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River Oaks, Houston

Diana J. Kleiner General Entry

River Oaks is by Buffalo Bayou and Memorial Park in west central Houston. The residential garden suburb, which comprises 1,100 acres, was developed in the 1920s by Michael Hogg and attorney Hugh Potter, who in 1923 obtained an option to purchase 200 acres surrounding the River Oaks Country Club. In 1924 Hogg organized Country Club Estates to promote the development. The two developers retained Kansas City landscape architects Hare and Hare to provide a master plan that would protect the environmental integrity and natural beauty of the area. They also hired J. C. Nichols, who built one of the first major shopping centers in the United States, to serve as a design consultant. The master plan included homesites, a fifteen-acre campus for River Oaks Elementary School, two shopping centers, and esplanades planted with flowers. It called for underground utility lines, eliminated alleys, allowed only three intersecting streets, provided rigid building codes, and eventually banned all commercial traffic. Deed restrictions and centralized community control assured exclusivity; approval of house designs by a panel of architects and citizens and a purchase price of at least $7,000 were required. A "gentleman's agreement" excluded Blacks, Jews, and other minorities. The first home in the area, built by Will and Sue Clayton, is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Among the other notable houses is Ima Hogg's family home Bayou Bend, designed by John F. Staub and Birdsall P. Briscoe. In the late 1920s the development lost money, but by the late 1930s developers had invested $3 million in the project, and the community had begun to influence development patterns downtown. In the 1990s River Oaks was at the geographic center of Houston. The community operated independently for three years, after which it was annexed by the city of Houston.

Stephen Fox, Houston Architectural Guide (Houston: American Institute of Architects, Houston Chapter, 1990). Marguerite Johnston, Houston, The Unknown City, 1836–1946 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Barry J. Kaplan and Charles Orson Cook, "Civic Elites and Urban Planning: Houston's River Oaks," in Houston: A Twentieth-Century Urban Frontier, ed. Francisco A. Rosales and Barry J. Kaplan (Port Washington, New York: Associated Faculty Press, 1983). Don Riddle, River Oaks: A Pictorial Presentation of Houston's Residential Park (Houston: River Oaks Corporation, n.d.).


  • Communities
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “River Oaks, Houston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed February 25, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: