Houston's Hermann Park
A Century of Community
Publication Year: 2013
Richly illustrated with rare period photographs, Houston’s Hermann Park: A Century of Community provides a vivid history of Houston’s oldest and most important urban park. Author and historian Barrie Scardino Bradley sets Hermann Park in both a local and a national context as this grand park celebrates its centennial at the culmination of a remarkable twenty-year rejuvenation.
As Bradley shows, Houston’s development as a major American city may be traced in the outlines of the park’s history. During the early nineteenth century, Houston leaders were most interested in commercial development and connecting the city via water and rail to markets beyond its immediate area. They apparently felt no need to set aside public recreational space, nor was there any city-owned property that could be so developed.
By 1910, however, Houston leaders were well aware that almost every major American city had an urban park patterned after New York’s Central Park. By the time the City Beautiful Movement and its overarching Progressive Movement reached the consciousness of Houstonians, Central Park’s designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, had died, but his ideals had not. Local advocates of the City Beautiful Movement, like their counterparts elsewhere, hoped to utilize political and economic power to create a beautiful, spacious, and orderly city. Subsequent planning by the renowned landscape architect and planner George Kessler envisioned a park that would anchor a system of open spaces in Houston. From that groundwork, in May 1914, George Hermann publicly announced his donation of 285 acres to the City of Houston for a municipal park.
Bradley develops the events leading up to the establishment of Hermann Park, then charts how and why the park developed, including a discussion of institutions within the park such as the Houston Zoo, the Japanese Garden, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The book’s illustrations include plans, maps, and photographs both historic and recent that document the accomplishments of the Hermann Park Conservancy since its founding in 1992.
Royalties from sales will go to the Hermann Park Conservancy for stewardship of the park on behalf of the community.
Published by: Texas A&M University Press
Title Page, Copyright
The Hermann Park Conservancy chose to celebrate the centennial of the founding of Hermann Park in 1914 by commissioning Barrie Bradley to write a history of the park. Her splendid book names the significant personalities, dates the pivotal events, and...
The story of Hermann Park, like that of a great institution or a great city, is the story of individuals who had the exceptional foresight, political power, and social commitment to achieve their goals. The men and women who dreamed, financed, approved,...
Part I: Then
Chapter One: Before Hermann Park: 1836–1909
Hermann Park is Houston’s most significant urban space, and its history parallels the development of Houston into a major American city in the twentieth century. Founded in 1836, Houston was superimposed on a flat, grass plain interrupted by forested...
Chapter Two: Houston Gets a Park: 1910–1914
By the time the City Beautiful Movement and the Progressive Movement, of which it was a part, reached the consciousness of Houstonians, Olmsted had died, but his ideals had not. Local advocates of City Beautiful, like their counterparts elsewhere, hoped...
Chapter Three: The Kessler Plan: 1915–1923
Before George Hermann died, and even before he publicly donated the site for Hermann Park, Houston oilman J. S. Cullinan was lobbying for a particular landscape architect to plan the park. In April 1914, on a train trip from Kansas City to Dallas, Cullinan...
Chapter Four: Hare & Hare: 1924–1951
The Kansas City landscape architecture firm Hare & Hare inherited most of George Kessler’s clients. The senior partner, Sidney J. Hare (1860–1938), knew and admired Kessler, for whom he had worked in the Kansas City engineer’s office between...
Chapter Five: No Plan: 1952–1961
A series of confidential reports on the condition of Houston’s parks prepared for J. Robert Neal, a Houston banker and chairman of the Houston Board of Park Commissioners from 1938 to 1940, concluded that Houston’s park system was inadequate....
Chapter Six: Other Plans: 1962–1989
After Herbert Hare’s death in 1962, most activity in Hermann Park was limited to specific institutions: the Hermann Park Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, and the Museum of Natural Science. Routine park maintenance continued but was not sufficient to...
Part II: Now
Chapter Seven: Community Action
The first organized group of Houstonians to take an active interest in Hermann Park was incorporated in 1987 as the Hermann Park Joggers, Runners, and Walkers, a nonprofit organization founded by Marvin Taylor for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing...
Chapter Eight: Hermann Park Conservancy
Rick Dewees, Hermann Park administrator for the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department, was aware that three groups were working separately for improvements in the park. When the Rice Design Alliance entered the picture with its proposal...
Chapter Nine: The Olin Plan
Laurie Olin presented Hermann Park’s new master plan on March 17, 1994, after eight months of research, field study, and meetings. Olin and his associates analyzed an immense compilation of data about the park and the region—reports, maps,...
Chapter Ten: It Happens!
Even before the Houston City Council accepted the Olin master plan in 1995,2 several projects were in the works, including expansion of Miller Outdoor Theatre, the just completed Japanese Garden, and the Buddy Carruth Playground for All Children. Construction...
The revitalization of Hermann Park is a miracle of community engagement. Determined to rejuvenate the park, supporters from the conservancy’s early days wisely realized that a strong public/private partnership would be necessary to create a lasting transformation...
Appendix One: Hermann Park and Houston Chronology of Significant Events
Appendix Two: Remarks of George H. Hermann: Sunday, June 7, 1914, City Auditorium
Appendix Three: Last Will and Testament of George H. Hermann: County Clerk’s Office—Harris County Probate Court Records File # 6425
Appendix Four: Trees of Hermann Park: Compiled by the Hermann Park Conservancy, 2012
Appendix Five: Birds of Hermann Park: Compiled by the Houston Audubon Society
Appendix Six: Hermann Park Conservancy Directors: 1992–2014
Appendix Seven: The Institutions of Hermann Park
Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Sara and John Lindsey Series in the Arts and Humanities
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