Quirky H Town: A collection of Houston's oddball attractions
By Carol Barrington, Photographs by J. Griffis Smith
Houston always wows with its sleek skyline, world-class sports venues, myriad cultural options, and revitalized downtown—overall, a very “Now” showcase of energetic sophistication.
Only here can one marvel at a house covered in flattened beer cans and a jungle gym-style tribute to the orange that spreads across two residential lots. Only here are funerals fodder for museums. And only here does a 36-foot-tall sculpture of a cellist serenade passers-by with classical music on a downtown sidewalk.
Today’s Houston thrives as an entrepreneurial heaven, the roots of which go back to the city’s founding in 1836 as part of a 6,600-acre real estate promotion. The come-on ad that developers John K. Allen and Augustus Chapman Allen placed in the Texas Register on August 30 of that year trumpeted Houston’s location “at a point on the river which must ever command the trade of the largest and richest portion of Texas.”
That “river” was sluggish and muddy Buffalo Bayou, and that “richest portion of Texas” was mostly piney thickets and salt grass prairie barely 60 feet higher than the Gulf of Mexico—potential flood territory for sure.
Exhibiting a second stroke of marketing genius, the Allen brothers named their pie-in-the-sky settlement after the hero du jour, Sam Houston, and never looked back. Within a year, Houston had become (temporarily) the capital of the Republic of Texas, and (permanently) a mecca to individualists eager to follow their own stars.
That basic civic trait has not changed in the ensuing 174
years. Entrepreneurs and outright characters of all stripes still thrive here,
and you’ll both grin and puzzle as you explore their continuing contributions
to the city’s zany Zeitgeist.
For information on lodging, restaurants, events, and other
attractions in Houston, contact the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors
Bureau at 713/437-5200 or 800/4-HOUSTON.
The following is contact information for sites mentioned in the story. Call ahead for directions, hours and admission prices.
From the January 2010 issue.