Saturday, February 7, 2015

Travels in Houstin, TX--Downtown District

As I mentioned earlier this week, last weekend I went to a conference at the Hilton Americas in the Downtown District of Houston, Texas.
The hotel was very nice, and they did a great job with the conference.  One of my favorite features was a huge blown glass chandelier in the lobby.  

The first two days of the conference I had a little bit of time in the evening to explore the immediate area.  Right across the street from the hotel was Discovery Park, which had some interesting angel sculptures. 

While I was in Houston it ranged from being in the 60s to the mid-70s, which made it all the more shocking when I saw this,

an ice-skating rink in the middle of the park!  The rink is temporary and was really there for the Christmas holiday, but had been extended through January.
I was also enthralled by the flowers (in January!) I found throughout the park:

On the second day of the conference I had time to wander a little further away from the hotel and found a beautiful Catholic Church (Annunciation Church) built between 1867 through 1874,

with a steeple added in the 1880s.

I was really disappointed that it was closed and I couldn't go inside to see the stained glass windows.  I made a big loop and passed a street named Caroline on my way back to the hotel, so I had to stop and take a picture (since that is my "real" name!).

By this point it was really starting to get dark, which was the perfect time to see the Festival of Lights in Discovery Park--a collection of glass lights that changed color as you strolled down the lane.

I was getting pretty hungry by this point too, so I headed up the street to a market recommended by the Concierge desk at the hotel--the Phoenicia.

Now for a quick tea moment.  This store had a terrific selection of tea!  There were all different sorts of boxed teas, from imports from around the globe to American staples,

as well as some fancy loose leaf teas.

I bought a terrific smelling chai tea.

The Phoenicia also had a large bakery department with all sorts of fancy desserts to create the perfect teatime!  This picture isn't very good quality, but there are swan cream puffs and macaroons and all sorts of other fancy desserts.  I brought a container of baklava home with me in my suitcase to share with my family it was so good!

On my last full day in Houston I had a little bit more free time, so I went to Sam Houston Park also in the Downtown District to see a collection of historic homes maintained by the Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park.

 This park began in 1900 with a wading pool for children and eventually a zoo.  As the surrounding area became more developed, the zoo was moved and a house that had at one time served as the cornerstone of the park, had deteriorated. 

(1850 Kellum-Noble House, first purchased by Houston to create the Sam Houston Park, and later the first home owned by the Heritage Society)

In 1954, the house was slated to be destroyed, but instead concerned citizens started the Heritage and Conservation Society (now just the Heritage Society) to save and restore that house.  This started the conversion of Sam Houston Park into what it is today--a place where historic homes that are slated to be destroyed can be moved to create a museum of different homes from Texas' history. 

Ten such buildings are currently at the park, many of which are open for tours.  Unfortunately, I couldn't take pictures inside, but I will share a few of my favorites:

(The Old Place circa 1820)

(Nichols-Rice-Cherry House--1850.  Mr. Rice, the first owner of this home, started Rice University in Texas through a bequest in his will)

(an interesting story behind this house is it was up for auction in 1896 as part of a scheduled demolition.  The Cherry family put in a $25 bid for the beautiful door.  No one else put in any bids for the home, and the Cherrys ended up owning the house, which ultimately saved it )
(The 1868 San Felipe Cottage built by German immigrants)
(The 1868 Pillot House, built by French immigrants)

(a closer look at the dog guards at the Pillot House)
(The Yates House, 1870, the home of the Rev. Yates, a freed slave from Virginia who followed his wife to Texas when her master moved.  After the Civil War, Rev. Yates became a minister and opened a school that educated African American men and women for 30 years).

(The Staiti House, 1905.  This house was a very early example, at least for Houston, of a home with running water as well as electricity.  It was gorgeous inside, but one of my favorite parts of the house was its lovely gazebo, 
I can picture having tea inside on a spring day)

(The Staiti's were known for their beautiful gardens, so roses grow outside this home in the Park)

(I'm still just amazed to see roses blooming in January!)
 In addition to houses, the Heritage Society also owns and cares for the 1891 St. John Church, which had been a Lutheran church.

Here are a couple of addition pictures from around the Sam Houston Park:

(The house in the background of this pictures is the 1866, 4th Ward Cottage, the oldest working man's house recovered by the Heritage Society).

The heritage society also had a small museum located in the park, which housed a replica of the Duncan General Store, a late 19th century store located in rural Texas.   Real inventory left from when this store closed was donated to the Heritage Society and placed in this replica:

I was drawn to one particular good--Aunt Sara's Herbal Tea!

Also on Saturday I had time for a quick trip over to the Museum District in Houston, which I will share tomorrow.


  1. Thanks for sharing these photos - amazing and I feel as though I was there walking along with you, although a little slower, as you are younger than me! ;-)

  2. I love your travel pictures. My son has to go to Houston, Texas for his business trips as well and we met him there one time. It was in the heat of summer and so hot and humid. I was surprised by all the passageways that are below ground level. It was a lot cooler to walk through those rather than in the heat of outside. We never saw all the wonderful sites that you have shared today. That must have truly been a great visit. Look forward to seeing even more of your journey.

  3. Thanks for the little armchair travel! Your interesting photos were a nice escape from yet another snowfall. I especially enjoyed the Pillot House (I always dreamed about having a home with a wraparound porch) and the yummy bake goods at the Phoenicia.

    By the way, there will be a Coffee and Tea Festival at NYC on March 21-22...hopefully, that's closer than California and Toronto!

  4. Glad you were able to "enjoy" Houston while on a work related trip. I've never been there before. I really enjoyed seeing your photos of the historic homes. Love the architecture.

  5. It looks like it was a wonderful trip and that there are things to do in Houston.


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