By Kelly Howard, BCO Event Leader
Our fair city is filled with unknown treasures. New to Houston? Consider this a good start to a of Houston oddities and curiosities. Lived her forever? You might want to do a quick check to be sure you are well versed in obscure Houston haunts.
288 lakes (Update - Closed Permanently.)
About a 15-minute drive south of downtown Houston, 288 Lake is Houston’s open water sports training facility and outdoor event venue. The pristine, spring fed lake provides the perfect cool, open water experience. A unique 20 acre facility where you can dive, swim, kayak and SUP. The entrance fee and staff ensure a wholesome, outdoorsy crowd. The perfect place to chill on a hot, summer day.
Smither Park is coming to life on a half-acre of land adjacent to the Orange Show. Designed by visionary artist and builder Dan Phillips (we’ll talk more about Dan later), the park is in memory of John H. Smither, a collector of folk art and former board member of the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. Once completed, this whimsical, fanciful park will feature an amphitheater, memory wall, meditation area, tunnels, swings and an interactive sculpture, each adorned with elaborate mosaic work created entired out of recycled and found materials and hand-placed by local artists. (Check out the Bayou City Calendar on March 15 — we’ll be leading an East Side walk which will include Smither Park)
Last Organic outpost
Last Organic Outpost is committed to developing urban agriculture in the greater Houston area. By generating healthy communities and establishing a local food economy in Houston’s under-served neighborhoods, they strive to make healthy food accessable to all. Located in the amazing Japhet Creek community, the farm is open 7 days a week depending on weather, volunteers and what needs done. If the gate is open, the farm is open. Drop by!
The Esplanade on Navigation
The East Side of town is hopping and Navigation Boulevard has become the East End’s new Main Street, El Corazon de la Communidad. With it’s a wide esplanade and walkable sidewalks you would think you were in a different country. Lighting is solar, restaurants abound, and the artwork is both old and new. The solar lights are powered by solar generators with enough battery power to run year round, even on cloudy days. Overhead, an iron archway crosses the boulevard, and is fashioned like papel picata, with imagery of some of the original industry in the East End: shipping, railroads, and oil. Navigation Boulevard esplanade an art-filled pedestrian space, a new commercial and cultural hub for one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Viva Houston!
We know this is Huntsville and not Houston, but the Phoenix Commotion is so cool everyone needs to know about it! It’s a local building initiative created to prove that constructing homes with recycled and salvaged materials has a viable place in the building industry and our world. This process uses only apprentice labor and teaches marketable skills to anyone who is willing to swing a hammer. By keeping labor costs low and using donated or found materials, the homes created are truly affordable and unique. No two are ever alike, so there is an artistic element that makes Phoenix Commotion homes beyond unique. The homes are created for single parents, artists, and families with low incomes.
Home tours are held in Huntsville at various times of the year. Dan Phillips (we told you he’d show up again — he’s the founder of Phoenix Commotion) gives a overview of the philosophies applied to the building of these unique homes. Want to find one of the most unique stops in Houston, check it out! http://www.phoenixcommotion.com/
Tree House at Memorial City
Check out the side south of I-10 next time you drive past Memorial City. You’ll notice an unusual building with wood, windows and trees growing on the roof. The Treehouse at Memorial City is part eco office and part club house, and part rooftop garden. The roof is topped with a garden and features a wooden and steel bridge that connects it to the headquarters. The Treehouse boasts a geothermal cooling and heating system, harvests daylight and features both solar photovoltaics and a wind turbine for renewable energy generation. The exterior of the building features Machiche wood harvested in South America, while the interior features flooring reclaimed from the Old Cotton Company warehouses in Galveston. Worth a drive by!
Sims Bayou Urban Nature Center
Sims Bayou Urban Nature Center (SBUNC) is a picturesque 1.1-acre sanctuary located in historic Park Place on the original channel of Sims Bayou. The center contains a log cabin, barn, gazebo, gardens, pond with native plants, and seasonal wetland trails that afford a unique opportunity to experience nature in a dense urban setting. It is located next to Charlton Park and the Glenbrook Golf Course. https://www.facebook.com/Houston-Audubon-Raptor-and-Education-Center-257808950344/
Wabash Market on Washington
For over a hundred years, Wabash has been helping this city grow, supplying feed, seed, and farming supplies to early settlers and today’s backyard gardener alike. Wabash Antiques and Feed Store (or Washington Avenue Bric-a-brac, Antiques, Sundries, and Hardware, as it was known in its early days) is a Houston institution. While Houston has grown and changed, Wabash has stood still (kinda) in time. You can purchase organic tomatoe plants, native plants, bird feeders, fertilizer, chicken scratch and the chickens to go with it, plus a cold beer under one barn roof.
Buffalo Bayou Cistern
An amazing structure was rediscovered on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. Below what is to become the signature Sky Lawn at The Water Works (north of the existing Lee & Joe Jamail Skatepark), the “Cistern,” was the City of Houston’s first underground drinking-water reservoir. Built in 1927, it provided decades of service until it was drained when it sprang a leak that couldn’t be located or contained. The 87,500-square-foot expanse includes 25-foot tall, slender concrete columns set row upon row, hovering over 2 inches of water on the reservoir’s floor. http://bit.ly/1vc8nep