Monday, August 3rd was a great day to explore Houston with a guide like Larry, our docent from the county. He started our tour with a drive through Memorial Park. He pointed out that the park would not exist today if the Hogg brothers had not cleverly bought up the land piece by piece and then sold it back to the city for exactly what they paid for it. The park was named and dedicated as a WWI Memorial. This park is 1,464 acres in comparison to Central Park in New York, which is 843 acres (everything is bigger in Texas). As a side note Larry pointed out the Hogg family helped shape the growth of Houston. James Hogg was the first Texas native born governor of the State of Texas from 1890-1894. In his lifetime his family lived very meekly; however, after his death oil was discovered on some property he owned. This new found wealth allowed his 3 sons and only daughter to live well, but they also devoted part of their time and money to the enrichment of the educational and cultural life of Texas. None of the children had descendants so they passed on a great deal of their wealth to the City of Houston. This includes Bayou Bend, Ima Hogg's home (estate) off of Memorial drive, that she donated to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
From Bayou Bend in River Oaks we traveled up Memorial to 222 Malone Street to see the Beer Can house. The original aluminum siding. Then we traveled down Washington Avenue. According to Larry this street was named Washington because it was the road to Washington on the Brazos, the capital of Texas. On Washington Ave he pointed out Wabash Antique, Feed and Garden Store. The store has a pecan tree in the middle of the building where in the early days of Houston, prisoners would be shackled to the tree until the Houston police could come and get them. Also, off of Washington Ave. lies Glenwood Cemetery where it was once quoted to be the "River Oaks of the Dead". Many notable people are buried there like: William P. Hobby, Howard Hughes, Ray Miller, Ross Sterling, Maria "Ria" Franklin Prentiss Lucas Langham Gable, Texas socialite, married to Clark Gable 1931-1939 and many others. It would be a great place to walk through and see how many people's names you recognize on the headstones.
Our next stop was the Houston Ballet. It is hard to remember that Houston was just a small community back in the early 1950's there was not a Houston Ballet, only traveling companies that give performances in high schools. At that time there was not a performing arts district in Houston. However, there were Houstonians that were looking to the future of Houston's cultural presents and help support the establishment of the Houston Ballet in 1955. Today it is the 4th largest Ballet Company in the United States. They even have an academy that trains half of the ballerinas that perform with the Company. The shoe budget for a year is over one million dollars. One place that we were not able to take pictures was in the costume area. There is where 4 full time and 7 part time seamstress work. Baby! they've come a long way from performing in high schools. As you see it takes a great deal of money to maintain the ballet. So, every year they host the Nutcracker Market. Last year the market made over 8 million dollars; however, it takes that and more to run the 4th largest ballet company. If you have not experienced a ballet you are encourage to go to the Miller Outdoor Theatre in May where they give a free performance.
After leaving the ballet we headed to Christ Church Cathedral where we had lunch prepared by Treebeards' Restaurant. They serve a variety of food: American, Cajun/Creole and Soul Food (all good). Then the priest showed us through the Cathedral. She shared the history of the Episcopal Church and architectural features of the Cathedral. From there we went to the restored 1910 Court House.
On our way back to Bayland Park Larry pointed out numerous sites, one being the spaghetti warehouse downtown. He stated that one of the interesting things about the restaurant is that it is supposed to be haunted.
Participants: Mary Brown, Della DuHart, Jean Houston, Jeannette & Thomas Johnson, Diane Murray, Sarah Harvey, Tom & Fermina Sutter, Deloris Baugh, Tu Le & Gi Ba Dang, Ralph & Estella Garcia, Sarah & Wayne Kovar, Isabel Rangel, Gladys Price, Theresa Nguyen & Ruth Gray.