Experience the past of Hermann Park with our History Guide! The guide features destinations with historical significance to help you navigate and imagine what the Park once was.
The Mecom Fountain, centrally located at the traffic circle connecting Main Street, Montrose Boulevard, and Hermann Park Drive, marks the location of the Park’s first premier entrance! In 1917, a sunken garden was constructed to greet visitors and signify arrival to Hermann Park. The Mecom Fountain was placed on top of the garden in 1964, creating the iconic landmark we all know and love today.
In 1910, Mayor Horace Baldwin Rice, a progressive reformer, appointed a Board of Park Commissioners to advise on the development of a park system for Houston. Chairman of the Board, Edwin B. Parker, believed in making his surroundings beautiful, and he was a big fan of magnificent oak trees. Parker and the developers of the then Rice Institute and the nearby subdivisions made the beloved oak trees a tradition of the area, and oak trees were planted in Hermann Park as early as 1916. In 1920, over two hundred live oak trees were planted along what is now Cambridge drive in honor of Houston soldiers who had died in World War I. A century later, Hermann Park’s oak canopy has become one of the Park’s most iconic features, providing a picturesque, shady retreat for runners, walkers, and joggers.
The Sam Houston Monument is a treasured icon of Hermann Park. Dedicated to the man for whom the city was named, the Sam Houston Monument is a must-see for any visitor. Houstonians began fundraising efforts in 1917, and a nation-wide competition was held to determine the best sculptor for the job. In 1924, Enrico Cerracchio (Italian-American, 1880 – 1956,) cast the statue of Houston riding atop his horse, Saracen. Houston’s outstretched right arm points east toward the San Jacinto battleground, where he defeated the Mexican Army in 1836.
In the late 1950’s, Third Ward resident Marvin Taylor took up jogging in Hermann Park on an old, overgrown carriage trail, clearing paths as he went. By 1987, Taylor had founded Hermann Park Joggers, Runners, and Walkers, a citizen-run nonprofit organization dedicated to maintaining the Trail. After many years of hard work, construction began in 1990 on a crushed granite surface. The Hermann Park Joggers, Runners, and Walkers were also a catalyst in the creation of the group Friends of Hermann Park, which later became Hermann Park Conservancy. Even into his 90’s, Marvin Taylor was an active Hermann Park Conservancy board member, and visited the Trail frequently, sitting on his bench and waving to the many joggers, runners, and walkers passing by. He passed away in 2018.
Take a stroll past the Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool to envision how it has been at the heart of Hermann Park for the last century. The Reflection Pool was first filled in 1925, but it was not until after the 1992 ‘Heart of the Park’ design competition that plans were made for renovation. In 2001, ground broke on the new Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones reflection pool, and it reached completion in 2003.
Whether on your way to the Park, or whilst exploring, take a moment to consider the historical significance of the Hermann Park Golf Course! Construction of an eighteen-hole golf course began in 1922, and the course opened in July 1923. In June 1954, the Hermann Park Golf Course became one of the first in the nation to achieve true desegregation.
The Pioneer Memorial Obelisk, found on Molly Ann Smith Plaza between the Jones Reflection Pool and McGovern Lake, honors the early founders of Houston. The granite obelisk was made in Hermann Park in 1936 by Frank A. Teich, an artist who immigrated from Germany in 1878. The obelisk was dedicated in 1936 to celebrate the centennial of Texas Independence, which is also the centennial of the founding of the city of Houston.
The original Miller Outdoor Theatre opened in May 1923, but it wasn’t until 1948 that the iconic Miller Hill was created with dirt from Fannin Street excavations, which were made to accommodate the expanding Texas Medical Center. Although the Theatre was reconstructed in 1968, and again renovated in the late 90’s and 2000’s, the Hill has stood the test of time and today remains a favorited destination for activities such as rolling, kite-flying, picnicking, and performance viewing.
Inaugurated in 1954, the Park’s first train was a truck tractor with two ‘coaches’ that carried thirty people each. The train toured the zoo at 2 miles per hour, and it was such a success that by 1958, the rubber tires were upgraded to lain tracks for the “Hermann Park Special,” which would tour the Park. In 2008, Hermann Park Conservancy upgraded the tracks, the trains, and created new train stops, including the M.D. Anderson Train stop, the Sunset stop, and the stop at the corner of Cambridge and Fannin. Head over to Kinder Station to check out the main station, or click here for more visiting information.
Make your way over to the McGovern Centennial Gardens to discover the ornate Friendship Pavilion. The pavilion was given to the people of the City of Houston in 1976 as a 150 year anniversary gift from its sister city, Taipei. Originally placed in the Houston Garden Center in 1978, the pavilion has stood as an architectural representation of international friendship for more than 40 years. The Friendship Pavilion was moved to the McGovern Centennial Gardens in 2014, where it now gracefully sits atop the Tudor Family Pine Hill Walk.
In 1914, George Hermann, a Houston native and philanthropist, deeded 285 acres of land to the City of Houston for a public park. Hermann remarked that he was the giving the Park “in consideration of his desire to promote the general welfare of the City of Houston, and the health, comfort, and happiness of the citizens thereof.” A statue of George Hermann was placed in the Park in 1981 in honor of his memory. The bronze statue, created by artist Lonnie Edwards, is inscribed on four sides with descriptions of ‘The Man,’ ‘His Gift,’ ‘His Concern,’ and ‘His Legacy.’ The statue can be found in the Hermann Park Family Commons, welcoming visitors from the METRORail and the Texas Medical Center.