I like to play board games, though I don’t get to play nearly as much as I’d like. My favorite is Monopoly. I have been collecting game boards since 1996, and have a collection of over 20 different boards. It was around this same time when I acquired the Houston Edition. In 1996, Monopoly released a number of boards branded for cities around the country. They picked a number of local landmarks, businesses and organizations to fill out the familiar properties around the board.
This was different from the original which was comprised of actual streets around Atlantic City. Back in 2006, Monopoly released an updated version of the game using cities, including Houston, to make up the new properties. There was a national poll to decide which of three local landmarks were going to be included from each city. In Houston, the choices were the Museum District, Kemah Boardwalk or Johnson Space Center. The number of votes received per each city would determine their location around the board. Johnson Space Center received more votes than any other location in the vote. However, Houston only received enough votes to land the Tennessee Avenue spot on the board. In any case, the creation of this new board angered the citizens of Atlantic City because they felt like Monopoly belonged to their city. Monopoly tried to assuage their anger by featuring Atlantic City on a Community Chest card.
I started wondering what a Monopoly board would look like if it had been set in Houston. For the sake of my sanity, I chose to pick the streets from Downtown Houston. What follows is how I would interpret a Monopoly board based on Downtown Houston. I have it broken down into the individual monopolies, including my reasons for choosing the streets.
Mediterranean & Baltic Avenues
West Gray Street
The geography of these two streets make them perfect for the Meditteranean and Baltic Avenue properties. They straddle the Pierce Elevated, and act as the southern (read: bottom) border of Downtown Houston. If you have ever played Monopoly, you have probably referred to the Dark Purples as the ghetto, the wrong side of the tracks, bad part of town. In Downtown, Pierce and West Gray are Downtown Houston’s best representation of those terms.
Oriental, Vermont & Connecticut Avenues
While a Monopoly board begins back at Meditteranean Avenue, the first real threat comes as you arrive on the light blue monopoly. In fact, most of the time, your first roll in any game will land you upon either Oriental, Vermont or Connecticut Avenues. That is why I selected three streets that run through the “original” part of Downtown Houston. This area, including Market Square is where Houston started as a city. So should it be the start of your trip around the Downtown Houston version of Monopoly.
St. Charles Place, States & Virginia Avenues
I wish I could provide some kind of story or reasoning behind this group. In truth, these were three major Downtown Streets that I hadn’t placed elsewhere. However, I felt they needed to be on the board, so here they are.
St. James Place, Tennessee & New York Avenues
The orange properties are the most landed upon monopoly on the board. For this reason, I chose Capitol (Jones Hall), Prairie (Wortham Center) and Bagby (Hobby Center), as those Theater District destinations bring the most people to Downtown Houston on a regular basis.
Kentucky, Indiana & Illinois Avenues
San Jacinto Street
The red monopoly is the point on a Monopoly board where you cross over into the richer properties. The next level if you will. I positioned the streets of Dallas, San Jacinto and Fannin here because they are the thoroughfares of the Houston Pavilions. The Pavilions represent a new way of thinking in Downtown, and make an appropriate setting for this red hot group. Dallas Street, commonly referred to as “Convention Row”, takes the place of Illinois, the most landed upon property on the board. During any work week, it is common to see convention attendees scurrying up and down Dallas in herds armed with ID badges and swag bags.
Atlantic & Ventnor Avenues & Marvin Gardens
The yellow monopoly is an interesting group in that it features the only property on the board that is not a street or located in Atlantic City. Marvin Gardens (actually spelled Marven Gardens) is a neighborhood located about two miles south of the city. I didn’t have to put in much thought in choosing River Oaks. The choice of Louisiana and Smith were easy as well, as they lie through the Skyline District of Downtown Houston. The three of them together represent the lofty rents and prestige that has always represented the yellow properties.
Pacific, North Carolina & Pennsylvania Avenues
The green monopoly can be an incredibly lucrative group to own, provided you have the money to build houses and hotels. In an ironic twist, it was a newly built hotel that created the need for a Downtown green. Then, after Discovery Green was built, we saw the construction of the first major residential development in Downtown Houston. So, the streets of Discovery Green make this group the most Monopoly-esque of the board!
There are twenty eight properties in the game of Monopoly, but it doesn’t get any better than Boardwalk and Park Place. Choosing the two most iconic streets in Downtown wasn’t an easy task. Main Street seems like a good choice for Boardwalk, but finding it’s Park Place was a bit more difficult. In the end, I chose Texas Avenue because it was the former home of the Capitol of Texas before it was moved to Austin, and home to the Rice Hotel, one of Downtown’s greatest historical landmark buildings.
Houston Lighting & Power
Port of Houston Authority
Houston Lighting & Power is naturally the Electric Company, but using Public Works and Engineering just doesn’t have the same ring as Water Works. That said, I went with Houston’s #1 asset on the water in the Port of Houston Authority.
Reading, Pennsylvania, B&O & Short Line Railroads
Houston East & West Railroad
Texas & New Orleans Railroad
B & T (Belt & Terminal) Railroad
Sugar Land Railroad
Houston was known as the place “where 17 railroads meet the sea“. This is how the restaurant at the Alden Hotel in Downtown Houston is named 17. I do not know a lot about the railroad history of Houston, so picking through these options was really just a shot in the dark.