Hermann Park: Houston, Texas
Hermann Park is a great public space in the City of Houston that claims a special place in the hearts of residents and visitors here. The current site is the product of more than 70 land transactions and now encompasses 445 acres.
Between the city's Medical Center and the Museum District across from Rice University, bounded more or less by Hermann Drive, Alameda, Holcombe, Cambridge and Main Street.
In 1914 George H. Hermann, a Houston-born oilman and philanthropist, gave the city 278 acres of land on the condition that the land would always be used for park purposes. Following his death and according to his will, between 1922 and 1924 the city purchased an additional 122 acres of land from the George H. Hermann Estate.
Hermann Park is a place where nearly six million annual visitors get to explore and enjoy a great number of unique settings. It is home to venues such as the Houston Zoo, Houston Museum of Natural Science, McGovern Centennial Gardens, the Japanese Garden, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and Hermann Park Golf Course. Its features include McGovern Lake, Jones Reflection Pool, Buddy Curruth Playground for All Children, and many miles of pedestrian and bike trails. Visitors may also enjoy rides on the miniature train, pedal boats, and bicycle rentals at B-Cycle locations.
The Brays Bayou area is part of the city's Bayou Greenways Initiative being planned by the City of Houston and Houston Parks Board to connect all of the major bayou parks, manage flood waters, and improve the health of both ecosystems and residents in Houston. Project Brays, recently completed by Harris County Flood Control District, transformed an unsightly channel into one of the park's most scenic areas. It is home to the Bill Coats Bridge, named for a Conservancy founder. The 290-foot suspension bridge, built by TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) in partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Hermann Park Conservancy, connects the banks of Brays Bayou in the Bayou Parkland area, linking pedestrians and cyclists in the surrounding neighborhoods to trails and public spaces found in Hermann Park.
Defining Characteristics, Features
Hermann Park is the work of some of the great park planners and landscape architects of the past century working with highly motivated, civic-minded citizens.
- Hermann Park's founding coincided with local civic and business leaders' interest in the City Beautiful Movement, which led to the appointment of the city's first Parks Commission, plans for the city's two signature parks, and the Arthur Comey Plan, predecessor to the current Bayou Greenway Initiative.
- The park is a beautifully planned civic space originally designed by renowned landscape architect George E. Kessler. His design was never fully realized because of the American entry into World War I in April 1917 and his death in 1923. A new landscape architecture firm, Hare and Hare of Kanas City, was chosen for the work that led to the major framework for the current park's design. The Great Depression of the 1930s once again hindered park development. In the 1940s, park development resumed; however, it was impacted by the development of the University of Texas Medical Center and street changes approved by city councils and mayors during that decade. In 1993, a citizen organization Friends of Hermann Park, now Hermann Park Conservancy, in partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, commissioned a new master plan for Hermann Park. Landscape architect Laurie Olin with Hanna/Olin, Ltd. was selected for the project. His work has led to over $100 million in renovations and new amenities to the park.
- The development of Hermann Park over the past 100 years has been supported through civic engagement and guided by skilled and artful planning. By the end of the 1980s, the great park was in a state of disrepair. In response, local residents founded Friends of Hermann Park to work with the Parks and Recreation Department to provide planning assistance and park enhancements. An early part of the nonprofit's role was to commission the master plan in 1993 to guide park development into the 21st century. This plan led to enhancements and development of many of the features seen today.
- Hermann Park is one of Houston's most-visited parks, with approximately six million visitors annually. It is centrally located, and connects to nearby hospitals, universities, neighborhoods, and downtown Houston via the METRO transit system. Three METRO stations adjacent to the park help to connect people from around the metropolitan area to Hermann Park.
Attractions and Events
- Houston Zoo, with its newly completed Gorilla Exhibit, covers over 50 acres of outdoor and indoor exhibits with species in natural habitats from around the world.
- Houston Museum of Natural Science has nearly 400,000 square feet of exhibit space and offers exhibits ranging from gigantic dinosaur skeletons to exotic gem collections.
- The Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park has been Houston's premier venue for outdoor performances, concerts, and classic movie screenings since its founding.
- Hermann Park Golf Course is a well-maintained 18-hole facility with driving range, putting green, and a pleasant clubhouse.
- The Japanese Garden, completed in 1992 through public and private funds, covers about seven acres of scenic beauty with maintenance enhanced by the efforts of Hermann Park Conservancy, local volunteers, and representatives of the Japanese government.
- The McGovern Centennial Gardens is a beautiful display of plants in a very dramatic setting, featuring work from some of the nation's leading landscape architects and architects.
- The Park to Port Bike Ride is an annual 20-mile bike ride starting in Hermann Park then running east along Brays Bayou to the Port and then back to the park.
- Run in the Park is Hermann Park Conservancy's annual fun run, which includes a 5k run/walk and a 1k kid's fun run. Families and neighbors come out to cheer on the runners and enjoy the post-race party featuring music, food, and activities in Molly Ann Smith Plaza.
Pertinent Plans and Documents