The Historic District is Houston's original town center. It’s where the Allen brothers landed, determined to create the city of the future in 1836. Just two blocks from Allen's Landing at Market Square (orginally named Congress Square), they located the civic center of the new city, and for 100 years it served as a home to four City Halls as well as a buzzing open-air produce and fish market.
Houston Downtown Management District, Downtown Redevelopment Authority/TIRZ #3 and the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department redeveloped Market Square Park in August 2010, after lending their ears to downtown residents, business and property owners. With these stakeholders in mind, the park has been transformed into a destination for residents and visitors alike, while preserving the park’s historical and artistic roots.
The goals for the redesigned Market Square Park were to acknowledge the history of the site; to provide an active, urban green space adapted to the needs of a diverse neighborhood; and to conserve its existing artwork while incorporating new works of art.
Today, a visitor can follow a black granite band through the park for a tour around the footprint of their foundation. A rectangular lawn sits at the foundation’s center, and the park cafe and James Surls’ Points of View occupy the spaces where the buildings’ towers once stood while framing the present day dining trellis, performance stage and plaza. On the west side of the lawn, a crescent-shaped dog run provides a welcoming place for the canine contingent to play off-leash. Lauren’s Garden, a space dedicated to the memory of all who were lost on September 11, 2001, is named for Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, a Houstonian and passenger aboard United Flight 93. Offering a respite for meditation and remembrance, this tribute garden of seasonal plantings, flowering trees, plaza and fountain is a gift to the city from the Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation.
Much of Market Square’s art collection was featured in the park’s previous design coordinated by DiverseWorks in 1991, with the unified message of embracing our city’s history. These works by Richard Turner, Paul Hester, James Surls and Malou Flato are preserved or reconfigured in the current design. Newly commissioned artwork includes sculptures by Ketria Bastian Scott and Sharon Connally Ammann in Lauren’s Garden and James Phillips’ carved pup near the dog run.
To create a truly diverse park that can accommodate a growing and diverse community, many great minds came together. Lauren Griffith Associates, a Houston-based landscape architect, led the design and Kerry Goelzer and Ray + Hollington Architects and Tribble & Stephens all consulted on the project and designed a park that was in keeping with history and embracing of the future.
1836 Site Platted at Congress Square
1839 Renamed Market Square
1840 First Market House built
1841 First City Hall built
1873 Second City Hall and Market built; destroyed by fire in 1876
1877 Third City Hall and Market House built; destroyed by fire in 1901
1904 Fourth City Hall and Market House built
1929 City Market moved to a new site on Buffalo Bayou at Prairie Avenue
and Smith Street
1939 City government moved to a new City Hall in Civic Center at McKinney
Avenue and Bagby Street; the 1904 City Hall Building converted to a
1960 1904 City Hall burns; site converted to a parking lot
1961 Site designated a park, but continues to serve as a parking lot.
1976 Fred Buxton & Associates wins competition for design of new park;
park presented to the city as Bicentennial gift by the Junior League
1983 Site listed in National Register of Historic Places
1985 Diverse Works, Inc., a nonprofit art center, proposes a redesign of
the park by artists in collaboration with the Parks Department
1986 Artist team selected by panel process; design approved by the
Municipal Art Commission
1987 Phase 1 site preparation coordinated by Downtown Houston
Association, a nonprofit civic organization
1988 The Houston Market Square Park Project, Inc., a nonprofit corporation,
formed to fund and construct Phase II, the artists’ design
1990 City Council approves Phase II of Design and designates Main
Street Market Square Historic District as the first historic district;
1991 Park dedicated improvements given to the city by the Houston Market
Square Park Project, Inc.
2007 Downtown Redevelopment Authority brings in Project for Public Spaces
(PPS) to study the park ; outreach to the community ensues
2008 Downtown Redevelopment Authority approves funding for the park
renovation; Houston Downtown Management District enters into an
interlocal agreement with the City of Houston Parks & Recreation to
manage the construction /renovation of the park and to operate the park
2009 Final design presentation to the community; park breaks ground
2010 Grand re-opening of the park on August 28