Press Release | Houston Ship Channel Commemorates Centennial with Special Events and Initiatives

September 06, 2014

HOUSTON – Nearly a century ago on November 10, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson pushed a button from 1,400 miles away in his Washington, D.C. office, igniting a cannon at the Houston Ship Channel Turning Basin, which officially opened the channel for operation.

In its first 100 years, the ship channel secured its place as one of the region’s most valuable economic generators, as well as a priceless maritime wonder. This year, the Houston Ship Channel will honor and celebrate its centennial with a range of special events and initiatives including Centennial Family Festival, the Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel exhibition, a Rededication Ceremony and much more.

Throughout its history, whenever the ship channel has grown, so has the city of Houston. It is no surprise that during a visit to the ship channel in 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called the Houston Ship Channel a ‘vital resource’.  In 2012, ship channel-related business provided over one million jobs throughout Texas, generating $178.5 billion in economic impact and $4.5 billion in state and local taxes. As one of the most active waterways in the world, the Houston Ship Channel has entertained a number of industry firsts:

  • It was the first federal project to have a local funding match; a model used for other federal navigation projects since that time.
  • The first direct shipment of cotton to Europe left from the Houston Ship Channel.
  • Synthetic rubber was mass produced for the first time at ship channel-area plants and shipped through the port during World War II.
  • The world’s first container ship was unloaded at the Houston Ship Channel.
  • NASA selected Houston as its first choice for its new headquarters in 1961 largely due to the waterway’s ability to transport bulky space vehicles.

The following special events and initiatives will honor the milestones of the ship channel’s past 100 years and celebrate its importance to the economic future of Houston and the surrounding region.

Stories of a Workforce Exhibition, Sept. 2, 2014 through Jan. 31, 2015, Julia B. Ideson Library

Houston Arts Alliance Folklife + Traditional Arts Program, in partnership with the Houston Public Library, will mount a major exhibition, Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel, in the beautiful gallery at the newly renovated Julia B. Ideson Library. The exhibit will explore the diverse culture, heritage, and lore of work associated with the Houston Ship Channel, and introduce the general public to the men and women who make up the massive workforce. Stories of a Workforce will track, from the perspective of the living men and women who work there, the dramatic transformations over the last 50 years – the period when the majority of imports and exports were moved through physical labor and piece work - to the introduction and almost complete ascendancy of automation and containerization. The exhibit will examine the complex relationship of highly sophisticated technologies and the local knowledge and experience that informs this highly productive workforce with photo and audio installations, augmented by authentic equipment, garments, and personal work logs. Stories of a Workforce will be accompanied by a variety of public programs, including lectures, panel discussion and activities for children.

Centennial Family Festival, Sept. 6, Bayport Cruise Terminal

To honor the East Side and surrounding Ship Channel communities, a regional outdoor family festival will take place at the Bayport Cruise Terminal on Saturday, September 6 from 2 to 6 p.m. Geared toward area families and open to the public, this hands-on celebration will feature educational and interactive elements. Activities and attractions range from tours of the M/V Sam Houston, a tug boat tug-of-war, an interactive antique fire truck, toy sailboat games, face painting, treasure hunts, delicious food and much more. The daily traffic of the ship channel will serve as the festival’s lively backdrop. The Centennial Family Festival is free and open to the community, but attendees must pre-register to obtain their tickets, which will include a pre-determined timeslot for arrival. For more information, call the Port of Houston Authority Community Information Line at (713) 670-1000 or visit

American Association of Port Authorities Convention, Nov. 9-13, Hyatt Regency Houston

This four-day long annual convention is AAPA's largest membership meeting of the year.  The 2014 convention will be hosted by the Port of Houston Authority and includes technical and policy committee meetings, business sessions and social networking opportunities for port professionals and others in the marine transportation industry.

Historic Rededication Ceremony, Nov. 10, Brady’s Landing

A private rededication ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the deep-water Houston Ship Channel is planned to unfold November 10, during the AAPA Convention Week. The rededication celebrates the historic day in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson pushed a button from his office in Washington, D.C. to fire a cannon at the Houston Ship Channel Turning Basin, officially opening the channel for operation.

Centennial Documentary, November

Texas Foundation for the Arts is producing a 60-minute documentary television program created for broadcast on Houston Public Media TV 8 (Houston’s PBS affiliate) in the last quarter of 2014. The program will detail the rich history of the Houston Ship Channel, provide an overview of ship channel operations and explain the importance of the ship channel to the people of Texas and beyond.

Centennial Commemorative Book, August

The 100th anniversary book will celebrate the last century of successes along the Houston Ship Channel as well as the great feats the Port of Houston’s leaders accomplished to develop what is now one of the country's leading ports. This is a detailed account of the Houston Ship Channel told in chronological order through text and photos beginning with the transformation of Buffalo Bayou into a 52-mile deep-water channel.

Centennial Curriculum Guide, August

The Houston Ship Channel Centennial Curriculum Guide will reach educators and students of Greater Houston through The World Affairs Council of Houston Education Outreach. The Council works with more than 150 middle schools, high schools in 23 districts, as well as colleges and universities. The Centennial Curriculum Guide will feature sections on the ship channel’s history and future, port operations, the economic impact of the Houston Ship Channel industries, lesson plans and more.


About the Houston Ship Channel Centennial

On November 10, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson christened the Houston Ship Channel, inaugurating Houston’s destiny as a maritime industry leader.  The channel went on to become the driving force behind Houston’s robust economy, ensuring its place as a key asset to the region’s future.  Throughout 2014, the Houston Ship Channel Centennial will celebrate the accomplishments of its first 100 years, and set sail for another 100 years of progress and prosperity.  A series of events will honor this momentous anniversary, including: the Stories of a Workforce exhibit at the Julia Ideson Library, presented by the Houston Arts Alliance; a commemorative book; Centennial Family Festival at the Bayport Cruise Terminal; a historic documentary produced by Texas Foundation for the Arts, airing on Houston Public Media TV 8; the American Association of Port Authorities Convention; and a rededication ceremony. For more information, please visit