McGovern Centennial Gardens, Houston, Texas
In May of 1914, Houston real estate investor and industrialist George H. Hermann announced publicly his intention of deeding to the City of Houston 285 acres of his property for a municipal park across the street from the Rice Institute, and thus, Hermann Park was born. A century later, Hermann Park is 445-acres of beautiful green space and is visited by an estimated 6 million people per year.
This historic park space is now home to numerous cultural institutions including the Houston Zoo, Miller Outdoor Theatre, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Hermann Park Golf Course. The park wasn't always the valuable and vibrant location it is today, though. In fact, in the late 1980s due to insufficient public resources and very high public attendance, the park became rundown and entered a state of disrepair. In response, a group of committed and visionary Houstonians formed the nonprofit organization known as the Friends of Hermann Park (FHP) to encourage the development of more attractive, usable green space in Hermann Park, and to promote the restoration of the Park to its originally intended standards of beauty.
Their efforts have surely paid off, with Hermann Park now acting as Houston's most historically significant, and most visited, public green space. This notable community space continues to grow and thrive, with its most recent expansion unveiled in December of 2014. Built to commemorate 100 years of Hermann Park, the McGovern Centennial Gardens are a 15 acre expansion anchored by a garden pavilion, event lawn, and an earthen structure called “The Mount.” A 30 ft. hill wound in a spiral walkway, The Mount is a focal point of the Gardens, with an elevated lookout point allowing guests to survey the green space in its entirety. Flanking the event lawn and Mount are various themed gardens and walkways, including an interactive family garden that features edible fruits and vegetables in various states of cultivation.
This 30 million dollar renovation also included a variety of eye-catching water features. Water is a key facet of the Gardens, serving to tie the aspects of the main thoroughfare together. Upon entrance to the park, guests are greeted with a reflecting pool containing 6 cascade jets, providing both visual interest and sound to the Garden expanse. Across the event lawn, on the east side of the Mount, a graduated cascading white water display runs from the hilltop to bottom, culminating in another reflecting pool. The rushing waterfall provides an element of bold excitement and energy, serving as a civic gesture to connect the gardens with the rest of the park, and the city of Houston, in their scale and drama.
There is no question why The American Planning Association has named Hermann Park as one of 15 Great Places in America, and one of six Great Public Spaces. This historical park is "unique and exemplary in its amenities and infrastructure, cultural identity, and use of sustainable and innovative practices."