Tanglewood: The Cool Neighborhood in The Hot City of Houston by Sima Sharifian

Tanglewood is located outside loop 610, south of I-10.

April 2004–Fourteen years ago, my family and I moved to Tanglewood, north of Woodway Street, from Bering Drive, not far from Tanglewood. I had always loved this quiet, spacious neighborhood and hoped to live here one day. At the time, we were among the very few families with small children and soon we became known as the family whose little blond boy was always skateboarding.

Tanglewood consists of the original section, south of Woodway Street, which evolved in 1949; and the new addition, called “New Tanglewood” by the locals, built in 1959 and 1960. The new addition, located north of Woodway Street, was developed for people who wanted a more exclusive neighborhood. The two areas are located just outside Loop 610 and close to Memorial Park, the Galleria, and The Houstonian Club. They are very similar in the style of homes, landscaping, and the general feel of the neighborhood. The only difference is that the new addition has bigger lots, bigger houses, less traffic, and fewer foreigners.

“New Tanglewood” is one of the most prestigious and beautiful residential areas in Houston. The neighborhood is famous for its beautiful fifty-year-old live oak trees, vast beds of lawn, big colorful bushes of azaleas, and the exclusive country club called ” The Houston Country Club.” Houstonians are proud of this neighborhood because of its location, beauty, tranquility, and exclusivity.

Almost all of the original residents are white, elderly Americans. Being foreigners and not having much in common with them made it difficult for us to blend in. Although I enjoyed living and raising my kids here, at times I felt excluded and alone. Tanglewood was built by a builder called William Giddings Farrington who arrived in Houston in 1926 with faith, a dream, and forty dollars in his pocket. His daughter, Mary, in her book, “Tanglewood, The Story of William Giddings Farrington” recounts the life of her father and writes, “one of Mr. Farrington’s greatest accomplishments was the development of the charmed neighborhood called Tanglewood. What started out as prairie land now consists of one of the most beautiful tree lined neighborhoods in Houston.”

The famous Tanglewood Boulevard with a fifty-foot wide esplanade in the middle is located between San Felipe and Chimney Rock. Its one-mile walking path with fifty-year old oak trees on both sides is a great place for jogging, walking, or just visiting. People sit on the teak benches placed in the middle of the esplanade to visit, enjoy the view, or just rest. Sometimes joggers stop to stretch while holding on to these benches. The old, strong branches of the oak trees cover the boulevard and the walking path like a huge umbrella. Squirrels run around, outpacing the joggers. The smell of freshly cut grass, the colorful flowers, and the majestic oak trees create a park-like atmosphere. I think it is this atmosphere along with other qualities that differentiates Tanglewood from other neighborhoods in Houston. Maybe that was why former President, George Bush and his wife chose to live here too.

The original one-story, ranch-style homes are mostly occupied by the original owners. The few houses that face the country club have a fantastic view of the club and its splendid landscape and the club’s golf course is practically an extension of their yards. The new houses are built by a younger generation with small children and they are changing the mood of the neighborhood and making it livelier. Only two families with small children had moved to our street in the last fourteen years. One of them managed to bring a lot of real snow and dump it on their lawn for their little boy’s birthday party last year. The kids, some of whom had never seen or felt the snow before, had a lot of fun sliding on the hills of snow.

While many new houses are being built along the boulevard and on the adjacent streets of old Tanglewood, there is little new construction occurring in new Tanglewood because of the bigger lots and higher prices. Since there are very few vacant lots left, people who need one have no choice but to buy and demolish the old houses and replace them with new two-story ones. Although I like to see new houses and younger residents, I hate to see the old neighbors die and with them part of the history of the neighborhood.

The facades of the original houses are all brick, where as some of the new ones have a stucco finish. The houses and streets are very similar in style making it very easy to get confused and lost, if one is not familiar with the neighborhood. Every time I have a big party one of my guests ends up ringing my neighbor’s doorbell by mistake.

One of my next door neighbors, the Monroes, are a nice white American couple in their late seventies with three grown up sons and have been living here for forty four years. They were very nice to my kids and have watched them grow up and leave home. My daughter visits them every time she comes to Houston. Mrs. Monroe told me that her husband and many other neighbors used to work for the oil companies before retiring. I asked her about the history of the neighborhood and she said “when we moved to our house in January of 1960, Woodway was a two-way paved road with ditches on both sides.” She added, “The neighborhood was like a small town, life was leisurely, and everybody knew each other. The only close stores were a barbershop and a pharmacy called Post Oak Pharmacy. The pharmacy also served sandwiches for lunch and it was a place for the residents to have lunch, drink coffee, or just chat. Everyone had a charge account and the bill was added to our account.” She continued, “The closest grocery store was in Highland Village and in the Galleria area, there was just one department store called Sakowitz.” In fact I remember the Sakowitz store and loved to shop there.

Now there are many shopping centers in the area. The above picture shows a center that is located in Tanglewood. This center has a Wallgreen, Bluckbuster vedio, and Quizno’s subs, my son’s favorite. Tanglewood is also very close to the Post Oak blvd., the most expensive street for the retailers, with different shops and restaurants, like Maggianos. Galleria, the biggest and most prestigious shopping center in Houston with shops like Luis Vuitton, is very close to the neighborhood. The pictures that follow show a view from outside and one from inside the mall.

My favorite time in Tanglewood is the spring when the azaleas bloom. Big bushes of azaleas in a variety of colors surround the houses. If you drive by in the spring, you see waves of purple, white, red, and pink beds of azaleas everywhere. One of the houses on our street has many beautiful rose gardens and has named and dedicated each rose to someone special. She has even named one after the former first lady, Barbara Bush. The beauty and aroma of the roses makes walking by these houses a wonderful experience. My husband walks everyday but he doesn’t like to walk at night for safety reasons. Except occasional incidents against elderly women wearing expensive jewelry while entering their homes, the neighborhood is generally safe with patrol cars driving around day and night. The quiet neighborhood is very popular for walking or biking.

The only sound in the early mornings during the spring and summer is the lovely, relaxing sound of birds singing and on summer nights, the crickets screaming. The birds come in a variety of nice colors like bright yellow, orange, and red. The neighborhood is full of squirrels that race over the electric wires like acrobats and climb up the trees with incredible speed and expertise. I think the birds and the squirrels add to the charm of the neighborhood. Sometimes a young, inexperienced squirrel is run over by a car and the remains leave a sad view for a few days. We are not used to seeing garbage because of the back-door garbage pickup system that keeps the Tanglewood area clean and unique.

Azalea Trail, the Fourth of July celebration and parade, and the Tanglewood Garden Club’s social gatherings are a few events that take place in the Tanglewood area.

The Azalea Trail was established by the River Oaks Garden Club sixty nine years ago. A few historic houses in River Oaks and new Tanglewood areas are included in the trail. These houses are open to the public to visit during two weekends in March.

The spectacular fireworks at the Houston Country Club on the Fourth of July was my children’s favorite event in the neighborhood and they would pass through the vacant lots to take a short cut to the club. The Fourth of July Parade takes place on Tanglewood Boulevard in the morning and horses and trains are provided for the children to ride.

The Tanglewood Garden Club was organized on February 20, 1951 as a social club with four gatherings a year. Tanglewood residents can become members by paying annual dues. The objective of the club as stated in article two of the constitution is “to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening among amateurs, to aid in the protection of native trees, plants and birds, to encourage civic planting and to generally improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.” My other next door neighbor, a widow in her eighties named Margaret, welcomed us to the neighborhood with a homemade cherry tart when we first moved here and later invited me to join the club. I have learned a lot about the neighbors and the history of Tanglewood by both going to these gatherings and living here for fourteen years. I have come to call it home away from home.

Houston is proud of having two prominent neighborhoods, River Oaks and new Tanglewood. In addition to the class, beauty, and history of these neighborhoods, their exclusivity and originality differentiate them from other areas in Houston and make them popular among native Texans especially but among many others as well.




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