Main Street/Market Square Historic District - Houston, Texas
Posted by: JimmyEv
N 29° 45.842 W 095° 21.536
15R E 271917 N 3294970
Quick Description: Even Houstonians are surprised to discover that Houston, with almost no historic preservation laws, has a relatively intact early 20th-century business district. An easy 3-mile walk will take you from the city’s founding to the Art Deco of the 1930s.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 9/26/2006 9:08:27 AM
Waymark Code: WMRED
This 27-block area, the center of Houston’s commercial activity for the city’s first century, covers nearly half of the original town site of Houston. For such a small area a surprising diversity of architecture is found, representing nearly every commercial style from 1850 to 1945 - early vernacular, Victorian, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco. This is where the Allen Brothers founded Houston, where Houston learned to build the skyscraper, and where today’s energy giants began to take form.|
Most of downtown’s current residential development is occurring in the district, with banks and theaters becoming nightclubs and restaurants, office buildings becoming lofts and hotels. It makes the area a very lively place – something of an ‘urban core’ that Houston has lacked ever since the development of the master-planned community.
It was at the wharves of Allen’s Landing that Houston began in 1836. Within a year the city had begun sprawling southward from the wharves, across the open prairie. Wood-frame commercial structures, not looking much different than houses, were built along Main Street and around Market Square. Eventually these were replaced with more solid brick buildings, some of which still stand toady. By the early 20th century, the first skyscrapers were built, culminating in 1929 with the 430-foot Gulf Building.
Inside the district is Houston’s oldest structure still at it’s original location, Kennedy Bakery; the Magnolia Brewery and Houston Ice & Brewing Co., whose buildings are half-fallen into the bayou; the remaining buildings of the city’s 1920s financial district; sites of both the original Capitol of Texas (the Rice Hotel) and the White House of Texas (the Scanlan Building); the center of Houston's early cotton market, the 1884 Cotton Exchange Building; the Gulf Building, the tallest building in Houston for 34 years; fountains; neon; doorways; and murals. Just outside of the district is the beautiful arcade of the Texas Company Building; a Beaux-Arts U.S. Customhouse; the traditional Harris County Courthouse of 1910; and the second oldest Episcopalian parish in Texas, Christ Church.
The two parks inside the district revel in Houston’s past. Allen’s Landing Park, on the bayou, recreates the original wharves of the city. Excerpts of the Allen Brothers’ first ad extolling the virtues of Houston are carved into a retaining wall. Market Square Park, originally the center of Houston’s business district, features sidewalks paved with Houston history and a plethora of historical photos inlaid on the concrete benches.
The best time to visit the district is when parking is free and the streets are lively -- after 6pm Monday-Saturday and all day Sunday. For a 3-mile walk through Houston’s history, start at Allen’s Landing Park on Commerce Street. From the Allen's Landing Waymark, just follow the links and the coordinates on each page.
Source: Texas Historical Commission, "Main Street/Market Square Historic District"
Available at Texas Historical Atlas
Bounded by Buffalo Bayou, Fannin St, Texas Ave and Milam St
Houston, TX USA
County / Borough / Parish: Harris County
Year listed: 1983
Historic (Areas of) Significance: Architecture/Engineering, Event
Periods of significance: 1850-1949
Historic function: Commerce/Trade, Government, Transportation
Current function: Commerce/Trade, Government, Landscape
Privately owned?: yes
Primary Web Site: [Web Link]
Season start / Season finish: Not listed
Hours of operation: Not listed
Secondary Website 1: Not listed
Secondary Website 2: Not listed
National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.