Photo by Charles Birnbaum::2005::The Cultural Landscape Foundation



United States

Hermann Square

Occupying a city block in downtown Houston, this square serves as the forecourt to City Hall, completed in 1939. Formerly the homestead where George Hermann was born in 1843, the land for the square was bequeathed to the City upon Hermann’s death in 1914. In the following years, improvements were made to the parcel, with a cross-axial plan and centralized fountain in place by 1926, coinciding with the completion of the Houston Public Library on the adjacent property. That same year, Hare & Hare was commissioned to develop plans for a civic center at that location: A unified collection of buildings was proposed, oriented around Hermann Square, which was to be lengthened and ornamented with allées of live oak and an orthogonal pool. Although the Great Depression stymied the realization of the Hare & Hare plan, in 1939 the Art Moderne City Hall (the fifth in the city’s history) was built on the western portion of Hermann Square. Working for Hare & Hare, landscape architect Ralph Ellifrit designed a park-like environment dominated by a shallow, rectilinear pool on axis with City Hall’s entry. The pool is animated by a cascade fountain on its western end. An elevated entry plaza leading into City Hall is ornamented with carved limestone seat walls and benches and is flanked on both sides by tall flagpoles on limestone pediments. The pool is enveloped by a gently sloping lawn that is bordered by paved walks lined by inward-facing benches. Buffering the square from the surrounding streets, a mature canopy of live oaks is underplanted with yaupon hedges and jasmine, ivy, and nandina. City Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. 

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