Best Scenic Park - 2009
Elizabeth Baldwin Park
A tangled tale of secret wills, court battles and murder lies behind the birth of this ever-lovelier Midtown gem. Elizabeth Baldwin Park takes its name from the wife of William Marsh Rice, the founder of the nearby university. Just before her death, unbeknownst to old man Rice, Elizabeth drew up a new will leaving half her husband's fortune to various family members and pet causes, including this park. Rice's subsequent battle to contest that will — eventually this park was one of the few bequests from the revised will that went into effect — wound up costing him his life, but you wouldn't know any of that from looking at Baldwin Park today. Though not as grand as Hermann or Memorial, Baldwin Park packs an equal amount of grace and serenity into its 4.5 acres. While the 1912 fountain and Vietnamese-American memorials are nice touches, the park's loveliest feature is its grove of century-old live oaks, each with branches that touch the ground and arch back toward the sky.