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Hermann Park


Museum District, Houston
Natural sights
,
park, nature, sightseeing



Hermann Park is one of Houston's most-visited public parks. Situated between Fannin Street and Cambridge Street, it is within walking distance from the Texas Medical Center, Rice University, and the Museum District, and within a few miles of the Third Ward, the historic Astrodome and Reliant Stadium (home stadium for the Houston Texans). The land that it occupies was presented to the City of Houston by George H. Hermann in 1914.

This historic 445-acre (180 ha) park space is home to numerous cultural institutions including the Houston Zoo, Houston Garden Center, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Hermann Park Golf Course, which was one of the earliest desegregated public golf courses in the United States in 1954.

 

History

  • 1899 – Mayor Sam Brashear selected and purchased a site that would later on become the city’s first park in June 1899. The size of the land was 20.43 acres (8.27 ha) for $26,000. Prior to the purchase of the park, he formed the first park committee who oversaw the purchase and would later become Sam Houston Park.
  • 1907 – The Houston Civic Club placed The Browner Statue donated to the City of Houston in Sam Houston Park. Over the years it has been stolen and recovered several times before finally residing in front of Miller Outdoor Theatre.
  • 1914 – George E. Kessler designed the entrance of Hermann Park.
  • 1924 – Hermann Park grew to 133.5 acres (54.0 ha) with the addition of the Golf Course in 1922, which completed construction in 1924. Its main feature that it had grass greens as opposed to the more commonly used sand in other cities and was well received by golfers.
  • 1936 – for the City’s 100th anniversary, the Daughters of Republic of Texas had a log cabin constructed in Hermann Park as a memorial to pioneer men and women.
  • 1957 – Southern Pacific steam engine #982 was dedicated at Hermann Park and the Mini-train service was established. The engine was saved after a newspaper letter from Peter Whitney got 75 replies and Southern Pacific donated the engine to the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the city. It took 5 days to move it from Blodgett to the Park, as rails were laid in the streets in front of it. The locomotive was relocated in a similar way to Minute Maid Park in 2005.

The Hermann Park Conservancy

Hermann Park was presented to the City of Houston by George Hermann in 1914, and is now Houston's most historically significant public green space. Over the years, the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and one of the first desegregated public golf courses in the United States all have added to the Park's importance as a recreational destination.

By the late 1980s however, due to insufficient public resources and very high public attendance, the park became rundown and entered a state of disrepair. In response, a group of committed and visionary Houstonians formed the nonprofit organization known as the Friends of Hermann Park (FHP) to encourage the development of more attractive, usable green space in Hermann Park and to promote the restoration of the Park to its originally intended standards of beauty.

Creating the Conservancy, Transforming the Park

In 1993, FHP commissioned a master plan for Hermann Park from Hanna/Olin Partnership of Philadelphia. This Master Plan, created in consultation with the City of Houston and various stakeholders, was adopted in 1997 by Houston City Council. In 1995, Friends of Hermann Park adopted a master plan for Hermann Park that has provided a “blueprint” for all subsequent renovations and enhancements to the Park. In 2004, Friends of Hermann Park changed its name to the Hermann Park Conservancy (HPC) to reflect an institutional and permanent commitment to stewardship of Hermann Park’s natural resources and physical infrastructure.

In an international competition, the Rice Design Alliance invited designers to set the tone and revitalize the main entry and reflecting pool that formed a key axis for Hermann Park, “The Heart of the Park”, and to create a contemporary update to the park's earliest plans by George Kessler and a subsequent, more formal Hare & Hare plan in 1936. SWA Group, an international landscape and urban design firm working in conjunction with W.O. Neuhaus Architects and other consultants, was selected over 100 respondents. The most striking of the changes to the 18-acre (7.3 ha) project area was a narrower, more inviting 80-foot-wide (24 m) by 740-foot-long (230 m) reflection pool. It establishes the formal central axis for the space and its slight narrower design afforded elegant pedestrian promenades as well as a double-row of mature Live Oak trees – one row that had been planted in the 1920s to honor veterans of WW I, and a second row that was added as part of the project. Noted in a winning entry for the 2005 National Award of Excellence from the American Society of Landscape Architects, the “Heart of the Park” reflecting pool utilized a biofiltration system of gravel beds and perforated pipes to trap organics so that they naturally decompose. Porous paving systems and decomposed granite also limit potential damage from increased water run-off from the site.

Ongoing projects

The Hermann Park Conservancy continues working in partnership with the City of Houston to secure funds and manage the design of projects to be undertaken in the Park:

  • Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool
  • Molly Ann Smith and Sara H. and John H. Lindsey Plazas
  • Enlargement, renovation and beautification of McGovern Lake (including three new islands as well as bird and wetland habitat area.)
  • The West Entrance facility and plaza for the Houston Zoo.
  • Beautification and re-alignment of North MacGregor Street to improve access and circulation in and around the Park and the Texas Medical Center.
  • Acquisition of additional land and capital improvements to Bayou Parkland, an 80-acre (32 ha) area in Hermann Park along Brays Bayou being "reclaimed" for healthier activities and used extensively for stewardship programs.
  • Creation and implementation of extensive stewardship programs, including Field Studies 101, Natural Guard, and Scouting Around Hermann Park.
  • Completion of the expansion and renovation of Miller Outdoor Theatre.
  • Coordination of the comprehensive renovation of the Hermann Park Golf Course (completed by BSL Golf Corporation).
  • Coordination of the Hermann Park Miniature Train track expansion.
  • Planting of over 2,400 new trees.
  • The park-wide installation of new park furnishings such as light fixtures, benches and trash cans.

The Conservancy also developed a Maintenance and Operations Master Plan Study for Hermann Park - the first such comprehensive study ever for this flagship park of Houston. The study identified many concerns for preserving and protecting Hermann Park, including a gap of 20,000 maintenance hours for the Park. In response, the Conservancy hired a Manager of Volunteer Programs. In 2004 over 1,200 volunteers provided over 14,000 hours of volunteer service in the park.

Attractions

  • Houston Zoo
  • Hermann Park Jogging Trail
  • McGovern Lake
  • Miller Outdoor Theatre
  • Hermann Park Railroad
  • Hermann Park Pedal Boats
  • Bayou Parkland
  • Brays Bayou
  • Hermann Park Golf Course
  • Stand at the dock of McGovern Lake plaza and get sprayed by the geyser
  • Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Buddy Carruth Playground for All Children
  • Japanese Garden
  • Sam Houston
  • Houston Garden Center
  • Fragrance Garden
  • Lake Overlook
  • Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool
  • Marvin Taylor Exercise Station
  • Urban Forest in Bayou Parkland (the paths are wheelchair accessible)
  • Mecom-Rockwell Fountain and Colonnade
  • Pioneer Memorial Log House Museum
  • Bloch Plaza Cancer Survivor's Plaza
  • Four interactive fountains at the Molly Ann Smith Plaza
  • Fishing at Bob's Fishing Pier on McGovern Lake (Fishing is restricted to those under 12 years old or over 65 years old)
  • Judson Robinson, Jr. community center
  • Chinese Pagoda
  • Arbor in the Pines
  • Pioneer Monument

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