Glenbrook Valley is a planned community of 1,254 homes in Southeast Houston. It was built in 13 sections between 1953 and 1962. The entire neighborhood is designated as an Historic District. Glenbrook Valley is Houston’s largest and most intact neighborhood of Ranch and Mid-Century Modern homes. It was designed by the famous landscape architecture firm Hare and Hare. That firm also designed River Oaks and many of Houston’s city parks. Glenbrook Valley received national attention when it was built. It was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
For more than 100 years, the area we now know as Southeast Houston was the Allen cattle ranch. It covered 15,000 acres, from the Houston Ship Channel to Ellington Field, and as far west as Mykawa Road. The ranch was one of the first and longest running cattle operations in Texas.
Sam William Allen started his cattle ranch in the 1840s. He rounded up longhorn cattle that roamed the Texas prairies. His wife, Rebecca Thomas, inherited 350 acres of land from her uncle, one of Stephen F. Austin’s original 300 colonists in Texas. Rebecca’s 350 acres became part of the Allen Ranch.
By the 1860s, Allen’s operation included thousands of acres of pasture land in Brazoria, Galveston, and Fort Bend Counties. He also owned fat- and hide-rendering plants in Houston and Galveston. Several railroads were built through the Allen Ranch making it easier to transport cattle to Galveston, La Porte, and Dallas. Allen also had an exclusive contract with Texas’ first steamship company, the Morgan Line, and was just about the only person who could ship cattle to New Orleans and Cuba.
The Allen family sold most of the ranch land in the 1920s and 1930s. They raised cattle on the remaining ranch land until 1947. After the Gulf Freeway (IH-45) was built in 1948, Houston began to expand to the south. The construction of Hobby Airport, the Houston Ship Channel, Ellington Field, and NASA’s Manned Spaceflight Center drove much of that growth. Much of the Allen family ranch was subdivided into parcels and developed into suburban neighborhoods.
Glenbrook Valley was built between 1953 and 1962 on some of that property. Fred McManus was the developer and hired the firm of Hare and Hare to plan the neighborhood. Since Glenbrook Valley was located along Sims Bayou, it was McManus’ vision that the neighborhood be another River Oaks, which had been designed along Buffalo Bayou. . It was a planned community of single-family homes. Many of the people who first moved to Glenbrook Valley were prominent Italian-American professionals. Some of the houses include chapels or prayer nooks, reflecting their owners’ Catholic faith.