The west end of Baytown, sometimes called Old Baytown, will now be identified as the Historic West End.
This distinction is much more than just a name change, as it is one of many steps the City of Baytown is taking to improve the cornerstone of the city.
Council approved the designation and branding of the western segment of the corridor, which is defined as the area on the north and south sides of Market Street, west of its intersection with West Main Street, and east of its intersection with Bayway Drive.
“While this is the boundary for the Historic West End, it can still be used for the whole area,” Tiffany Foster, director of Planning and Development Services, said. “The idea is to revitalize the entire area.”
The branding is part of the Market Street Corridor Study that was conducted by Burditt Consultants.
“Part of continuing this implementation plan would be the branding,” Foster said. “We will be working with other city departments to do signage and develop a logo that we would like to see in any other public or private developments that may come out of this plan.”
In the short term, the city plans to demolish building slabs, install streetscape trees near industrial parking areas and apply street overlay between Minnesota Street to South Airhart Drive.
“Physical improvements are already in the works,” Foster said. “We have some sidewalks going in. There will be some street overlays in that area as well.”
In the Market Corridor Study, the objective is to enhance or rehabilitate the economic and aesthetic value of the corridor to inspire private investment.
“I know there’s been a lot of excitement already about the development and the first question is: How long will this take to come to fruition,” District 1 Councilwoman Laura Alvarado said. “But with the work that is already being done. I applaud Tiffany’s team and the city for working hard to help us develop something that would be feasible. Starting out in phases, as we do all of our projects, we know it will take time, but I think everyone is excited about the changes already happening.”
In the comprehensive corridor study, driven by community input, pedestrian infrastructure was the highest priority identified, with streetscape improvements, retail business developments and landscape nodes topping the list.
The study also included catalyst projects throughout the area such as converting the existing, and abandoned, railroad into a designated bike and pedestrian trail. This particular project would also include landscape medians, covered seating and bike racks at an estimated cost of $1.2 million.
The study also featured the development of a round-a-about at the intersection of Decker, Market and West Texas, which would cost nearly $1.4 million.
Burditt also suggested installing primary and secondary gateway monuments along Highway 146 to welcome visitors.
If the city were to complete the full range of projects, it would cost about $8 million. But the study will be used as a guide for the future of the Historic West End.
“I’m happy to see the word ‘historic’ acknowledged,” District 2 Councilman Chris Presley said. “We’ve had a lot of discussion in the past about if its always been acknowledged and it’s nice to see that it has. I think it’s an important aspect of that area and other areas of Old Baytown.”
The Historic West End is a name that embodies the birth of Baytown because that’s where it all began. The area might still be a grassy plane on Black Duck Bay if it had not been for Ross Sterling’s Humble Oil Company.
When the corporation, which now calls its ExxonMobil, opened its refinery in the area west of Goose Creek in May 1920, the plant workers bought their homes nearby, creating a community that owed its existence to the refinery in whose shadows it grew.
Humble Oil would prosper from its Goose Creek oil fields, but the name sounded too rural to executives, so they christened the town Baytown, appropriating the name from a community founded on Scott’s Bay in the 1880s.
Baytown was located on a triangular block between Market and Minnesota streets and the population grew gradually. Business then spread along Market Street and up Main.
Long-gone businesses like the Arcadia Theater, Katribe’s Clothing, Rettig’s Ice Cream Shop, Gilmore Shores and Grenader’s Grocery Store were there in the bustling days of the Historic West End.
After a 1948 merger bound Baytown, Pelly and Goose Creek together under a single municipal flag, the old neighborhood became known as Old Baytown.
The post-World War II era would gradually bring a number of changes that would gradually transform the greater Baytown area. And many of those changes combined the push the old section of town into a slow but steady decline.