Henry Howard Houston Estate

Henry Howard Houston Estate

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Penn trustee Henry Howard Houston (1820-1895) dropped out of school at age 14—then went on to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Philadelphia.

Houston, whose two sons attended Penn (one of them, Henry Howard, Jr., died shortly after graduation; Houston Hall is named in his honor), joined the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1850, succeeded in driving profits during the Civil War, then set out on his own, launching a series of successful companies and, through investments in transportation, gold mines and oil, accumulated massive personal wealth. He moved to Chestnut Hill in the late 1800s and became head of the Philadelphia, Germantown and Chestnut Hill Railroad. By the time the crucial new line was completed, Houston was the single largest landowner in Northwest Philadelphia, with properties in Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Germantown. He later purchased lands in Springfield and Whitemarsh townships in Montgomery County and the Roxborough section of Philadelphia.

Houston died in 1895, but his estate—then controlled by his other son, Samuel Frederic Houston—continued to shape Philadelphia. Samuel Houston leveraged the estate to help develop modern Roxborough and, later, also spearheaded the development of what is today known as Andorra (a brochure of his plan is pictured), where he built a large development of post-war, ranch-style housing. Samuel Houston died in 1952 and, nine years later, the once-powerful Houston estate was dissolved and divided among the family’s surviving heirs.
For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, go to the University Archives web site at www.archives.upenn.edu.

For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, go to the University Archives web site at www.archives.upenn.edu.

Originally published on April 24, 2008