Pasadena, off State Highway 225 between Houston and Deer Park in southeastern Harris County, was founded in 1893 by John H. Burnett of Galveston. Because of its lush vegetation the site was named for Pasadena, California. The La Porte, Houston and Northern Railroad was built through the townsite in 1894 and opened the area for development as a farming community. Retired Kansas banker Charles R. Munger and land promoter Cora Bacon Foster were instrumental in organizing the early community. After the Galveston hurricane of 1900 Clara Barton, of the American Red Cross, purchased 1½ million strawberry plants for Gulf Coast farmers. Pasadena quickly established itself as the strawberry capital of the region. By the 1920s all of southeast Harris County was known as "Pasadena Acres." In addition to strawberries, the Pasadena farmers sold cantaloupes, cape jasmine flowers, cucumbers, and other produce. A private school was established in Pasadena in 1894 and became a part of the Harrisburg Common School District by 1895. In 1899 Pasadena residents formed an independent school system, the first in Harris County. A four-year high school program was established in 1924 with the construction of Pasadena High School. Both the Genoa and South Houston school districts were consolidated into the Pasadena system in 1935. A union Sunday school was organized in 1893. Adults attended the union church in the nearby community of Deepwater. The Methodists were the first to form a church in Pasadena in 1896. The Baptists followed in 1898. Both congregations shared the use of the schoolhouse until the Baptists completed their church building in 1905. The Methodists erected their building in 1907. The Assembly of God church was formed shortly thereafter and built a churchhouse.
The citizens of Pasadena voted to incorporate on December 22, 1923, and then elected to disincorporate on November 29, 1924. They voted finally to incorporate in 1928. The city held about half the land Burnett had originally platted for his town. At the time of incorporation water, electricity, and gas utilities had only recently been brought to the community. Burnett had laid his town out on the southern bank of Buffalo Bayou, which became the Houston Ship Channel. When Joseph Stephen Cullinan, founder of Texaco, moved his company to Houston in 1906, he purchased 200 acres in nearby Pasadena. There he operated an experimental farm for twenty years, while he promoted this site and other lands along the ship channel. The Sinclair (now ARCO), Texaco, and Crown oil companies all built refineries in the area by 1920.
Transition from a farming economy to an industrial one did not occur until the late 1930s, when the war in Europe spurred a major increase in the ship-channel industries. Pasadena had a population of 3,436 in 1940 and 22,483 in 1950, as the postwar boom continued. It annexed the communities of Deepwater, Middle Bayou, and Red Bluff. From 1.7 square miles in 1893 the community site grew to 58.6 square miles in 1980, when the city had a population of 112,560 people. In 1993 Pasadena had a population of 122,805 and 2,147 businesses. By 2000 the population was 141,674 with 3,709 businesses. Employment in Pasadena is closely linked to the ship-channel industries, Bayport Industrial District, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in adjacent Clear Lake. San Jacinto College and Texas Chiropractic College are located in Pasadena. Musical entertainment ranges from the fare at Gilley's Country and Western Club to performances of the Pasadena Philharmonic Orchestra. The Pasadena Historical Museum, Bay Area Museum, Armand Bayou Nature Center, Pasadena Rodeo, and San Jacinto Strawberry Festival are major tourist attractions.