Bayou Bend is the magnificent-mansion-turned-museum of the late Houston philanthropist Ima Hogg (yes, that’s her real name, and no, she didn’t have a sister named Ura).
Built in 1928, Bayou Bend is now part of the city’s museum of fine arts and a showcase for priceless American decorative arts. Situated on 14 organically manicured acres, the mansion brims with furniture, silver, paintings and ceramics, including almost 2,600 objects in 28 period room settings, and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Bayou Bend is well worth the time it takes for a guided tour, and your first visit will make you wish you’d known the women who built it. Ima Hogg was born in 1882, the only daughter of Jim Hogg, the first native-born governor of Texas. The Hoggs were early Texan oil barons, and the family fortune gave Ima the ability to do pretty much whatever she wanted in an era when women were supposed to marry, have a passel of kids and keep their lips zipped.
In addition to collecting fabulous things, Ima donated to and underwrote numerous good works. A talented musician in her own right, she founded the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Widely respected for her knowledge and taste, she was on call to the White House for resolving decorating issues.
Ima was famous for her horrible name (she was reportedly named by her father after a heroine in her uncle’s epic poem, The Fate of Marvin). She claims to have received 30 marriage proposals in her lifetime, all of which she turned down. Her personal stationery printed with “I. Hogg” or “Miss Hogg”.
Outside the house, you can stroll surrounding woodlands and a series of beautiful gardens (depending on Houston’s humidity level that day). When colorful azaleas bloom in the spring, the place is overrun with nature lovers. Enter the museum parking lot from 6003 Memorial Drive at Westcott Street in Houston. Do not use the original mansion entrance in the chichi River Oaks neighborhood. You’ll tick off some really rich people.
You’ll be asked to store purses, bags, backpacks, coats, and cameras in lockers during the house tour. Amateur photography and videotaping are allowed outdoors only. Kids 10 and older are welcome on guided home tours, and children of all ages are welcome on Sundays. Baby carriers inside the home are a no-no.
Phone 713.639.7750 for information, reservations, and to arrange special tours. The house is closed during August when you would probably die during the heat anyway.
by Pat Pape
Guided House Tours
Tuesday–Thursday: 10 a.m.–11:30 a.m.; 1 p.m.–2:45 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–11:15 a.m.
Tours begin every 15 minutes
GUIDED TOUR OPTIONS
Highlights Tour (60 minutes)
• Visit several rooms on both floors of the house, including the main entertaining areas and upstairs suite
• See the home’s rarest and historically most important treasures.
• Learn about the Hogg family, and how Ima Hogg transformed her home into a museum to display one of the nation’s best collections of American antiques
Study Tour (90 minutes)
• Visit rooms in addition to those on the Highlights Tour
• Focus on the objects in the collection and how they reflect American history
• Receive in-depth information about American decorative arts
• See the full range periods represented by the collection (1630–1876)
• Option to visit focused displays on silver and ceramics
Self-Guided House Tours (No reservations needed)
Friday–Sunday: 1 p.m.– 5 p.m. (last admission 4 p.m.)
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (last admission 4 p.m.)
Sunday: 1 p.m.– 5 p.m. (last admission 4 p.m.)
Admission: Highlights Tour & Self-Guided House Tour
$11 Students / Senior Adults (ID Required)
$10 Houston fine arts museum members
$6.25 Children 10–18
Free for children 9 and younger*
Admission: Study Tour
$13.50 Students / Senior Adults (ID Required)
$12.50 Houston fine arts museum members
$7.50 Children 10–18
Self-Guided Gardens Tours (No reservations needed)
Tuesday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (last admission at 4:30 p.m.)
Sunday: 1 p.m.–5 p.m. (last admission at 4:30 p.m.)
Gardens-Only Admission: $5 for ages 10 and up; Free for children 9 and younger