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

Updated on June 23, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Collage of the two Houston locations
Collage of the two Houston locations | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
View of Wortham Tower with a flag on top of American General Center along Buffalo Bayou Buffalo BayouView of the Gus S. Wortham Center (on the left) along Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas Family next to the fountain
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View of Wortham Tower with a flag on top of American General Center along Buffalo Bayou
View of Wortham Tower with a flag on top of American General Center along Buffalo Bayou | Source
Buffalo Bayou
Buffalo Bayou | Source
View of the Gus S. Wortham Center (on the left) along Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas
View of the Gus S. Wortham Center (on the left) along Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas | Source
Family next to the fountain
Family next to the fountain | Source

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 | Source

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
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Fountain structure appearance without water flowGus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain has been dubbed the Dandelion. It was designed by William Cannady in 1978 based on the original 1961 El Alamein Memorial Fountain in Sydney, Australia by NZ born Australian architect Robert Woodward.The fountain illuminated at night
Fountain structure appearance without water flow
Fountain structure appearance without water flow | Source
Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain has been dubbed the Dandelion. It was designed by William Cannady in 1978 based on the original 1961 El Alamein Memorial Fountain in Sydney, Australia by NZ born Australian architect Robert Woodward.
Gus S. Wortham Memorial Fountain has been dubbed the Dandelion. It was designed by William Cannady in 1978 based on the original 1961 El Alamein Memorial Fountain in Sydney, Australia by NZ born Australian architect Robert Woodward. | Source
The fountain illuminated at night
The fountain illuminated at night | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
From the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park looking towards the Texas Medical CenterMany professional photos taken in this parkView through waterfall columns in Wortham Park
From the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park looking towards the Texas Medical Center
From the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park looking towards the Texas Medical Center | Source
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Many professional photos taken in this park
Many professional photos taken in this park | Source
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View through waterfall columns in Wortham Park
View through waterfall columns in Wortham Park | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
[Construction of Shamrock Hotel in Downtown Houston, Glenn McCarthy], December, 1947Shamrock Hotel, 1947Shamrock Hotel, Houston, Texas, First Anniversary Saint Patrick's Day Celebration, message from Glen McCarthy, 1950US theatrical poster for the film Giant (1956).
[Construction of Shamrock Hotel in Downtown Houston, Glenn McCarthy], December, 1947
[Construction of Shamrock Hotel in Downtown Houston, Glenn McCarthy], December, 1947 | Source
Shamrock Hotel, 1947
Shamrock Hotel, 1947 | Source
Shamrock Hotel, Houston, Texas, First Anniversary Saint Patrick's Day Celebration, message from Glen McCarthy, 1950
Shamrock Hotel, Houston, Texas, First Anniversary Saint Patrick's Day Celebration, message from Glen McCarthy, 1950 | Source
US theatrical poster for the film Giant (1956).
US theatrical poster for the film Giant (1956). | Source

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.

Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Jetted water pondMist sprayed sidewalk from waterfall columns
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Jetted water pond
Jetted water pond | Source
Mist sprayed sidewalk from waterfall columns
Mist sprayed sidewalk from waterfall columns | Source

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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Driving through the Texas Medical Center Texas Medical Center at TwilightPanoramic Skyline of the Texas Medical Center - Houston, TX
Driving through the Texas Medical Center
Driving through the Texas Medical Center | Source
Texas Medical Center at Twilight
Texas Medical Center at Twilight | Source
Panoramic Skyline of the Texas Medical Center - Houston, TX
Panoramic Skyline of the Texas Medical Center - Houston, TX | Source

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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    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Denise,

      The nicknamed Dandelion Fountain does play a part in providing cooling mists for people and their pets who stroll by this unique structure. So glad you liked learning about it.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Adrienne,

      The mist from those fountains does feel good on a sizzling hot day!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      3 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      The dandelion fountain is my favorite. I've never seen it before but I bet it cools the air all around it by at least 20 degrees when it's on. Amazing.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      3 weeks ago

      It must feel good for people and dogs to cool off in the dog days of summer by the Dandelion Fountain! Thanks for presenting so well these little treasures of Houston. Again, I must swing by one day.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Nithya,

      It was sad when the Shamrock Hotel was demolished. It had a long history! It is easy to understand why the Wortham fountain has the nickname of dandelion fountain, given its structure.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      3 weeks ago from Dubai

      A great article about the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park, and Wortham Fountain. The Dandelion Fountain is amazing. It is sad that the Shamrock hotel was demolished. Great photos, thank you for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      The Wortham family is merely one story of many in Houston. Here you have a glimpse of some history regarding business and growth in this area, as well as some beauty honoring their philanthropy.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      3 weeks ago

      It seems another sign of Houston's wealth and its evolving as a city. Thanks for posting.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rajan,

      I am glad that you enjoyed learning about these Houston sites of interest and beauty.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      3 weeks ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      The park is beautiful and it is interesting to learn about its history. Lovely photos.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Liz,

      I am pleased that you enjoyed the historical aspects of this article about two sites named in honor of the Wortham's.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rosina,

      Yes, Gus and Lyndall Wortham have given so much to charitable causes in our city. We all benefit from their philanthropy.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 weeks ago from UK

      You have some amazing sites near you. I especially appreciate the historical detail that you have added to this article.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Lorna,

      The mist of those two decidedly different fountains both would have cooling droplets flowing from them on windy days. It would be welcome on hot, steamy days.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Frank,

      Houston has blossomed and grown over the years and philanthropy is a part of our story.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Linda,

      So glad you liked this look at two unique places in Houston. Both of them add beauty to our city.

    • surovi99 profile image

      Rosina S Khan 

      4 weeks ago

      Nice to know about Wortham Park and Fountain in Houston. The vivid, lovely photos give us a clear picture of them. Since the Gotham couple were philanthropists, it was a great contribution on their part. A fabulous article, Peggy!

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      4 weeks ago

      Another interesting and wonderful article Peggy. I feel there are so many in Huston each one unique. I particularly like the Dandelion Fountain - a great way to cool off on those hot days. It's wonderful to give back to the community in this way.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 weeks ago from Shelton

      My what a wonderful write.. I really enjoyed the vision and visual

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another interesting and enjoyable look at Houston attractions. You are a great tour guide, Peggy.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ruby,

      Highrise buildings now take the place of that little six-story dorm for nurses. That was long ago! I lived there until I got married. If the weather was bad, I could walk in a tunnel to the Methodist Hospital, where I worked as an O.R. nurse, from the nurse's dorm. Many of the buildings were all connected with a tunnel system underground.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      4 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

      You must be very proud of your city, Houston. It has so many beautiful and useful sites. The Wortham family must have felt the same way. This was an interesting read, esp. about you living in the dorm and working as a nurse. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ann,

      I know what you mean about not traveling for a while. This pandemic is creating long-lasting worldwide effects. At least we can communicate in this manner. Stay well, and stay safe!

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mary,

      We live quite a distance from both places, especially the medical center. I am glad that you enjoyed seeing both of these sites.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Bill,

      The Texas Medical Center was large when I worked there in 1969 to the mid-1970s, but nothing like today! It is like a city onto itself! High-rise parking is expensive, and most workers now use shuttles from outlying lots to get back and forth. Glad you liked the before and after representations.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 weeks ago from SW England

      It would indeed, Peggy! Sadly, I can't see it happening for a long while if at all. But I never say never!

      Ann

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ann,

      I am so happy that you are enjoying these articles about Houston. Should you ever travel this way, please let me know. It would be fun to meet in person.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Manatita,

      Wortham Park is a beauty. While it was not there when I worked in the medical center, Hermann Park was and still is located just north of the med center. So there are plenty of green spaces for people wishing to get outside of hospital settings and still be nearby.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Bill,

      Yes, Gus's insurance company blossomed into a huge and successful business. I agree that the Wortham's philanthropy is laudable.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi FlourishAnyway,

      Parking is a real problem around the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Park but many hiking and biking paths go by the Wortham Fountain, so that is less of a problem.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi MG Singh,

      These two places are quite far apart, but both honor the name, Wortham. Both sites are beautiful.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      4 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Pamela,

      It is my pleasure to be able to show off more of our city to you and others who visit this site. We have so much beauty in Houston!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      How beautiful. You're lucky to have this park close to you. I love the Memorial Fountain shaped like a dandelion.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      That fountain is spectacular! The before and after pictures of Houston are very cool to look at. Loved this article, Peggy!

      Sending good thoughts and good health your way

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      4 weeks ago from SW England

      Another fascinating hub, Peggy. I love the dandelion fountain!

      I feel as though I know so much more about your area. If I ever get the opportunity, I shall certainly visit Houston.

      Ann

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      4 weeks ago from london

      Each photo is beautiful, sublime, serene and peaceful. They create an elegance and decor, which is soothing for the mind and heart, of the lover of beauty. Some of the designs are magnificent and impressive.

      The Wortham Park, its fountain and surroundings, is most certainly a refreshing escape from the mundane trials of human life.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      4 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      The Houston area certainly has its share of beautiful parks. I particularly like that Dandelion Fountain. Gus built quite the insurance empire. It’s nice to see that he and his wife were so civic-minded in giving back to the community.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 weeks ago from USA

      It sounds like there is quite a squeeze for parking near some of these lovely sites. That unfortunately is a problem in many big cities and for me takes away from the desire to explore.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh 

      4 weeks ago from Singapore

      An excellent account of the park.Good to read, though I may never be able to visit that place

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

      Both of these sites are beautiful and of course, your picture are just gorgeous. You always have the best pictures of any of these sites. I really like the fountains and the one illuminated at night was really pretty.

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