Sunday, February 20, 2011

Museum District, Houston, Texas

To the casual visitor, Houston is an endless matrix of freeway flyovers and frontage roads (spelled "frge" on my GPS), legal "U"-turns, and LA-style traffic. Beneath the radar though, there is a compelling cultural beachhead, resulting from the tastes created with vast wealth since oil first flowed at Spindletop in Beaumont in 1901 and more recently from the huge legions of foreign born workers imported to span the Oil & Gas infrastructure. Much of this hidden ambience is to be found in the museum district, southwest of downtown, which includes Rice University and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts as well as a wealth of restaurants in the area, especially on Westheimer Ave. Montrose is lined with the remnants of old mansions including the neoclassical 1912 Link-Lee House (purchased by oilman Thomas Lee in 1916), designed by Sanguinet, Staate & Barnes, and part of University of St. Thomas since 1947.

Spectacular residences line Sunset Ave., especially at Hazard St., live oaks lining the streets, these evergreens providing shade year round. The Houston MFA has a considerable French Impressionist collection and 2 Picassos as well. Across Binnosset St. is a sculpture yard. The Contemporary Arts Museum is more interesting as an architectural statement - it is a stainless steel Kunsthalle, the exhibits are very cutting edge.

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