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Exploring Houston's
Green History:

Sam Houston Park, 18992014
January 30
April 26, 2014
 

Founded in 1899, Sam Houston Park is the first and oldest municipal park in the city of Houston. This beloved historic green space was originally part of the land granted by Stephen F. Austin to John Austin in 1824. For the past 115 years, the park has served Houstonians as a center for outdoor recreation and social activities. Prior to the establishment of a city park system, the only public green spaces were cemeteries like Glenwood or Olivewood. By the 1890s, social reformers nationwide began to promote an idea known as the “City Beautiful” movement. Advocates of the movement sought to improve both the scenery in urban areas and its inhabitants through beautification. Civic minded Houstonians joined the movement and encouraged the beautification of their city as well. Under the leadership of Mayor Sam Brashear, the city acquired just over eleven acres of land to establish its first park. The park was simply named, City Park until 1902 when it was changed to Sam Houston Park.

The purpose of the park was to provide a safe and inviting environment for Houstonians to enjoy the outdoors. In 1901, a group of women organized the Houston Civic Club with the intent of “educating public sentiment in favor of a cleaner and more beautiful Houston.” The Civic Club arranged for a series of free band concerts to be offered from the park’s central bandstand. Children and adults alike enjoyed the addition of a playground and animals to Sam Houston Park. With its large pathways, wading pond, musical concerts and zoological offerings, the park became a major attraction with over 200,000 visitors annually by 1915. The park has undergone many changes over the years including incorporating the lands of two historic cemeteries and making room for the expansion of the freeway system. This downtown green space has also been home to many monuments and memorials erected to honor veterans of all previous wars as well as to honor events, the arts and important people of Houston and Texas alike.

Sam Houston Park was established in 1899 based on a sincere sense of responsibility by reformers to improve the lives of Houstonians. Today, as locals and visitors alike enjoy this historic green space, they can also learn about the city’s history by touring several historic structures located in the park and maintained by The Heritage Society. This exhibit will showcase Sam Houston Park’s 115 year history as well The Heritage Society’s 60 year history of caring for this beloved city park.

Images from The Heritage Society Permanent Collection.
 

The Heritage Society is funded in part by a grant from the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.
 

 

 

 


 

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