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Market Square Park: Historic Beauty in Downtown Houston

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Market Square Park in Downtown Houston

Market Square Park in Downtown Houston

Downtown Houston’s Market Square Park

Market Square Park in downtown Houston covers an entire city block. It has been transformed from its original purpose over the years to the scenic beauty that it is today. It is a part of the downtown historic district. A sign erected by the State Historical Survey Committee of Texas tells the following story.

“OLD MARKET SQUARE

Platted 1836 by surveyors Gail Borden, Jr., and Moses Lapham as “Congress Square.” It was the intention of city fathers Augustus C. and John K. Allen to have permanent capital of Republic of Texas located here. However, this was never realized, and almost immediately it became center of commerce for this flourishing city.

Residents, farmers, peddlers, and Indians all crowded here daily with wagon loads of goods to trade. Soon merchants were vying for permanent sites for stores. One early observer noted, “Reason for its popularity was that the municipal government was conducted in Kesler’s Arcade, a saloon only a half block away.

In 1840 Houston’s first municipal market house was built here. Before it was completed, city officials voted to enlarge it and include a city hall also. For 30 years building served dual role – the market overflowing till it reached the streets. Many items, including household and farm goods, were sold here.

It was here, the Houston Independent Light Guard mobilized after Texas decided to invade Mexico, 1842.

Several municipal buildings occupied the site following original market – city hall. However, the seat of government was eventually moved to a new location, and this became a park. (1970) “

Historical Park Sign

Historical Park Sign

Park Site Chronology

Visitors can view footprints of the foundations of the buildings that have previously been on this site.

A four-sided concrete pillar has sculptured faces near the top. Those faces depict various emotions ranging from serious to happy. Written below each face is a park site chronology.

New Design in 2010

In August of 2010, the park debuted its new design. New artwork has joined what was already present in older art projects. Diverse Works was engaged in choosing the artists who added new pieces of art to Market Square.

Artist Malou Flato

From all four streets which border the park (Milam, Preston, Travis, and Congress), those lovely mosaic adorned benches can be seen and enjoyed. Texas artist Malou Flato created them.

Malou Flato spends half of her time in Texas and the other half in Montana with her husband, who is a writer. Her drawings, paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art are lovely. She incorporated scenes into her mosaics, which would have been common when Market Square in Houston was operating primarily as a marketplace as well as a center of local government.

There is a thin sheet of water running over those round mosaic ornamented fountains.

James Surls

The artist James Surls made this treated pine, and painted steel sculpture titled “Points of View” in 1991. This 25-foot tall sculpture has a water feature at its base. James Surls also created a similar type of sculpture titled “Tree and Three Flowers,” located on Kirby Drive in Houston. If you check out that post that I have written, you will see the similarity between them.

Dog Park in Market Square Park

Our canine friends are not forgotten when it comes to enjoyment in this urban downtown park. They can be allowed to run off-leash in this doggie play area near Milam street while in other areas of the park, they must be kept on a leash. Separate areas exist for the large as well as small dogs.

Historic Remnants by Richard Turner

Historic Remnants by Richard Turner

Historical Remnants

History and art make an excellent combination in this downtown Houston park. A walkway next to the dog park consists of fragments from demolished buildings and historical remnants. Richard Turner is the artist who created this interesting art incorporating pieces of architecture into this “History Walk.” Many people strolling here may not understand the significance of this walkway.

Steel Cutout

Installed along the fence where the dog park exists in Market Square Park is a steel cutout form of Houston. Paul Hester created this sculptural form of art.

If you are looking closely at the two photographs above, you can also see more of the historical remnants by Richard Turner in the walkway in front of the steel cutout and fence of the dog park.

Clock Tower

The Louis and Annie Friedman Clock Tower once stood atop the last city hall in this location. The first several city halls are no longer here due to fires. The tower also houses an 1876 2800-pound fire bell. The four faces of the clock are each 7 1/2 feet in diameter.

There is an interesting story regarding this clock. When the last city hall at this location was demolished, the timepiece ended up in storage. Somehow it ended up in a dump! Clyde E. Gray purchased it. It became located in a park in Woodville, Texas. When the mistake became known, Mr. Gray relinquished the clock, and the City of Houston once again had possession of it. Wound every eight days, it adds its bit of history to this downtown historic district.

Lauren’s Garden

Lauren’s Garden

Memorial Garden

Lauren’s Garden located in Market Square off of Congress Street is a touching memorial already featured in another post of mine. The sculptures by Ketria Scott, fountain, surrounding landscaping plus the poignant story behind it has much meaning. It has to do with the infamous day of 9-11.

Historical photographs of Houston by Paul Hester

Historical photographs of Houston by Paul Hester

Photographic Art in Market Square Park

Paul Hester is the founding President of the Houston Center for Photography. He also teaches photography at Rice University. Many people and institutions collect his beautiful photographic art, including the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

It is interesting to see his many pictures of buildings in Houston, along with the old dates. Some of these buildings no longer exist except in images such as this.

Restaurant in The Park

Niko Niko’s is a Greek American Cafe located in Market Square Park. They also have two other locations in Houston. It is an excellent addition to the park for people who wish to purchase something to eat or drink while in the park.

With the shade of trees, umbrella tables, and this shade structure with fans plus a mister, hot days are made more comfortable. There are many nearby restaurants if one wishes to get something different to eat. Treebeards is one such restaurant across the street from the park. Located in a historic building dating back to 1861, it has a fantastic mural painted on the side of the structure.

Events

Numerous events such as free concerts, movies, bingo nights, and others happen in this park. The green spaces are perfect for accommodating many people. They have an online calendar to keep people informed of upcoming events.

City Founder

Augustus Allen, one of the city founders, in 1854, gave this land to the City of Houston. If he was alive today, I am confident that he would be pleased with the evolution of what has taken place here. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is a beautiful downtown space offering much to visitors as well as residents and businesses.

Location

If you are planning a trip to Houston or if you live here and have not yet visited Market Square Park, put on your happy face and come on down! Daily hours are from 6 a.m to 11 p.m. The address is 301 Milam Street, Houston, Texas 77002.

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 08, 2020:

Hi Aurelio,

Market Square Park has a lot of historical significance in addition to now being a great gathering spot with much to do and see. We have seen it evolve into the beautiful park that so many people now get to enjoy. Those sculptures of the faces are amazing!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on November 08, 2020:

I've never been to the park but you describe it quite well. I love the sculptures of the faces and the dog. The historical photographs are a great way to showcase the history of the city.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 04, 2020:

Hi William,

I have lived in Houston most of my life at this point. The downtown area has changed radically over the years, and in a positive way. Market Square Park is a beauty! Thanks for your comment.

William on November 04, 2020:

I have lived in Houston for over 50 years and have watched the continual upgrades to this historic block of Downtown. Nicely presented and written.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 29, 2020:

Hi Chitrangada,

It is my pleasure to be able to share places like this with you. Market Square is one of several lovely downtown parks in Houston.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on March 29, 2020:

A very well written article, and a great guide to The Market Square Park.

Your pictures are so interesting and give an idea of the wonderful place. I particularly liked the garden, the benches, the head sculptures.

Thank you for sharing this part of the World with us.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2020:

Hi Bill,

Before I am finished, and as long as you keep reading my articles, you will learn much more about the Houston metro area and why it attracts so many people. (Smile)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2020:

Hi Lorna,

Hopefully, you will be enjoying bright sunshine soon in your part of the world. I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about this downtown park.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 28, 2020:

Before you started sharing these articles, I knew three things about Houston.....it was hot...it was flat...and it had a Space Center...thanks for the introduction to a beautiful city.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2020:

Hi Liz,

This repurposed market square contains a blending of history with many modern conveniences. It is also so beautiful with all of the art.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 28, 2020:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

It is good that the clock was found and returned to its place of origin. Your mother must have an immaculate and organized home. Ha! So far, I have only gotten rid of a few items that I wish I had kept.

Lorna Lamon on March 28, 2020:

It looks like a wonderful place and so nice to see the sun. We could do with that here in Ireland. I love the combination of art and history which appear to compliment each other, along with those much needed green spaces. Another enjoyable read Peggy. Take care.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 28, 2020:

This is a great guide to the Market Square. It's amazing how much is packed in there. There must be a lot of old market squares in the world which have been repurposed. I can certainly think of a few near us and also in Europe.

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 28, 2020:

I especially like the sculptures of the heads with horns and the dog and enjoyed the anecdote about the clock ending up in the dump. Must have been a decision made by someone like my mother. We call her the boss of toss. If she doesn’t see an immediate need, it goes—donated or thrown away.