History

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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

  • Early Refuge

    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.

  • First Homestead

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

  • Initial Idea

    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”

  • Camp Logan

    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.

  • In memory of the boys

    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.

  • Memorial Park officially established

    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.

  • Golf course

    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.

  • Addition acreage donated

    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.

  • Trail riders

    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.

  • Hogg Bird Sanctuary

    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.

  • Houston Arboretum and Nature Center

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

  • “Father of Jogging”


    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.

  • Protect the Park

    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.

  • Exer-Trail established

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

  • Three Quarter Time Installed

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

  • Memorial Park Advisory Committee

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

  • Texas Conservation Hall of Fame

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

  • Bush Grove Dedication

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

  • Memorial Park Conservancy Established

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

  • Capital Campaign

    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.

  • Living Bridge Opens

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

  • Post-drought planning begins

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

  • Planning begins for Master Plan

    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.

  • Cullen Running Trails Center

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

  • Memorial Park Master Plan approved

    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

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

  • Eastern Glades Phase I

    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

    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.

  • Eastern Glades Phase II

    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.