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Houston is a large metropolis in Texas, extending to Galveston Bay. It’s closely linked with the Space Center Houston, the coastal visitor center at NASA’s astronaut training and flight control complex. The city’s relatively compact Downtown includes the Theater District, home to the renowned Houston Grand Opera, and the Historic District, with 19th-century architecture and upscale restaurants.
Comprising a total area of 637.4 square miles (1,651 km2), Houston is the eighth most expansive city in the United States (including consolidated city-counties). It is the largest city in the United States by total area, whose government is not consolidated with that of a county, parish or borough. Though primarily in Harris County, small portions of the city extend into Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, bordering other principal communities of Greater Houston such as Sugar Land and The Woodlands.
The city of Houston was founded by land investors on August 30, 1836, at the confluence of Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou (a point now known as Allen's Landing) and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837. The city is named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the Republic of Texas and had won Texas' independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto 25 miles (40 km) east of Allen's Landing. After briefly serving as the capital of the Texas Republic in the late 1830s, Houston grew steadily into a regional trading center for the remainder of the 19th century.
The arrival of the 20th century saw a convergence of economic factors which fueled rapid growth in Houston, including a burgeoning port and railroad industry, the decline of Galveston as Texas' primary port following a devastating 1900 hurricane, the subsequent construction of the Houston Ship Channel, and the Texas oil boom. In the mid-20th century, Houston's economy diversified as it became home to the Texas Medical Center—the world's largest concentration of healthcare and research institutions—and NASA's Johnson Space Center, where the Mission Control Center is located.