Reflecting a wide array of culturally diverse styles and references, from rough-hewn Texan to grand and sleek European and even Mayan, the architecture of Houston tells a texturally rich story of our citizens.
Celebrated the first Monday of every October, World Architecture Day was established in 2005 to “remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.”
That marks the day as an occasion for Texans to take pride in the “architexture” of Houston, which for innovation, diversity, and history can stand tall among the great cities of the world.
The skyline’s the limit
Consider the soaring skyscrapers that define our cityscape. These buildings are the work of such world-renowned architects as I.M. Pei, Philip Johnson, and César Pelli and incorporate contemporary interpretations of such classic styles as Art Deco, Spanish Renaissance, Italian Renaissance, Dutch Gothic, Neo-Gothic, and Mayan.
Completed in 1982, the 1,002-foot-tall JPMorgan Chase Tower is the tallest man-made structure in Texas and the twelfth-tallest building in the United States. Built in 1976, twin-towered Pennzoil Place is Houston’s most award-winning skyscraper, though the glistening Williams Tower was named “Skyscraper of the Century” by Texas Monthly magazine in 1999.
One might also mention Houston’s first skyscraper, the six-story Binz Building built in 1895, which had an elevator – a hydraulic lift operated by water. This innovation caused such a sensation that the Southern Pacific Railroad actually ran special train excursions into Houston for visitors to gawk at the building -- and ride to the top.
Houston hardly lacks for other historic buildings, like the ten extraordinary structures the Heritage Society has relocated to Sam Houston Park and painstakingly restored for public visitation.
Take the Kellum-Noble House. At 169 years, it is Houston’s oldest structure as well as its first public school. Notable guests at the two-story house included Sam Houston and -- Earl the bison, who joined a menagerie of snakes, armadillos, and other local critters when the house and its original grounds were used as the Bayou City’s first zoo in 1899.
Pre-dating even the Kellum-Noble House is the 1823 Old Place, the oldest known structure in Harris County and a remarkable example of early Texas frontier architecture, constructed of roughly hewn cedar logs and mortise-and-tenon jointure.
Another popular attraction in Sam Houston Park is the Baker Family Playhouse, built in 1893 by Captain James A. Baker for his six-year-old daughter Alice. So beloved was the little structure that the family moved it with them when they relocated, loading it onto a four-wheeled cart pulled by horses in 1904, and later towing it with a Model-T truck in 1918. If the name James A. Baker sounds familiar, that’s because he was the grandfather of Secretary of State James Baker III, who also played in the playhouse.
Houston has its share of haunted houses as well. It is thought that the three-story Spanish-Renaissance-style Julia Ideson Library Building located on McKinney Street is walked by the ghost of the former groundskeeper Jacob Frank Cramer, accompanied by his German Shepherd Petey.
So whether the criteria are beauty, innovation, diversity – or even spectral visitations! – you can see why Houston earns such high marks for our landmarks.
Houston – built for success.
Early settlers took root in working man's humble home in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Gulf Building now the JP-Morgan Chase Building, is an Art Deco skyscraper completed in 1929.
Houston city government and city market shared historic building. Horse-drawn buggies parked along curb in the late 1800’s.
Read more about any of the 10 structures in the Heritage Society collection located and preserved at Sam Houston Park near downtown Houston:
Nichols-Rice Cherry House
San Felipe Cottage
St. John Church
Fourth Ward Cottage
Baker Family Playhouse
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