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Houston was granted incorporation on June 5, 1837, with James S. Holman becoming its first mayor. In the same year, Houston became the county seat of Harrisburg County and the temporary capital of the Republic of Texas. In 1840, the community established a chamber of commerce in some cases to promote shipping and waterborne business at the newly created port on Buffalo Bayou.By 1860, Houston had emerged as a commercial and railroad hub for the export of cotton. Railroad spurs from the Texas inland converged in Houston, where they met rail lines to the ports of Galveston and Beaumont. While the American Civil War, Houston served as a headquarters for General John Bankhead Magruder, who used the city as an organization point for the Battle of Galveston. Afterwards the Civil War, Houston businessmen initiated efforts to widen the city's extensive system of bayous so the city could accept more commerce between downtown and the nearby port of Galveston. By 1890, Houston was the railroad center of Texas.

Since the 1990s, as a result of the recession, Houston has made efforts to diversify its economy by focusing on aerospace and health care/biotechnology and by reducing its dependence on the petroleum industry. In 1997, Houstonians elected Lee P. Brown as the city's first African American mayor.

Cityscape Houston was incorporated in 1837 in accordance with the ward system of representation. The ward designation is the progenitor of the nine current-day Houston City Council districts. Locations in Houston are usually classified as either being inside or outside the Interstate 610 Loop. The inside encompasses the central business district and many residential neighborhoods that predate World War II. More recently, high-density residential areas have been developed within the loop. The city's outlying areas, suburbs and enclaves are located outside of the loop. Beltway 8 encircles the city another farther out.

Voters rejected efforts to have separate residential and commercial land-use districts in 1948, 1962, and 1993. Accordingly, to put it more exactly than a single central business district as the center of the city's employment, multiple districts have grown throughout the city should the contingency arise to downtown which include Uptown, Texas Medical Center, Midtown, Greenway Plaza, Memorial City, Energy Corridor, Westchase, and Greenspoint.

In 2006, the Houston metropolitan area ranked first in Texas and third in the U.S. within the Category of "Best Places for Business and Careers" by Forbes magazine. Foreign governments have established 92 consular offices in metropolitan Houston, the third highest in the nation. Forty foreign governments maintain trade and commercial offices here and 23 active foreign chambers of commerce and trade associations. Twenty-five foreign banks representing 13 nations operate in Houston, providing financial assistance to the international community.

Cycling Houston has the largest number of bike commuters in Texas with over 160 miles of dedicated bikeways. The city is currently in the process of expanding its from time to time street bikeway network. A new Bicycle sharing system known as Houston B-Cycle currently operates 3 different stations in the downtown area.

Centered on Post Oak Boulevard and Westheimer Road, the Uptown District boomed while the 1970s and early 1980s when a collection of mid-rise office buildings, hotels, and retail developments appeared along Interstate 610 west. Uptown became one of the most prominent instances of an edge city. The tallest building in Uptown is the 64-floor, -tall, Philip Johnson and John Burgee designed landmark Williams Tower. Then of construction, it was believed to the be the world's tallest skyscraper outside of a central business district. The Uptown District is as well home to buildings designed by noted architects I. M. Pei, César Pelli, and Philip Johnson. In the late 1990s and early 2000s decade, there was a mini-boom of mid-rise and high-rise residential tower construction, with several over 30 stories tall. In 2002, Uptown had more than 23 million square feet of office space with 16 million square feet of Class A office space.

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