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Grogan’s Mill from Sawmill to Village

George Mitchell’s Vision for Living Among Trees Becomes a Reality in Grogan’s Mill Village

Loblolly pines tower over the Grogan’s Mill intersection of Timberjack Place and East Timberwagon Circle. The names pay tribute to the area’s history.

Pines and hardwoods of the East Texas timber belt covered Montgomery County. When railroads arrived in the 1800s, transporting lumber got easier and timber companies boomed. By 1927, The Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company was one of the county’s largest lumber companies with hundreds of employees and about 25 sawmills.

Mill towns grew around sawmills. The original Grogan’s Mill town had houses, stores, schools, and churches for the workers and their families.

Except for a millpond in Tamarac Park, all evidence from logging is gone, including a sawmill that stood where Lamar Elementary School is now. The countless trees that were too small to harvest during the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company days, however, blanket The Woodlands.

Expanding his interests beyond oil and gas, George Mitchell set his sights on the Grogan-Cochran timberland. Mitchell purchased nearly 50,000 acres from the company in 1964 for $125 an acre. Part of this land would become Grogan’s Mill Village 10 years later.

Mr. Mitchell and his team envisioned a community that incorporated the natural habitat. Robert Heineman spent his 48-year career planning The Woodlands, retiring from his final position as VP of Planning and Design at the Howard Hughes Corporation. “Many developments in Houston are named after the trees that used to be there,” Mr. Heineman said. “Mr. Mitchell wanted to retain the natural environment after development.” Specifically, Mr. Mitchell wanted to see trees rather than buildings when entering The Woodlands.

Mr. Mitchell spoke, and his planners listened. “Most developers creating something like The Woodlands would have set all the streets on a grid, squashed the homes together for greater yield, and cut back on greenspace,” architect Paul Schuyler said. The Woodlands is unique. More than a quarter of the land is open space — undeveloped land and preserved forest in flood plains, and along the trails, streets, and thoroughfares.

When Grogan’s Mill opened in 1974, residents, including the Mitchells, began to reap the benefit of this vision.

The Mitchells lived in a home their architect son, Scott, designed. Mr. Mitchell wanted to enjoy the natural surroundings even when he was indoors. He favored an office that looked through the trees rather than over the trees, Mr. Heineman said. He preferred this view at home, too.

Scott Mitchell designed his parents’ and the Life Forms Homes he built to take full advantage of the wooded landscape. Mr. Schuyler lives in a Life Forms Home. "These homes are pretty much screaming, "let's build in the forest, and live in the trees!",” he said.

Rich in details, these multistory homes feature high windows that allow natural light and a glimpse of the forest, unusual spaces, unique rooflines, and outdoor living spaces that mingle with the trees.

“The idea was to bring people closer to nature,” Mr. Schuyler said. “George Mitchell’s exceptional commitment to that vision makes the Woodlands still special today, even after all these years.”

To see the first homes Scott Mitchell built, visit Slash Pine Place. You’ll notice these unique homes have special touches — a stained glass window here and a handcrafted door there . . .

The Woodlands is unique. More than a quarter of the land is open space — undeveloped land and preserved forest in flood plains, and along the trails, streets, and thoroughfares.

“Mr. Mitchell wanted to retain the natural environment after development.” Specifically, Mr. Mitchell wanted to see trees rather than buildings when entering The Woodlands.

  • Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company Timber Train Circa 1925 Courtesy of Jim Cochran
  • Sam Ashe School, a Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company school from 1917 to 1927 near Tamina Sawmill Courtesy of Jim Cochran
  • Original Custom Life Forms Home Door
  • Tamarac Park at night
  • Invisible Building with sunset's reflection
  • Invisible Building
  • Pine tree crowns
  • Pine trees at sunset
  • Tamarac Park at dusk
  • Tamarac Park during the daytime
  • The George Mitchell Home
  • Handcrafted Door on The Mitchells home
  • Ducks on Grogan's Mill Pond
  • Entrance to Grogan's Mill Village