Houston’s Midtown neighborhood has long been known for its walkability and nightlife, both of which are particularly complementary on a festive Saturday night. With the added accessibility of the Metro rail, Midtown is uniquely poised for its current residential boom—but what many may not realize is that this residential boom is actually a revival of Midtown’s historic roots.
Just after the turn of the 20th century, what we now know as Midtown was a prominent residential neighborhood divided between the Third and Fourth Wards. Then known as Southside Place, the 1.24 square mile area was dotted with single-family Victorian homes largely belonging to families working for the prosperous Humble Oil & Refinery Company. The prestige of being Houston’s second residential neighborhood carried the community for many years until the oil industry’s eventual downturn. The mass exodus of homes and businesses left Midtown in disrepair until an influx of young professionals in the 2010s led developers to breathe new life into the neighborhood.
To the untrained eye, Midtown looks shiny and new, but its historic gems still emit echoes of a rich and glorious past. The original St. Agnes Academy was built as a prestigious boarding school in 1905 on Fannin Street. South End Junior High School was built in 1914, but you may know the building by its new name, Houston Community College Central Campus. The gorgeous Trinity Episcopal Church still stands since its construction in 1919, and Leon’s Lounge on McGowen is Houston’s oldest operating bar. One of Midtown’s most illustrious hidden treasures is Isabella Court, a stunning Spanish Colonial Revival complex built in 1929 that houses both residential and commercial spaces historically occupied by many LGBTQ artists.
A remarkable addition to Midtown’s modernized revival is the new Midtown Park. Built over a long-vacant sector in the heart of Midtown, this lush six-acre urban oasis has extraordinary views of downtown and amenities that usher in a sparkling new residential era in Midtown’s history. This civic space is cleverly and intricately designed with the young professional demographic in mind. A sprawling stage pavillion for live entertainment has already garnered rave reviews from locals, bestrewn with water fixtures and greenery, local art and activities. Open daily from 8am-10pm, stay abreast of the park’s calendar of events that include yoga classes, live music, and restaurant pop ups.
Surrounded by the growing residential buildings, Midtown Park includes a dog park conveniently covered in astroturf to avoid any muddy paw misadventures. A brilliant rain garden and wetland stream evoke calming vibes while the nearby playground and splash pad provide plenty of kid-friendly revelry to boot. Perhaps the most impressive feature in this post-Harvey park is the ingenious way the landscape architects, Design Workshop, handled the city-required stormwater detention for the site. A testament to Houston’s resilient innovation is an impressive water feature with an abundant palette of native plants that serves both form and function.
Midtown isn’t just returning to its residential origins, but redefining our bustling city’s proud tradition of rebuilding itself, looking ever into the future. And it’s so bright, you’ve gotta wear shades.