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Houston Architecture Walk (Self Guided), Houston

Houston's Downtown is the city's busiest and most highly developed neighborhood. Mostly famous for its beautiful skyscraper district, Downtown has quite a few surprises awaiting visitors. Take a stroll down the crowded streets and you will see historic buildings and modern structures side-by-side. Walk and enjoy Downtown's architecture at its best.
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Houston Architecture Walk Map

Guide Name: Houston Architecture Walk
Guide Location: USA » Houston (See other walking tours in Houston)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Post Rice Lofts
  • JPMorgan Chase Building
  • Esperson Buildings
  • Pennzoil Place
  • Bank of America Center
  • Houston City Hall
  • Julia Ideson Building
  • Heritage Plaza
Christ Church Cathedral

1) Christ Church Cathedral

The Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest worshiping congregation in Houston, and is also one of the most interesting. This facility has been around since 1839. In those days, Texas was not part of the United States, and Houston was actually the capital of the Republic of Texas. The members of this church are among some of the first families to colonize the area. This congregation also founded the Trinity Church of Houston.

The other interesting thing about this church is that the congregation is still in its original building. That is saying something considering the fact that the church caught fire in 1938. The heroic efforts of one fireman helped to save the church. The building was able to be repaired.

The building was designed in a late Gothic Revival style of architecture. As such, it is one of the only churches done in this style in town. The designer was Silas McBee, who was quite famous in his day for his innovative designs. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in the year 1979.
Post Rice Lofts

2) Post Rice Lofts

The Post Rice Lofts are loft apartments in Houston that have been made out of the old historic Rice Hotel. The site is quite famous, and is a popular tourist attraction in town. You can visit the two story lobby, enjoy the beautiful stain glass, and even see the Crystal Ballroom.

The hotel was built in 1913. It used to be one of the most glamorous places to go in town, and was frequented by the rich and famous of Houston. Among its guests were also several United States Presidents.

The site on which the hotel stands is also quite famous. The Old Capitol of the Republic of Texas used to be in this spot. The Texas Congress met here until 1837. Afterwards, the spot became the Capitol Hotel. It was eventually rebuilt into the Rice Hotel. In 1922, the cafeteria here became the first air conditioned place in Houston.

Perhaps the most famous thing about this location is that it used to be frequented by John F. Kennedy. He gave one of the final speeches of his life here in 1963. It was just one day before he was shot.
JPMorgan Chase Building

3) JPMorgan Chase Building

JPMorgan Chase Building, formerly the Gulf Building, is a beautiful example of a skyscraper built in the art deco style. The detail on the Main Street entrance is just gorgeous. The window detail is also astonishing. It was only one of two art deco buildings built in Houston. The location was completed in 1929 and remained the tallest building west of the Mississippi River until 1931. It also dominated the Houston skyline until it was surpassed in height in 1963.

There is a stained glass window over the entrance on Travis Street that should not be missed, depicting the Battle of San Jacinto and quite impressive to see. The rest of the banking hall is equally interesting. The ceiling with all its ornamental decor is simply amazing. A display of artifacts from the building can be viewed in an alcove next to the banking hall. Another feature to see is the lobby, with its vaulted ceiling and eight frescoes. These paintings depict various events in Texas history and are history lessons in themselves.

The building is located at the corner of Main Street and Rusk Avenue. Both the banking hall and the lobby are open to the public during the usual banking hours.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Esperson Buildings

4) Esperson Buildings

The Esperson Buildings are a complex of structures in the downtown area of Houston. They are named after the owners. They are very well known in the area. Mellie Esperson had the buildings done for her husband Niels, who was a famous oil tycoon and real estate giant in the area.

From an architectural perspective, the buildings were done in an Italian Renaissance style. In fact, they are the only complete examples of this style in town. They were designed by John Eberson. They were built in 1927, and the annex was added in 1941.

The location is a very popular place for sporting events, musical events, and the like. It was renovated in 2001, to keep up with modern demands for the use of the building. From a different perspective, there are many reports that the buildings are haunted. The ghost of Mellie Esperson is supposed to travel through the building. So, if you enjoy a bit of intrigue, pay a visit to the place.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Pennzoil Place

5) Pennzoil Place

Pennzoil Place consists of two buildings that tower 36 stories into the air. They are located in Houston. They were built in 1975, and were designed by the firm of Johnson and Burgee. The building has won many awards for its innovative design.

The overall shape of the two towers is trapezoidal. The two structures sit only 10 feet apart at the base. The outer design was done in a dark bronze colored glass which is fixed in aluminum. The two towers are exact images. There is an atrium that connects the buildings, which is shaped like a pyramid. If you stand away from the complex, and move around a bit, you will notice that the shape of the buildings change in look. The optical illusion created by the shapes is quite fun to see indeed.

The architectural style is postmodern. Ludwig van der Rohe was the designer. In its day, it was considered a great stride forward in the design of skyscrapers for breaking with the traditional glass box style design. In 1975, the New York Times dubbed this place the building of the decade. So, you will have to take time and see this modern marvel.
Bank of America Center

6) Bank of America Center

The building was completed in 1983, and has been a prominent part of the Houston landscape ever since. It stands 56 stories tall, and covers a huge 1.5 million square feet of space. There is an adjacent structure that is twelve stories tall, and is the meeting hall for the complex.

It is Neo-Gothic in style. Yet, it also represents a post modern way of thinking about design. It is modeled after the canal houses that can be found in the Netherlands. The famous firm of Johnson and Burgee designed the building.

Upon first glance, one can notice the beauty of the red granite and glass used to design the exterior. The gabled roof top is also quite striking. It sets off each the three sectional setbacks of the building.

It is currently the seventh tallest building in the state of Texas. It is also the 51st tallest building in the United States. In 2001, the building was damaged by Tropical Storm Allison. The basement area was flooded. During the evacuation, one of the employees of Mayer, Brown & Platt drowned in the elevator, trying to get her car out to safety during this tragic storm.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Houston City Hall

7) Houston City Hall (must see)

The Houston City Hall, constructed in 1938-1939, is flanked by Tranquility Park and the Houston Public Library. This simply designed structure features many construction details that have helped to make it an architectural classic. The architect of the City Hall was Joseph Finger, an Austrian-born Texan architect responsible for a number of Houston-area landmarks. The design on the lobby floor depicts the protective role of government. In the grill-work above the main entrances are medallions of great lawgivers from ancient times to the founding of the United States. The lobby is walled with lightly veined marble. Above the lobby entrance is a stone sculpture depicting two men taming a wild horse, which is meant to symbolize a community coming together to form a government to tame the world around them. This sculpture and twenty-seven friezes around the building were done by Beaumont artist Herring Coe and co-designer Raoul Josse.

Why You Should Visit:
Definitely worth a walk through, including the beautiful city council chambers.
The limestone building itself is nice and a wonderful contrast to some of the newer metal & glass skyscrapers that now loom over it.

Be sure to walk the City Hall grounds in March, when the multicolored azaleas are blooming.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Julia Ideson Building

8) Julia Ideson Building

The Julia Ideson Building is a part of the Public Library system in Houston. It is located downtown. It was designed by the firm of Cram and Ferguson of Boston. It was opened in 1926, and was first used as the central library building. It replaced a Carnegie building first used as the primary location.

Architecturally speaking, it was designed in a Spanish Revival style. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Besides being a part of the central library system, though, it is also considered to be another example of a haunted building in Houston. It is said to be haunted by one of the old caretakers of the library, one Jacob Cramer. His dog Petey is also supposed to be with him. He used to play the violin. So, on frequent occasions, people have reported hearing violin music in the six floors of archives here. There have also been many reported of the sounds of nails clicking on the marble floor, as if it were the sound of the nails of the dog.
Heritage Plaza

9) Heritage Plaza

The Heritage Plaza is one of the more famous skyscrapers located in downtown Houston. It is 53 stories tall, which makes it the 5th tallest building in town, and the eighth tallest in the state. It was completed in 1987. The designing firm was Nasar and Partners. It is also one of the newest such building to grace the skyline of this town.

It covers over a million square feet. For many years, this was the corporate home of Texaco Oil. That group left in 2001. It is currently owned by the Goddard Investment Group.

From an architectural perspective, the building is famous for the stepped granite features of the place, which make it look a bit like a Mayan pyramid. In fact, the architects were inspired to design this structure in this manner after paying a visit to the Yucatan. Some people also describe the overall shape of this place as a Bald Eagle spreading its wings to fly into the air. You may also want to go inside the building to see the giant waterfall in the lobby. It is quite impressive.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Houston, Texas

Create Your Own Walk in Houston

Create Your Own Walk in Houston

Creating your own self-guided walk in Houston is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Houston's Landmarks Tour

Houston's Landmarks Tour

Houston is the fourth largest city in the USA. A buzzing commercial and cultural center, Houston proudly boasts of many great museums, architectural masterpieces, and other landmarks. Take this walking tour to explore some of the most interesting landmarks in Houston.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Arts Walking Tour in Houston

Arts Walking Tour in Houston

Among the wide variety of tourist attractions Houston has to offer, several art museums and galleries deserve special attention. These galleries will thrill all art lovers. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most spectacular museums and galleries in Houston.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Houston Downtown Walk

Houston Downtown Walk

While Houston, Texas is a massive metropolis, its Downtown is relatively compact yet a bustling business, culture and entertainment hub, with a vibrant theater scene. Alongside several theaters, Downtown Houston hosts a number of museums, parks and historic buildings, alongside many other attractions. To explore the Houston downtown, follow this self guided walk.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Religious Sites Walking Tour

Religious Sites Walking Tour

Houston, founded in 1837, has grown into one of the biggest cities in the USA. This city features a large number of churches that are of great historical and/or architectural interest to visitors. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most acclaimed religious buildings in Houston.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles