The area around Bryan was part of a land grant to Moses Austin by Spain. Austin's son, Stephen F. Austin, helped bring settlers to the area. Among the settlers was William Joel Bryan, the nephew of Stephen Austin. In 1866 the county seat of Brazos County was changed from Boonville to Bryan, and a post office was opened. In 1867, after many delays caused by the Civil War, the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, which had only previously gotten as far as Millican, finally reached Bryan. A short time later, in 1871, the city of Bryan became incorporated. Just south of Bryan, Texas A&M College opened in 1876 in what later would be known as College Station. The following year, 1877 saw the establishment of the Bryan Independent School District. Keeping up with progress in the rest of the country, Bryan added electric lighting and a waterworks to its community in 1889. The fifth Brazos County courthouse was built in 1892, and by the turn of the century, in 1900, the International-Great Northern Railroad stopped in Bryan.
Using a generous grant of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie, the Carnegie Library of Bryan opened its doors in 1902. In 1910 the town built an interurban railroad to College Station. By 1923 the line was abandoned. The first Jewish place of worship, the Temple Freda synagogue, was opened in 1913. During the 1930s the town of North Oakwood merged with Bryan. Now Bryan and College Station are "twin" cities. In 1936 State Highway 6 was built, running right through town.
In 2006 the Texas A&M University System announced that the new Texas A&M Health Science Center campus would be built in Bryan near the new Traditions Golf Course development.
A fire at the El Dorado Chemical Co. in 2009 caused the evacuation of 70,000 residents due to the burning of ammonium nitrate, possibly causing minor respiratory problems. However, the city requested that only "anyone who can smell smoke or see smoke to evacuate their homes and businesses" and did not enforce an evacuation except for 500 homes in the nearby vicinity of the fire. Less than 1,000 residents chose to evacuate, taking shelter at Texas A&M University, which closed its campus for the day to ease traffic problems. City fire officials chose to let the fire burn down before tackling it, since the chemicals were water reactive. The evacuation, which started at 2:30 pm CST ended at 7 pm, except for a small, defined area immediately around the fire, where approximately 100 Bryan residents lived. In the end, only 500 residents were under a mandatory evacuation, and 35 people were treated for respiratory problems from the smoke. Officials from El Dorado said there was never any danger from the smoke or fire. The warehouse, valued at just under $1 million, was destroyed.
In 2010 the Brazos County District Attorney's Office started the enforcement of a "Gang Safety Zone" in response to an escalation in violence within Bryan. Major US papers and ABC News covered this move. Cities like Houston and Los Angeles looked to the Bryan model of safety enforcement surrounding gang violence. The injunction declared a 3.2-mile (5.1 km) area in Bryan as the Gang Safety Zone. This placed about half of downtown in the area.
In 2013 the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan closed as a result of state budget cuts which impact family-planning facilities. Area right to life advocates celebrated a long-awaited victory; critics expressed dismay about the status of women's rights and access to health care in the Bryan region. The facility began offering abortions in 1998; it is one of three in the state which ceased operations on August 31, 2013.
The city is centrally located, approximately equidistant from three of the 10 largest cities in the United States. It is 95 miles (153 km) northwest of Houston, 166 miles (267 km) northeast of San Antonio and 166 miles (267 km) south of Dallas. It is 102 miles (164 km) east of Austin, the state capital.
The local climate is subtropical and temperate and winters are mild with periods of low temperatures usually lasting less than two months. Snow and ice are extremely rare. Summers are warm and hot with occasional showers being the only real variation in weather.
As of the census of 2000, there were 65,660 people, 23,759 households, and 14,873 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,515.2 people per square mile (584.9/km2). There were 25,703 housing units at an average density of 593.1 per square mile (229.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 64.65% White, 31.72% African American, 0.40% Native American, 1.65% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 13.32% from other races, and 2.17% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any ethnicity/nationality were 17.83% of the population.
There were 23,759 households out of which 32.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.2% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 26.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.65 and the average family size was 3.27.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.0% under the age of 18, 18.1% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 15.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,672, and the median income for a family was $41,433. Males had a median income of $29,780 versus $22,428 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,770. About 15.5% of families and 22.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.0% of those under age 18 and 11.7% of those age 65 or over.
The Brazos Transit District began offering bus service in the Bryan-College Station in 1974. It offers fixed bus routes throughout Bryan-College Station. Operating on weekdays on an hourly basis, the seven routes converge at a central location for transferring between routes. It also offers paratransit services for disabled riders and an on-demand shared ride service.Texas A&M University, headquartered in sister city College Station, operates student-driven free buses on weekdays for use by the general public that includes coverage around several apartment complexes in Bryan near campus and along a route that culminates at the Blinn College campus.