History

Discover

History

Memorial Park’s history is not only connected to the history of Houston, but to Texas and beyond.

Memorial Park History

Long before the Memorial Park Conservancy came into existence, the Park benefitted from the leadership and interest of passionate conservationists, beginning with Miss Ima Hogg, sister to the Park’s benefactors, Will and Mike Hogg. The original deed of sale to the city specified that the land remain “for park purposes only,” stipulating that should this not be respected, the land would return to Hogg family ownership or that of their heirs. For fifty years, Miss Ima served as guardian of the Park, saving it from numerous potential encroachments, including proposals for oil wells and construction of Houston’s once-famous Astrodome stadium. She faced down over a hundred such proposals, some with prominent local backers, enabling Memorial Park to remain a haven for Houstonians.

Through the Memorial Park Conservancy, the dreams of a world-class park fostered by illustrious Houstonians of the past are being continued by some of Houston’s most dedicated environmentalists of the present. The Conservancy keeps our Park free for everyone to use, while serving the recreational needs of Houstonians and conducting public education about green space preservation. Thanks to conservation programs during its 90 years of existence, the Park has retained much of its original character, while meeting the recreational needs of a growing city.

Historical Timeline

1820
Early Refuge
1820

The “Mother of Texas” Jane Long’s diary recounts camping with a group of travelers headed to San Antonio in the “pinery” that is now the area of Memorial Park.

1835
First Homestead
1835

The Reinerman family establishes a homestead comprising much of the Park’s current land. It remains with members of the Reinerman family until 1883.

1912
Initial Idea
1912

Mayor Horace Baldwin Rice, nephew of William Marsh Rice, strongly endorses the idea of acquiring a large park along Buffalo Bayou “that will for all time be of sufficient magnitude for our people”

1917
Camp Logan
1917

The United States enters the First World War, and the War Department leases 7,600 acres of forested land on Buffalo Bayou to establish a training base named Camp Logan. Nearly 1,000 Camp Logan soldiers lose their lives during the war and over 6,200 are wounded.

1923
In memory of the boys
1923

When Camp Logan is deserted, Catherine Mary Emmott writes to the Houston Chronicle suggesting that “the city buy some of the land and turn it into a park in memory of the boys.” She becomes a tremendous advocate for the cause.

1924
Memorial Park officially established
1924

Will and Mike Hogg, with minority owner Henry Stude, buy two tracts of former Camp Logan land and sell the acreage to the city at cost. In May, the City of Houston officially establishes Memorial Park in memory of the soldiers who trained there. The Hogg’s sister, Miss Ima Hogg, assumes the role of guardian of the Park, saving it from numerous encroachments over the years. Acclaimed landscape architects Hare & Hare are hired to develop a plan for the Park which calls for an 18-hole golf course, scenic drives, trails for hikers and “nature students,” bridle paths, and an amphitheater.

1934
Golf course
1934

The Works Progress Administration puts over 500 men to work on building the golf course. Landscape architect John Bredemus called it “my greatest golf course ever.” The adjacent clubhouse becomes a place to see and be seen. Green fees were 35 cents on weekdays and 50 cents on weekends.

1942
Addition acreage donated
1942

Mr. and Mrs. H.C. Weiss donate an additional 8 adjoining acres on the west side of the Park to the City. Years later, this becomes the location for an archery range, a popular pastime.

1950
Trail riders
1950

Trail riders on the Salt Grass Trail camp overnight in the Park on their way to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, beginning a lively annual tradition.

1958
Hogg Bird Sanctuary
1958

Hogg Bird Sanctuary, a 15.5 acre park at Memorial Drive and Westcott, is donated to the City of Houston by Ima Hogg to be a nature preserve.

1964
Houston Arboretum and Nature Center
1964

The city develops the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center within Memorial Park to provide nature education as well as an urban wildlife sanctuary.

1970
“Father of Jogging”
1970


Inspired by Houstonian Seymour Lieberman, commonly referred to as the “Father of Jogging”, Al Lawrence begins coaching runners for area high-school cross country meets, spearheading the popularity of jogging in the Park. The sport receives an additional boost from the 1972 Olympics.

1975
Protect the Park
1975

Upon the passing of Miss Ima Hogg, a group of stalwart conservationists –Terry Hershey, Sadie Gwin Blackburn, Dr. John D. Staub and Frank C. Smith, Jr.–continue to protect the Park from new intrusion.

1978
Exer-Trail established
1978

The Seymour Lieberman Exer-Trail is established. Today, over 10,000 people each day use the Exer-Trail.

1984
Three Quarter Time Installed
1984

Three Quarter Time, a red steel sculpture by Ben Woitena, is installed on the median of Memorial Drive near the Living Bridge.

1990
Memorial Park Advisory Committee
1990

Sadie Gwin Blackburn assists in developing a larger group to provide guidance and stewardship and organizes the Memorial Park Advisory Committee.

1992
Texas Conservation Hall of Fame
1992

Sarah Emmott, member of the Texas Conservation Hall of Fame, writes the cherished book “Memorial Park: A Priceless Legacy.”

1996
Bush Grove Dedication
1996

Bush Grove is dedicated in honor of President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush 

2000
Memorial Park Conservancy Established
2000

The Memorial Park Advisory Committee becomes the Memorial Park Conservancy, established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

2004
Capital Campaign
2004

An initial master plan is formed for the Park and funds are successfully raised to build the pedestrian Living Bridge, renovate the Alkek Tennis Center and construct the Outer Loop Trail.

2009
Living Bridge Opens
2009

The Living Bridge opens, providing a safe pedestrian crossing over Memorial Drive.

2011
Post-drought planning begins
2011

A devastating drought arrives. More than half of the trees in Memorial Park are irrevocably damaged. A reforestation plan is put into motion.

2013
Planning begins for Master Plan
2013

Houston City Council approves the annexation of Memorial Park into the boundaries of the Uptown TIRZ #16, resulting in a significant funding stream for the Park. A Master Plan process is embarked upon.

2014
Cullen Running Trails Center
2014

The Cullen Running Trails Center opens on the south side of Memorial Drive at the base of the Living Bridge

2015
Memorial Park Master Plan approved
2015

Houston City Council approves the long-range Master Plan for Memorial Park. In December, ground breaks on the inaugural project, Eastern Glades.

Maintenance and Operations
2015

Memorial Park Conservancy takes over the daily maintenance and operations of Memorial Park

2018
Eastern Glades Phase I
2018

In October, Eastern Glades Phase I, the first project of the Master Plan, opens to the public and includes new restrooms, more parking, and a number of environmentally friendly efforts.

Accelerating the Master Plan
2018

The Kinder Foundation donates $70 million to Memorial Park Conservancy in the largest single parks grant in Houston history to accelerate the Master Plan, leading to the creation of the Ten-Year Plan.

2019
Eastern Glades Phase II
2019

Ground breaks on the second phase of Eastern Glades which will include greenspace for picnicking and passive recreation, a boardwalk, a lake and wetlands, a commemorative pedestrian entrance near the location of the original entrance into Camp Logan, and a second set of new restrooms.