Exploring Historic Houses in Houston

By Bohan Zhang, PhD Student in the Department of History

Downtown Houston with I-59 in the foreground. It is sunset.

Tired of always visiting the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets in downtown Houston? Why not take a day off to visit the historic houses in Houston? With stories hidden behind the elegant facades, these historic houses were living testaments to Houston’s past, offering visitors a captivating journey through time. Please join me in exploring some of Houston's most interesting historic houses!

1. Sam Houston Park (a 15-minute drive from Rice University)

In downtown Houston, Sam Houston Park has a collection of ten historic houses. The oldest one dates back to 1823. From Old Place, a wooden cabin, to Staiti House, a brick house with modern amenities like electricity, the visit will show how everyday life has changed in the 19th Century. With the Houston skyline in the background, you will also feel how much Houston has developed in the 20th and 21st Centuries. If you join the guided tour, you can walk into each house to experience the interior yourself. 

2. Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens (20-minute drive from Rice University)

As a part of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens is located in the former home of Ima Hogg (1882–1975). Known as “The First Lady of Texas,” Hogg was a civic leader, philanthropist, art collector, and one of the most respected women in Texas during the 20th Century. In addition to the collections displayed in the museum, the house itself is an elegant artwork. After your visit, you can also enjoy a stroll in the garden located in Houston’s historic River Oaks neighborhood. Highly recommend! 

3. Galveston (1 hour drive from Rice University)

Galveston offers more than beautiful beaches and fantastic amusement parks! As the “Queen City of the Gulf,” Galveston was once Texas’ largest city and one of the largest ports in the United States for a time in the 19th Century. Strolling in the historic downtown of Galveston, you will find yourself surrounded by grand mansions such as Ashton Villa and Bishop’s Palace. Many of these mansions offer guided tours for visitors.

One of the most significant historic moments in Galveston's history occurred on June 19, 1865, when General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, declaring the freedom of enslaved people as decreed by the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous day is now celebrated as Juneteenth! 

Numerous other historic houses in Houston are waiting for your exploration and visit! Enjoy your day exploring!