What Remains

Allison Hess

2016 - Ongoing

Texas, United States

Nearly every time that I return to my hometown of Fulshear, Texas, I try to remember the way that it was. But often times, it is just not possible. As of 2019, my hometown is one of the fastest growing towns in the state, according to the United States Census Bureau.

When I was a young child, I remember sitting in my family’s car, waiting to turn at the continuously blinking traffic light with no other cars at the single intersection of the town west of Houston. With a population of just over 1,000 individuals in 2010, Fulshear has experienced a growth rate of about 663% in under a decade. It is safe to assume that Fulshear will inevitably become a generic suburban sprawl of the Houston metropolitan area.

The town is still relatively small, but in many ways, Fulshear represents the vast contradictions in American society. What determines the level of wealth in one’s life— is it monetary prosperity or a connection to one’s surroundings? As more individuals move to major cities across the country, suburbs will inevitably grow. The town of Fulshear illustrates what is happening to other areas in the United States with rapid population growth.

Memories are fleeting. In one moment, they are gone. I returned to Fulshear to find glimpses of not only the past of myself and other long-time residents, but also moments that represent the present and future for my changing community, in order to show what happens to a culture when convenience outweighs the long-term effects of urbanization.

Because I know longer live in Fulshear, it is difficult to find the time to document what is occurring. In the three-year period that I have worked on this project, the largest amount of urbanization has occurred in the last two years. With a newly completed tollway expansion, 2020 is projected to be the year with the largest amount of growth for the city west of Houston, Texas. This will be an integral part of the project, to show the last remnants of the town before the way it has been disappears forever.

The traffic light of my childhood no long exists. My family’s single car sitting in the turning lane has now been replaced with a line of predominantly luxury cars backed up for miles. Dusty cattle ranches are now extravagant farms. Vast prairies have transformed into tract housing that stretches on as far as one can see, with one identical roof after another.

My hometown is no longer recognizable to me, but I know that there are brief views into what remains— they just need to be discovered before they’re gone.

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  • A member of the Valley Lodge Trail Ride crosses over a highway overpass. In many ways, Fulshear is at an intersection of what it was, is, and will be.

  • Master-plan housing communities have replaced vast prairies, where crops sprouted and cattle once grazed, in Fulshear, Texas.

    With a population of just 1,134 individuals in 2010, the town west of Houston has experienced population growth rate of about 663% in under a decade.

  • “Nothing ever stays the same,” Joe Dozier said.

    A Fulshear native, Joe lived in the town most of his life, but moved away to a nearby city when the area’s development began impacting his memories.

    “I miss the small-town atmosphere and the people. It’s not the Fulshear that I grew up in," Dozier said. "Don’t judge it by what it is now. To be honest, I don’t even like going out there anymore.”

  • The reality of what this town is today is much different. With each new road finished, house built, or pile of dirt removed, memories of myself and the other residents who spent their lives in Fulshear have eroded.

  • A mural hangs above the bookshelves of my childhood elementary school, depicting the landscape of what Fulshear once was.

  • Trail riders progress through the fleeting southeast Texas prairie.

  • Houses started appearing out of what seemed like nowhere. We were no longer a small town. We were an up-and-coming city.

  • Viola Randle holds hands with other parishioners at the Greater Zachery Missionary Baptist Church. At 95 years old, Viola is one of the longest living residents in Fulshear. She’s lived in town her entire life, was the mayor for five years, and has been instrumental in the shaping Fulshear’s history.

    “People would come out here because they loved the breeze. They enjoyed it just as much as I did, but it started fading when people started learning about Fulshear,” Randle said. “This is a special place, it's not just somewhere in the world. Fulshear has been a special place for a lot of special people.”

  • Growing up, one of my childhood friend’s grandmother lived in this house. I had met her maybe once, but always thought of her each time I drove by.

    To the left of the house was an old hamburger restaurant that no longer exists. I often met my friends there with my family, where we ran and played in the adjacent empty field while our parents waited for our food. We did not have to worry about the dangers of busy roads and oncoming traffic, something that is far from the case now.

    I have no need to travel down this road very often now. The hamburger joint was replaced by a fancier restaurant, where I worked one of my first job as a waitress.

  • There are moments when the past and present still collide, such as when members of the Valley Lodge Trail ride begin return to the trail after taking a lunch break.

  • The walls of Dozier’s Grocery and Market, a barbecue restaurant and smokehouse opened since 1957, have withstood the transformation.

  • Each time I leave and return to Fulshear, there is something that has changed. People move away. Roads change to accommodate the construction. More houses are built. And with each instance, my memories fade more and more.

  • The majority of individuals who grew up in Fulshear have chosen to move away, taking the town's history with them. Replacing them are individuals and families wanting a quiet, country lifestyle.

  • A server makes an espresso drink at a local cafe, as I once did the same.

  • West of downtown Fulshear, remnants of the past can be seen. Pecan trees stand tall. Memories of riding horses, wandering the woods, and witnessing the capability of nature is evident.

  • East of the downtown area, with trees that are strategically plotted, the control that nature once had over the Texas prairie is now overwhelmed with a suburban landscape.

  • Only very early in the morning or late at night do the quiet streets of my childhood looks the same. It is here, at this time and in moments like these, where my memories remain.