I had a busy Christmas vacation going to Oklahoma to see the Price Tower in Bartlesville, but that wasn’t my only excursion away from Dallas. I also went to Houston to visit family, a friend and the Houston Temple. I had a lovely trip!
The drive between Dallas and Houston went quicker than I planned, so I made a pit stop at a roadside attraction that everyone driving Interstate 45 north of Houston has seen and probably stopped by at some point in the last 20 years—the larger-than-life statue of Sam Houston.
It was created to celebrate a great leader in Texas history, the man who rallied his people with one of the most famous battle cries of all time. ‘Remember the Alamo’ inspired his troops to victory at the battle of San Jacinto winning independence for the Republic of Texas from Santa Anna’s Mexico. He went on to serve as President of the Republic of Texas, Governor of Texas (twice), and U.S. Senator from Texas.
The concrete and steel statue is 67 feet tall letting it claim that it is the tallest statue of an American hero. For some reason he reminds me of another American hero, Brigham Young. Maybe because I’ve lived my whole life with portraits of Young and only see Houston driving down I-45, which happened just this trip for the first time in more than 15 years.
I’ve stopped here before though, but that’s when I was a kid and wasn’t interested in reading plaques. This time I did, and I was impressed and intrigued. Here are a few things I learned about this larger-than-life Texan:
- He is the only person in U.S. history to be elected as a governor of two states—Tennessee and Texas
- He is the only person to serve as both a foreign head of state and a governor of a state
- He opposed the Civil War and secession—this is what made him fall out of favor and basically live in exile the rest of his life
To visit the statue, you’ll take either exit 109 or 112 from I-45 and follow signs to the visitor center. You will be in the City of Huntsville, which operates the visitor center and is the city where Sam Houston lived his final days. He’s laid to rest in a nearby cemetery.
After visiting the Houston Temple, my friend took me for an adventure to downtown Houston. Although I had been to Houston a few times before with the Texas Boys Choir, I had never had a chance to explore the city.
First thing we did was go to the observation area on the 60th floor of the Chase Tower. Grand Texas vistas met our gaze in 180 degrees including the suburban sprawl Texas cities are so good at, which incidentally is one of my least favorite things about my home state.
From the tower we could see a few things to go and explore including a collection of old buildings in a little park nearby. When we got to the park we found a series of historic nineteenth century homes and buildings that were moved to the park for preservation and education.
Being a Monday they were closed as many museums are, so we just walked around peeking in the windows. At the low end of the park near the bayou drainage pond is a hidden treasure of American history and culture–a monument to the Confederacy erected in 1908. Another monument in the park is to one of the U.S. warships named after the city, the USS Houston, which was sunk during WWII in the Pacific.
From this park we traversed downtown to a much newer park near the convention center. We passed the library, city hall, and many new and old skyscrapers. This other park is your standard urban park with many areas for many activities. Surprisingly there was an outdoor ice rink. I was wishing I had worn shorts it was so warm and humid, but somehow there was an ice rink.
There’s also some lovely pieces of public art including this pair of wings.
Eventually, we found our way down into the tunnels below downtown to seek out tasty dumplings Vanessa had heard about. Having both spent time in China, we were excited to see how they’d taste. We were not disappointed.
Walking back to our car, we watched a drumline play and saw some more interesting architecture. It was a just a quick jaunt around downtown Houston, but well worth it and very enjoyable.