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Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park, and Wortham Fountain: Comparing Both Houston Sites

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Collage of the two Houston locations

Collage of the two Houston locations

Buffalo Bayou Park

The Gus. S. Wortham Memorial Fountain is an eye-catching attraction in Buffalo Bayou Park at Allen Pkwy. and Waugh Drive, Houston, Texas 77019.

This Houston park consists of 160 acres. It has many different areas for people to enjoy. There are hiking and biking trails, open-lawn play areas, sculptures, and much more in this expansive park.

Located just west of downtown, it offers excellent city skyline views. Buffalo Bayou runs through the central part of the park and has several tributaries running into it. It starts in the Katy, Texas, area and runs through the City of Houston and Ship Channel. The bayou finally empties into the Gulf of Mexico by Galveston.

Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain

Located right across from the Wortham Tower in American General Center, it is a fitting location for this monument.

Inscribed is the following on a plaque near the fountain:

Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain

This Grove and Fountain are donated in memory of Gus S. Wortham

Businessman, Philanthropist, Civic Leader, and Founder of the American General Insurance Company

1891-1976

Wortham Fountain

Wortham Fountain

Wortham Background

Gus and his father moved to Houston back in 1915. That is when they started the John L. Wortham & Son Insurance Agency.

Gus went on to work with other notable Houston business people and started the American General Insurance Company in 1926. American General started with only two insurance agents. It eventually had thousands of agents operating in every state of the U.S. That was all under the leadership of Gus S. Wortham.

Because of that success, in 2001 the American General became a part of the American International Group. Reading about the company now, it is worth over 60 billion dollars. It is a publicly-traded company on the New York Stock exchange. Corporate headquarters remain in Houston.

Gus wore the uniform of our country back during World War I. He was the commander of an aerial squadron and was also a gunnery instructor. After that background and the success he had as a businessman, he became an avid civic leader in Houston.

Just as civic-minded was his wife, Elizabeth Lyndall Finley Wortham, and they formed the Wortham Foundation. This foundation has supported numerous cultural entities as well as parks and other good causes.

A beneficent person is like a fountain watering the earth and spreading fertility: it is therefore more delightful and more honourable to give than receive.

— Epicurus

A.K.A. the Dandelion Fountain

The day I took these photos the water from the fountain would flow for a while and then cease. Most of the time when driving past this fountain on Allen Parkway, the water is usually flowing. Lighting at night makes this site even more eye-catching.

Dogs are sometimes seen cooling off in this fountain. The mist from the spray also cools passersby depending upon which way the wind is blowing.

This fountain is also known as the dandelion fountain. I can certainly understand why when looking at its construction. Gus Wortham was impressed with one in Australia and wanted a similar type constructed here in Houston.

A native Houstonian designed this eye-catching fountain. William T. Cannady is an architect and a long time professor of architecture at Rice University. He has won numerous national and international awards and has lectured here and abroad. The fountain began to operate in 1978 and consists of bronze lacquered pipes.

Donated to the City of Houston by the Wortham Foundation and American General Life Insurance, this Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain surely is a beauty!

Texas Medical Center Serenity

This fabulous Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park with water features and shaded areas, just a hop skip and a jump across from the Texas Medical Center, did not exist when I lived and worked there. That was many years ago. Something else of note took its place.

The Shamrock Hotel

Here is a little history going back to those days. The notable Shamrock Hotel built in the 1940s used to be in this same location. It had the distinction of being the largest hotel in the United States.

Glen McCarthy was a very successful oil prospector and entrepreneur. Furnished in an Art Deco style the hotel and furnishings were lavish! What I remember most about it was the large swimming pool. I had never seen a larger one. Believe it or not, water skiing took place on it! According to Wikipedia the equivalent cost to build just the pool would have cost some 200 million dollars in the year 2007.

I had gotten to eat in the beautiful lounge overlooking the pool several times on different occasions. After my husband and I married, we went back to the Shamrock Hotel to eat at Trader Vic's restaurant located there. My husband attended weekly Rotary Club meetings at that hotel for a time.

The hotel, as well as Glen McCarthy, was memorialized in the novel called Giant which was also later made into a movie.

Sadly the hotel was demolished in 1987 despite preservationist's protests. I remember when items from the hotel were being auctioned off.

Looking at the photos below, a portion of that triangular spot of land upon which the Shamrock Hotel was built, is now the site of this small, but beautiful park. Across from it is now the gigantic Texas Medical Center, which in these old photos, appeared mostly as raw open land.

The Texas Medical Center eventually received the land as a donation. On the northeast part of the former hotel grounds, is now where the Gus S. and Lyndell F. Wortham Park is situated. You can see this park from Main Street & Holcombe Blvd., Houston, Texas 77030.

Location Near the Texas Medical Center

1991 was the year that the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park was created and it is a refreshing escape from the everyday happenings that go on in the many hospitals and clinics of the large medical center.

John Burgee Architects was the architectural firm that created the park. That firm is also responsible for some notable award-winning buildings in Houston and elsewhere.

I am speculating that it was primarily intended for the patients and patient’s families as well as the medical personnel who study and work there. The reason for my speculation is the lack of public parking near the park. My husband stayed in the car while I walked through the park taking my photos. Many signs indicate towing of vehicles if left at nearby businesses.

Had this Wortham park existed when I lived in the nurse's dorm of the Texas Medical Center, I would surely have spent some time there. The six-story nurse's dorm no longer exists nor does free surface parking lots such as I got to use back in 1969 and the early 1970s.

Located at a busy intersection of the Texas Medical Center, this park is beautiful even if viewed from a moving vehicle. It is a gem of park space that I am sure many people will enjoy for years to come. It is a site often used by professional photographers when taking unique occasion photos.

Philanthropy by the Worthams

Gus and Lyndall Wortham are well known for their philanthropy in Houston. Many places bear the name Wortham, in addition to the two featured here.

Just north of the Texas Medical Center is the fabulous Hermann Park. It houses, among other attractions, the Houston zoo and the Museum of Natural Science. At the Houston zoo, is the Wortham World of Primates. The Houston Museum of Natural Science is in the northwest corner of Hermann Park and inside is the Wortham IMAX theater. Those are just a few examples of many places stamped with the name Wortham in Houston.

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Peggy Woods

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