HISTORY: Learn about George Mitchell’s namesake buildings and institutions in The Woodlands

Residents of The Woodlands may be familiar with the name of entrepreneur George P. Mitchell, who founded the community in 1974. But some who knew him said they hope the public institutions named after him—including, most recently, a section of I-45—will serve to remind residents of his vision for a sustainable master-planned community.


Mitchell, who died in 2013, would have turned 100 on May 21, and The Woodlands also reaches a milestone this year, marking 45 years as a community in October. Having amassed wealth as the founder of Mitchell Energy and Development Corp. in the mid-20th century, Mitchell was known for pioneering a successful approach—fracking—to extract natural gas from shale. But locally, he is known for bringing his community vision to fruition with the development of The Woodlands.


“He wanted to revitalize living in the greater metropolitan area. … Cities were rotting, and this was something to refresh the area,” said Steve Leakey, a member of George’s Coffee Club, a nonprofit group dedicated to bringing about community awareness of Mitchell’s contributions.


On June 10, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 2571, a piece of legislation written by state Rep. Steve Toth, R-Woodlands, and Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, and sponsored by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. The bill designates the portion of I-45 between Hwy. 242 and the Montgomery-Harris county line as the George P. Mitchell Memorial Highway in recognition of his contribution to the area.


Although The Woodlands started with just a few hundred residents and has grown to about 115,000, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data.


Roger Galatas, former president of The Woodlands Corp., said while Mitchell was involved in the creation of numerous public entities within The Woodlands, including the nonprofit research group Houston Advanced Research Center and social service agency Interfaith of The Woodlands, only a few bear his name.


An intermediate school on Conroe ISD, a county library, a performing arts center and a nature preserve are named for Mitchell and his wife, Cynthia Woods Mitchell. Another milestone, the 40th anniversary of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, was celebrated by the arts venue in April.


Mitchell also emphasized sustainability and natural preservation in developing the community, and he set aside a large portion for open space with an eye to preserving natural habitat and wildflowers, Galatas said. George Mitchell Nature Preserve opened in South Montgomery in 2007.


“There’s 25% in open space [in The Woodlands], and that was very important to him, to live with nature,” he said.


WIth the addition of I-45 as The Woodlands founder’s latest namesake, his former associates said his significance to the community can be recognized by more people traveling in and through the area.


“He was the ultimate visionary, looking ahead and to see ... the future,” said Karen West, a friend and former attorney for The Woodlands Corp.

SHARE THIS STORY
By Vanessa Holt

A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of the paper in March 2017.


MOST RECENT

Here is what to know about rent, mortgages and utility bills during the coronavirus. (Courtesy Fotolia)
FAQ: Paying bills in the time of coronavirus

What to know about rent, mortgages and utility bills during the coronavirus

Cisco's Salsa Company in Tomball offers food to-go. (April Halpin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Facebook groups drive support to local restaurants in northwest Houston areas

Nick's Local Eats and Houston Eats To-Go are just two Facebook groups who have urged members to support local eateries amid the coronavirus outbreak causing restrictions on restaurant dine-in services.

Texas Tribune: Some local elections in Texas moving ahead despite coronavirus spread

A handful of towns and special districts still plan to go ahead with their May 2 votes, arranging polling places despite calls from the president on down directing people to stay at home to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Lake Travis Fire Rescue is one of hundreds of emergency service districts serving millions of Texas residents across the state. Firefighters, EMTs and medical professionals said they are concerned about the availability of personal protective equipment as the coronavirus public health crisis continues. (Brian Rash/Community Impact Newspaper)
First responders, medical professionals across Texas worry about inadequate personal protective equipment supplies

In a survey of emergency service districts across the state, two-thirds of respondents said they were concerned about a shortage of equipment such as masks, goggles and gloves.

Harris County is the third fastest-growing county in the U.S., according to 2019 census data. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Harris County ranked fastest-growing, most populous county in Texas by 2019 census data

As the 2020 U.S. Census rolls out across the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau released its July 1, 2019, population estimates March 26.

Montgomery County ranks No. 9 among the fastest-growing counties in Texas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Courtesy Flourish)
U.S. Census: Montgomery County ninth-fastest-growing county in Texas

The county’s population grew 3% from July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019, increasing from 589,770 to 607,391.

The Abundant Harvest Kitchen's three staff members and seven volunteers have provided hundreds of meals and thousands of pounds of food to the community since the pantry's launch in March. (Courtesy The Abundant Harvest Kitchen)
The Abundant Harvest Kitchen's food pantry begins service in Spring

The new pantry launched in late March, and follows the creation of the Abundant Harvest Food Truck in 2017.

The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center plans to keep its doors open as long as it can. (Photo by Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
'It's an important statement': The Woodlands Marriott remains open despite low occupancy

The Woodlands Marriott plans to stay open as long as it can despite low occupancy

Superintendent Curtis Null explained that proms have been canceled, but seniors are still expected to graduate on time. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Conroe ISD lays out changes during extended closure

Superintendent Curtis Null explained that proms have been canceled, but seniors are still expected to graduate on time.

America's ER has opened a cash-only, drive-thru testing site at Stonebridge Church, located at 1 Stonebridge Church Drive, The Woodlands. (Courtesy National Institutes of Health)
Health officials warn against private coronavirus testing site in The Woodlands

America's ER has opened a cash-only, drive-thru testing site at Stonebridge Church.

Tomball and Magnolia ISDs have extended their school closures amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Dylan Sherman/Community Impact Newspaper)
JUST IN: Tomball ISD closed until further notice; Magnolia ISD extends closure

Both Tomball and Magnolia ISDs issued statements late March 31 noting the districts will remain closed amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Census day is April 1. (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
With local funding on the line, Houston's census advocates navigate coronavirus challenges

An undercount in the Houston area could affect federal aid allocations and congressional representation.