HOUSTON, Texas — Downtown Houston has always sparkled and the hustle and bustle of downtown is apparent each and every day. But underneath this big ol’ city is something a bit more serene then the city streets of H-Town that was almost forgotten.
Judy Nyquist with the Buffalo Bayou Partnership brought us to the banks of the bayou, which happens to be in the shadow of the space city. We’re not here for a walk in the park, we’re here for a subterranean hidden treasure.
“I’m a huge enthusiast of these green spaces in Houston, this being one of the premier and most visited one in the city,” Judy said.
Judy took us to the low key locked down doors that led the way to the Cistern. A recently acquired acquisition that’s been filled with agua for ages.
“This is the entrance,” Judy said as we walked in. “It snakes along just about thirty feet. And you’ll notice here, this was built recently just two years ago. You’ll notice here a very interesting treatment of the concrete which is called board form concrete. You’ll see the grains of wood that was pressed against it in order to create that pattern. This is reminiscent, it’s the same technique that’s used inside of the cistern on the ceiling, so it was taken from that.”
Built in 1926 to supply the city with water, it was forgotten for decades in the dark until this grand space sprung a leak in the 2000’s. Initial plans called for constructing the cistern into a place to park.
“Obviously as soon as they saw this they knew that it was destined for much grander things than for parking, so it was decided early on with the city to find a way to repurpose it as an architectural relic and as a site for visitors to learn about water and the history of water in Houston,” Judy said. “And also most importantly, that the local bayou wish to program it for public art.”
For nearly 100 years this 87 thousand square foot cistern held onto 15 million gallons of water.
“It’s just like all of our other attractions, it’s a great thing to see,” Judy said. “I mean you have magnificent buildings and great things like the Astrodome and such things and the eighth wonder of the world, and still we have these kinds of much more industrial places that are equally interesting.”
221 25-foot tall concrete columns and about 6 inches of water make up this space that messes with your senses.
“It looks as if these columns are just continuous and it’s actually a reflection on the water,” Judy said.
The deception in the perception gets the biggest reception from visitors.
“The reflection is awesome,” Garrett said. “It looks like there is a whole other story underneath the water.”
Touring the cistern started in 2016 and despite the large space only about 30 folks are allowed in at a time. But that’s enough to properly showcase the cistern’s 17 second echo.
“The cavernous space is fascinating from a light and sound perspective,” Martha said.
Some think it’s a bit spooky others side with the serene solitude. Either way, getting see this sunken sight is well worth a stop on the Texas bucket list.
“It’s a key part in the history of Houston,” Garrett said. “It’s really cool and it has played a role in Houston’s development. Everyone should definitely come check it out.”