Sunday, June 28, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, a part of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, is a rare Texas treasure and every Texan should personally experience it as a visitor. I once again enjoyed visiting there earlier this month. This summertime trip to Bayou Bend was motivated by my recent reading of two new books that highlight respectively the career of Miss Ima Hogg and the programs of Bayou Bend, her historic Houston home that is a world-class museum of the decorative arts. Miss Hogg, the daughter of former Texas Governor Jim Hogg, emerged in the early twentieth century as one of the major philanthropists in Texas, along with her brothers Will and Mike – all residents of Houston. The first book that reawakened my interest in Bayou Bend was Kate Sayen Kirkland’s The Hogg Family and Houston: Philanthropy and the Civil Ideal (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.) It is a meticulously researched and well-written volume that examines how the Hogg family’s charitable enterprises had a significant impact on the development of not only Houston, but all of Texas. The second book, American Material Culture and the Texas Experience: The David B. Warren Symposium (Houston: Bayou Bend and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 2009) contains essays written by leading experts on Southwestern decorative arts, including Margaretta M. Lovell, Kelly Donahue Wallace, Lonn Taylor, Jill Beute Koverman, and Bayou Bend director Bonnie Campbell, who co-authored the introduction. This book sets into full perspective the rich heritage of Texas material culture.
Visiting Bayou Bend always begins with an exciting walk across the rustic footbridge that crosses Buffalo Bayou, the public’s backyard entrance to the property installed by Miss Hogg so visitors would not pass down Lazy Lane and disturb her River Oaks neighbors. It was an unexpected pleasure for my wife Vicki and me to be greeted on this visit by the Bayou Bend director, Bonnie Campbell, who is an acknowledged authority on Texas material culture. Before coming to Bayou Bend, Bonnie was the curator of the Texas Capitol building in Austin and helped oversee its extensive restoration. We had a fantastic tour given by Cecilia Mazzola, an experienced and long-tenured docent. It should be noted that Bayou Bend has one of the most knowledgeable, professional, and highly trained staff of docents in world of American museums. Bayou Bend docents go through a demanding selection process, months of academic training, and a long probationary period – all before a docent becomes a regular part of the staff. Many individual docents have decades of experience at Bayou Bend. (A group of the docents appear to the right.) The tour includes 28 rooms of period furniture ranging from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. In addition, the gardens of the home are spectacular. Although she died in 1975, the masterful hand of Miss Ima Hogg can still be seen throughout this historic and completely unique museum. Bayou Bend presents a year-round series of events and special occasions. Every Texan should visit. See the Bayou Bend Website.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Friday, June 5, 2009
I recently had the opportunity to visit with Marie Beth Jones, a delightful person and a preeminent journalist who has consistently advanced the cause of Texas history in her writing. Early in her career, Marie Beth was on the staff of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Houston Chronicle. She served as the managing editor of the Angleton, Texas Times from 1965 to 1990. She has written for many decades a very popular and widely read column dealing with Texas history, in addition to being an author of several books dealing with the coastal bend and its past. Today, she is a regular contributor to the Brazosport Facts where she continues to write about history in her column and also provide a book review feature. Back in 1982, Marie Beth published a history of Peach Point Plantation that won the Texas Historical Commission Award that year for the best book on Texas history. She has continued to write other books including a delightful volume Tales from the Brazos that contains a number of interesting stories about the folklore and history of the Brazoria area. She has served as chair of the Brazoria County Historical Commission, is on the board of the Brazoria County Museum, and belongs to both the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. It was my pleasure to have met Marie Beth a number of years ago when I began my research on the Stephen F. Austin family and the plantation at Peach Point. It is safe to say that no person has done more to call attention to the exciting history of the lower Brazos River region of Texas than Marie Beth Jones. I was proud to present her with a copy of my biography of Emily Austin.