston. It is bordered by TX-249 on the west and I-45 on the east, with TX-99 on the north and Houston on the south. It has a population of approximately 200,000. German immigrants established the Big Cypress community on Cypress Creek in the 1840s, including the five Strack brothers. The 1850s brought the Wunderlichs from Lichtenstein, Jaco Theis from Rosehill, and Adam Klein from Stuttgart after a successful stint in the goldfields of California. In 1884 Adam Klein worked to establish a post office in 1884 in William Blackshear’s general store on Spring-Cypress Road. The area it served was named Klein in Adam’s honor. In 1938 Klein Independent School District was formed. Though its 88 square miles hasn’t had a post office since 1906 (served by Houston, Spring, and Tomball post offices), in 1977 the state legislature designated the district as Klein, TX. Many of its schools in the late twentieth century were named for early settlers. At the Wunderlich Farm, the Klein, TX Historical Foundation maintains the Peter Wunderlich Homestead, the Hildebrandt House, the Kohrville School, and the Klein, TX Museum.
North Harris County
North Harris County includes Cypress, Bridgeland, Jersey Village, and Tomball in the northwest; Klein, Spring, Aldine, and Willowbrook in the north; and Humble in the east and Copperfield in the west. In 1824 John Richardson Harris, as part of Stephen F. Austin’s first colony, received land at the confluence of the Buffalo and Bray’s bayous(near present-day Pasadena). He founded Harrisburg, which became Harrisburg County in 1836. In 1839, Harrisburg County became Harris County and the county was trimmed to its current boundaries. In the 1840s German immigrants settled the northwest areas of Harris County. French immigrants settled Willow Creek, and after the Civil War immigrants from Britain and Scotland settled Spring and Cypress Creeks. Railroad development increased dramatically in the late 1800s, contributing to the growth of Spring and Tomball. In 1933 the Humble Oil Company, now Exxon, struck oil in Tomball. The oil wells in Northern Harris County continue to be productive. The 1960s and 1970s saw tremendous development in North Harris County, as people moved to the area to live while they worked the nation’s third largest port, in the petrochemical industry, or in the aerospace industry.
In 1836 Augustus Chapman Allen and John Kirby Allen first advertised the City of Houston, named for Sam Houston, in a Texas newspaper. In 1837 Houston incorporated and became the county seat of what is now Harris County. Early settlers used lumber to build homes, ditches for drainage, and pigs to clean streets. Nine epidemics of yellow fever occurred between 1838 and 1868. Cotton was the main agricultural product. By 1861, with lines in five directions from 50 to 100 miles, Houston was the rail center of southeast Texas. In 1873 Houston joined the national rail network. In 1952 the first freeway (now I-45) was built. In 1969 Houston Intercontinental Airport was built, later renamed George Bush Intercontinental Airport in 1997. Houston’s first refinery was built in 1918. By the 1970s Houston was a world energy capital. To avoid being encircled by incorporated suburbs, Houston began annexing suburbs in 1948. It went from 73 square miles in 1940 to 627 square miles by 2015. It even threatened to annex all unclaimed land in Harris County. Its strongly contested annexation of Kingwood in 1996 resulted in the state law changes that limited the city’s annexation power.
Kingwood is approximately 25 miles northeast of Houston. Kingwood has a population of around 70,000; the ten miles surrounding it have a population of approximately 175,000. Beginning around 1892, the Foster family owned part of the land that became Kingwood. In 1967 the Foster Lumber Company sold their tract of land to the joint venture between the King Ranch and the Friendswood Development Company, a master planning and real estate development subsidiary of Exxon. The community grew quickly during the oil boom of the 1970s. In 1996 the City of Houston annexed Kingwood. Kingwood is heavily wooded with tall pines and 20 other varieties of shade trees. It includes more than 500 acres of private nature preserves and parks, which host a variety of deer, fish, birds, and other wildlife. It has more than 75 miles of hike and bike trails that are great for walking and bicycling. It also has two golf courses.
Located 45 miles northwest of Houston, Magnolia is west of The Woodlands and north of Tomball. Its current population is approximately 2,100. The greater Magnolia area has a population of more than 138,000. Housing includes planned communities, established subdivisions, custom homes with acreage for animals, and ranches and farms. Settled in the 1840s, Magnolia was known as Mink’s Prairie and then simply Mink. In 1902, the railroad came to town and renamed it Melton after a landowner. But the post office confused it with Milton, Texas, so often that in 1903 the area was renamed Magnolia after the trees along the nearby Mill Creek. It was incorporated as the City of Magnolia in 1968. Magnolia offers a variety of outdoor activities, from golf to camping, birding, hiking, and fishing at ponds, Lake Conroe, or the nearby piney woods. Magnolia is also a great area for cyclists: five MS-150 qualifying cycling routes run the scenic Montgomery Trace year-round Magnolia also hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year. The most famous festival is the Texas Renaissance Festival, the largest of its kind in the region, which features demonstrations, reenactments (including jousting), entertainment, shopping, and a variety of food.
In the mid-1800s, European settlers were drawn into the area now called Tomball by thick forests and rich soil. In 1907 the area was named Tomball in honor of Thomas Ball, a former congressman who had arranged for the railroad to go through the town. In 1933 the area became known as “Oiltown USA” when the Humble Oil Company, now known as Exxon, struck oil. Tomball has a lot to offer history enthusiasts. There’s historic downtown Tomball, with the railroad depot, museum, and antiquing galore. There are also more than 40 historic markers, museums, and cemeteries in the area. Tomball hosts a variety of festivals and live performances. Enjoy the atmosphere and food at one of the award-winning music, food, and heritage festivals throughout the year. Enjoy a live performance at Main Street Crossing, or attend one of the many community and professional theater productions throughout the year. Tomball also provides a variety of opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. Fish, kayak, or canoe along the Cypress or Spring Creeks. Enjoy more than 30 driving ranges and golf courses in the area. Watch for birds or photograph on the more than 575 acres of woodlands in the area.
Humble (pronounced “umbl”) is 10 miles northeast of downtown Houston. It has a population of approximately 15,000. Humble was named for a nineteenth century settler. In the early 1900s its oil fields–the largest in Texas at the time–led to its becoming an oil boomtown. The oil fields were managed by the Humble Oil & Refining Company, now known as Exxon. Humble’s oil fields are still producing today and its economy is still based on petroleum. The Humble area includes the Deerbrook Mall, the Humble Museum, the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center, four parks, a civic center, and a covered civic arena.
Katy is located just 25 miles west of downtown Houston. The greater Katy area has a population of approximately 340,000. Katy was once the prairie hunting ground of the Karankawa Indian tribes. In 1895 the town site was laid out. The name may have come from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway or “MKT” running through the area. The 1900 hurricane destroyed many buildings, but citizens rebuilt. In 1945 the City of Katy was formally incorporated. Katy has a number of offerings for history enthusiasts. Learn about historic passenger trains at the restored Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Depot. View agricultural and pioneer history artifacts at the Katy Heritage Museum. Walk or drive to visit the Ancestral Homes of Katy markers. Or enjoy outdoor activities and historic buildings at Heritage Park. Historic downtown Katy offers shopping, food, and fun. Enjoy unique beer, food trucks, and live music at the No Label Brewery. And Typhoon Texas, a 43-acre waterpark, is a great way to cool off in the summer heat.