Walk the streets of Downtown and you’ll witness history unfold, brick by physical brick. Use this feature as a guide to go explore our downtown streets, fall in love again with your own favorite buildings, see others with new eyes, and maybe even discover some you never knew existed.
Places where we see diversity reflected in both those who attend and the buildings’ own architecture.
CO-CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART – 1111 St. Joseph Parkway
With its brilliant natural light and vaulted, 72-foot-high nave, the Co-Cathedral replaces the older Sacred Heart Catholic Church as the diocesan seat. The Ziegler Cooper limestone and marble space boasts stained glass mosaics from Florence and is laid out in a classic Latin cross plan. Its custom organ is one of only a dozen in the U.S.
GEORGE R. BROWN CONVENTION CENTER – 1001 Avenida de las Americas
The George R. Brown Convention Center originally opened in 1987 as a massive red, white and blue exhibition hall encompassing 1.8-million-square-feet spanning 11 blocks. A recent multimillion-dollar renovation brought about the addition of a new grand entrance that connects the building to the new Avenida Plaza and Discovery Green across the street, five new restaurants, and 14 art pieces – each one designed by a different Houstonian showcasing their unique way of looking at the city.
THE HOBBY CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS - 800 Bagby
This Robert Stern-designed building is home for both Theatre Under the Stars and Broadway Across America touring productions. Its enormous windows fronting Bagby Street carry across provide stunning city views. A modern entrance and lobby space give way to 2,650-seat Zilkha Hall’s deep blue seating space, complete with a stunning ceiling awash with a dazzling starscape. Smaller, blond-wood Sarofim Hall is intimate, with beautiful acoustics.
MINUTE MAID PARK – 205 Crawford
The ballpark’s history dates to 1911, when Union Station (today the main entrance) served as the largest passenger railway station in the southwest. The station closed in 1974, but its brick design elements and soaring lobby spaces are reflected in the ballpark’s masonry and glass. The locomotive that runs around the track on the left-field wall whenever an Astros player hits a homerun or when the team wins a game pays homage to the park’s railway past.
Of the 10 tallest buildings located in Texas, seven are in Houston - and six are in downtown, proving the city center to be a beacon for business, demonstrating that many things really are bigger in Texas.
J.P. MORGAN CHASE TOWER – 600 Travis
Built in 1981 by I.M. Pei & Partners and 3D/International, it’s the tallest building in downtown, the tallest building in Houston, the tallest building in Texas and the tallest five-sided building in the world.
PENNZOIL PLACE – 711 Louisiana
This 1976 Philip Johnson and John Burgee structure is two buildings of trapezoidal shape. A 10-foot-wide slot separates the 36-story towers, which are composed of dark bronze and aluminum. The spaces are connected by a street-level plaza enclosed in a glass atrium. It is the winner of more design awards than any other downtown building.
EMBRACING OUR PAST
All around downtown, you can find many examples of where we came from, still standing, still in use, serving as a reminder of how much we’ve achieved and where we’re headed.
ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH – 500 Clay
This 1866 church began its life as a place of worship for emancipated slaves, and is the oldest African-American church in Houston. The Gothic structure still has the pews from its 1860s incorporation and the blue “Jesus Saves” sign is visible from several downtown offices.
NIELS ESPERSON BUILDING – 808 Travis
With Italian Renaissance details and Corinthian columns, arched windows and limestone walls, the 32-story structure was commissioned by Mellie Keenan Esperson to honor her real estate speculator husband. Designed by John Eberson, the office space is actually two buildings, the original 1927 tower and the adjacent 1941 annex, which was then named the Mellie Esperson Building. It was renovated by Gensler in 2003.
KENNEDY BAKERY BUILDING (NOW LA CARAFE) – 813 Congress
Downtown’s oldest building dates to 1861 and still boasts its decorative brickwork and classical style. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it sits on its original foundation and is now home to the La Carafe wine bar.
UNION NATIONAL BANK BUILDING (NOW HOTEL ICON) – 220 Main
Constructed in 1911 by the firm of Mauran, Russell & Crowell, the 12-story building was one of the country’s first skyscrapers done in concrete and steel. It opened in 1912 as the Union National Bank. Restored in 2004, it’s now a 135-room boutique hotel, featuring much of its original detail.