A COMEBACK COMMUNITY
It’s said that oil and water don’t mix, but that’s not the case in Conroe, the seat of Montgomery County in the Piney Woods of East Texas. Established in the 1880s on a tract of land first settled in the 1830s, Conroe survived epidemics and two early 20th Century fires, and rebounded from the Great Depression in 1931 with the discovery of oil. In 1936, the Art Moderne-style Montgomery County Courthouse rose on the town square, representing a new era for the previously hard-hit town. The courthouse was extensively remodeled in 1965. Creation of the salamander-shaped, 22,000-acre Lake Conroe in 1973 brought water sports, wildlife and numerous bird species to a place already rich in history.
The Heritage Museum of Montgomery County is a good place to explore the area’s roots. Housed in the 1924 Grogan/Cochran home, the museum’s displays chronicle the county’s past beginning in prehistoric times; honor events such as the first county fair; and include a replica of the office of Dr. C.B. Stewart, the first Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas. Stewart designed what became the official “Lone Star flag.” The arts also are well represented in Conroe. The restored Crighton Theatre was built in 1934 and modeled after the Majestic Theatre in Houston. Elvis was a headliner in 1950. Today, the Crighton hosts stage plays, musical performances and special events. But it’s not the only show in town. The Owen Theatre offers live performances in a renovated, 1946 former auto dealership. Conroe’s downtown Heritage Place Amphitheater stages outdoor activities and concerts throughout the year. Down the street near City Hall, a bust of “Joe Roughneck” rests on a monument commemorating the discovery of the 19,000-acre Conroe oilfield - one of the largest in the United States - by George William Strake in 1931.