Best of Houston

The Changing Face of Houston - Texas Medical Center

All of the previous entries in this series have covered residential neighborhoods. This one is slightly different. While the Texas Medical Center is a distinct part of the Houston landscape, it is important not as a community of homes and the people who live there, but for the contribution that it brings to Houston and the rest of the world.

Today the Texas Medical Center is a large complex of modern research facilities and hospitals, located about as centrally in the city as possible, and is a vital hub of Houston life. However, the area was very different during the early part of the twentieth century. In the 1920s, the current site of the Medical Center was a large forested area owned by Will Hogg, the son of former Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg. William Hogg dreamed of relocating the UT Medical Branch from Galveston to the Houston area, and he thought it would be ideal to build it across from the newly established Rice University (then known as the Rice Institute), but his plans didn't gain traction, and he eventually sold the land back to the City of Houston.

Another wealthy Houstonian named George Hermann, who had made a fortune with lumber, cattle, and oil ventures, had donated hundreds of acres to Houston to create a city park in 1914. Envisioning that the city should also have a public hospital, Hermann made provisions in his will to provide land and funding to construct one. Hermann died of stomach cancer during the same year Hermann Park opened, and a little over a decade later, the hospital he'd imagined opened nearby.

Behind Hermann Hospital lay the 134 acres that the City of Houston had re-acquired from William Hogg. The land was considered mosquito infested forest land located on the outskirts of town during the 1920s, but it would soon undergo big changes.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Lane is a contributing writer who enjoys covering art, music, pop culture, and social issues.