H.P.A.R.D. Park Histories

The Nichols - Rice - Cherry House in Sam Houston Park

1836 - 1919


John Kirby Allen and his brother Augustus C. Allen founded Houston on Buffalo Bayou.


Houston Mayor Sam Brashear selected and purchased a site as the City's first public park in June 1899. The 20.43  acres of land was purchased for $26,000. Prior to the purchase of the parkland, Mayor Brashear appointed the first  park committee, composed of three aldermen and the mayor to oversee the purchase. This site was later dedicated  as Sam Houston Park.


Brownie Statue was donated to the City of Houston by the Houston Civic Club. The Brownie Statue was placed in  Sam Houston Park, stolen and recovered several times and now resides in the Houston Zoo.


Martha Hermann Square was the home of George H. Hermann. He was born and raised there. Before it became a  park, it was used as a horse, buggy and wagon staging area. Mr. Hermann gave two parks and Hermann Hospital to  the City of Houston. Martha Hermann was his mother's nickname.


Clarence Brock was placed on City payroll as the first Park Superintendent.


George E. Kessler of St. Louis designed the entrance to Hermann Park.


Zoological collection started at Woodland Park with a pair of ostriches paid for by penny donations from Houston  school children. Within one year, Woodland Park had collected up to 60 specimens and increased attendance as  great as 500 persons on Sundays. The zoo's budget was $698.58.

The Stude Holding Association donated 22.4 acres of land to Houston to form Stude Park. Twenty acres already  owned by the City were added to it.


The Department of Public Parks was created on March 15, 1916, with a Parks Commission of three members,  appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by City Council. The revenue for the year was $622.44, with appropriation for  maintenance of $10,960.00. Projects completed in the first year included: improvements to Sam Houston Park; the  construction of a Municipal Greenhouse on Washington Avenue to house 117,000 plants; the construction of a  shelter building and a pool at Woodland Park (completed under the first parks bond issue); and the development of  Hermann Park with shelter house, playground equipment and plans for a nine-hole golf course. In 1916, the  Department was in  charge of approximately 750 acres of parkland.


Camp Logan began as a complete training site for the Illinois National Guard that served overseas in the 33rd  Division. The camp was named after Major General John A. Logan, USV of Illinois, who served in the Civil War and  Mexican War. Major Logan served as a Senator from Illinois and ran unsuccessfully as a Vice Presidential nominee.

The campsite closed in 1919 and was turned over to the U. S. Public Health Service. After that, it was purchased by  Mike and William C. Hogg. Later, the property was sold to the City of Houston and would eventually become  Memorial Park.


Emancipation Park, originally purchased and owned by former slaves as a fairground, became a city park for the  exclusive use of African-Americans. At this time, parks not specifically set aside for their use were considered to be  white-only.


The Recreation Bureau was established following a conference between two community service bureaus, the  Committee of Social Service Bureau and Rusk Settlement. The request for a Recreation Bureau was presented to  the Houston Foundation, which presented the request to Mayor A. E. Amerman and the City Council. Miss Corinne  Fonde, for whom Fonde Recreation Center and Fonde Park would later be named, became Executive Secretary of  the Recreation Bureau. Delegates from parent groups, neighborhood civic clubs and other organizations interested  in public recreation made up the board's general membership. The Tree of Lights started, originally organized by  Season's Debutantes.