WASHINGTON, May 17 -

Mr. Speaker, driving around Houston, there's an endless amount of things that you can do. You can take in an Astros game, visit some of the best museums in the world, or if you're feeling a bit adventurous, kayak Buffalo Bayou. But, if sometimes you just need to get away from the big city life, Old Town Spring is an excellent option.

At one time, Old Town Spring played a vital role in Texas. It was first settled by the Orcoquisac Indians, who depended on the abundant resources they found there. Then, Spanish and French traders arrived. They too recognized the importance of the region and established trading posts that worked closely with the natives.

In 1836, Texas won its independence from Mexico. With this independence came droves of new colonists seeking to make a living in the wide open spaces of Texas. This influx of colonists led to the city of Houston being founded in 1836, just months after independence. Ten years later, the great Republic of Texas became the 28th State of these United States.

The entrance of Texas into the Union brought even more people to the City of Houston and the surrounding regions, such as Spring. This flood of people only increased in the 1870's when railroad tracks were laid, connecting Houston to the rest of the United States. It was at this time that Spring, Texas got its name. Railroad workers building the line to Houston arrived in the area at the end of an extremely harsh winter. In their excitement at the end of winter, they dubbed their new home Camp Spring. Luckily for us, the ``camp'' part was dropped in 1873 when an official settlement for railroad workers was established by the I.&G.N. Railroad. A bustling railroad town was born.

For the next 50 years, Spring continued to grow. In 1901, it became a crossroads for two railways. As a major railroad switchyard, Spring began to attract businesses of all sorts. Unfortunately, this attraction soon faded when the town was dealt a series of devastating blows. In 1923 the railroad moved its headquarters from Spring to Houston. This move forced local businesses to move or close their doors. Those that stayed were soon put out of business by the Great Depression.

After years of quiet, businesses slowly started coming back to the town in the 1960's with the oil boom in Houston. Through growth and investment the area began to resemble itself once again. Since 1980, one section of Spring, Old Town Spring, has been very popular. It is continually voted as one of the top attractions in Texas every year. Through its Victorian style buildings and turn of the century feel, Old Town Spring harkens back to the days when the railroad dominated the landscape of the west.

Today, Old Town Spring features hundreds of mom and pop shops and restaurants, which provide great places to shop for antiques or simply to bathe in the nostalgia of times past. These small businesses exude a sense of family and tradition that wouldn't be possible without them. Thus, Old Town Spring standsnot only as a vibrant reminder of the storied past of the area, but also as an impressive example of how family owned small businesses must be kept alive. Without them, exciting events like the Texas Crawfish and Music Festival, held annually in Old Town Spring, wouldn't be possible. Ultimately, if we want to preserve treasured pieces of Texas history, like Old Town Spring, we must fight to keep small businesses alive. And that's just the way it is.