Houston is a city of firsts--home to the first successful human heart transplant and America's first public television station; the first word spoken on the moon; the birthplace of nanotechnology and (hush, don't tell our friends in Louisiana) Zydeco. Gain an appreciation for this rich history by exploring some of Houston's greatest landmarks.
A downtown walking tour along Buffalo Bayou illustrates how some of the city's oldest buildings have been revitalized as restaurants, hotels, lofts and nightclubs. Houston was founded along Buffalo Bayou, in 1836, at Allen's Landing. For additional insight, download the Downtown Walking Tour onto your iPod or MP3 player.
The historic Market Square was originally designed as the commercial hub of the city and has remained a geographic centerpiece of downtown Houston since the arrival of the city's founders in 1836. Market Square Park, which has recently been re-landscaped, is surrounded by 19th century architecture, and now houses a variety of businesses, entertainment venues and dining establishments.
The Anitoch Missionary Baptist Church, the oldest black church in the city, was founded in 1875 by freed slaves, with the Reverend Mr. Jack Yates as its first pastor.
The Julia Ideson Library Building, named for the long-time Houston librarian, was erected in 1926 as part of the planned civic center. The historical room of the building houses collections of Texas history
Make a stop at the Heritage Society, Houston's only outdoor, interactive historic museum and park. Nestled in 10 acres of green parkland in the heart of downtown Houston, The Heritage Society boasts 9 historic structures--eight historic homes and a church--dating from 1823 to 1905.
Bayou Bend, the former home of Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg, currently houses the American decorative arts collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Considered one of the premier collections in the country, the rare and beautiful objects dating from approximately 1620 to 1876, are installed throughout the 1920s mansion in 28 period room settings.
Many of Houston's most famous citizens are buried in Glenwood Cemetery, designed in 1871. The cemetery's most famous resident is Howard R. Hughes, Jr, aviator, industrialist and reclusive billionaire.
The River Oaks Theatre, built in 1939, is an example of late-1930s Art Deco design. It was the last of the deluxe neighborhood movie theaters built by Interstate Theatre Corporation. Since 1976, the theater has been operated by Landmark Theatres and generally shows foreign language and independent films, as well as other "art-house" movies. The theater is part of the River Oaks Shopping Center, the oldest shopping center in Texas.
The Tower Theater opened originally in 1936 and was converted to a live theater in 1979. It opened its doors with the stage performance of the Texas-based play The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Tower Theatre was converted in March 2011 to an acclaimed Tex-Mex restaurant from Chef Bryan Caswell, El Real Tex-Mex Cafe.
Hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Astrodome is the world's first domed stadium. The $38 million, 208-foot tall stadium was erected on drained marsh land and introduced synthetic turf. The first indoor baseball game was played before a crowd that included President Lyndon Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally on April 9, 1965.
The San Jacinto Monument and Museum are located on the San Jacinto Battleground, the site Texas won its independence from Mexico. The edifice was erected as a tribute to the Texas army which, led by General Sam Houston, defeated the Mexicans in 1836. Atop the monument--the tallest masonry structure in the world, fifteen feet taller than the Washington Monument--is the Lone Star of Texas. The museum, at the base of the monument, houses one of the largest collections of Texas art, artifacts and history.
The USS Texas, also known as the Battleship Texas, has been moored near the battleground since San Jacinto Day, 1948. The battleship, a veteran of two world wars, was saved from scrap heap by the State of Texas, and turned into a historical monument. It's open to visitors year-round and contains a museum of documents and memorabilia of its long service in the U.S. Navy.
Johnson Space Center - Located 45 minute south of downtown in the Clear Lake area of Houston is the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, which has made Houston synonymous with the nation's space achievements. It was from the space center that man's first moon landing was directed. The Center contains the facilities for selection and training of astronauts, and for design, development and testing of manned spacecrafts. On display on the grounds of the center are replicas of the various spacecraft developed by the U.S. space program. Space Center Houston is Johnson Space Center's key attraction for visitors, which displays moon rocks, astronaut flight suits and more. Space Center Houston also offers a Level 9 tour, which takes visitors behind-the-scenes into the life of an astronaut.