Historic Houston Cistern on the Bayou

The Buffalo Bayou Park’s Cistern can be found below the city of Houston, Texas. My tour group met outside the Cistern entrance on Sabine Street in Houston’s downtown Theater District. In the urban oasis, two large doors in the side of a hill begged me to enter the unknown underground.

It’s noticeable going from the hustle and bustle of the Houston traffic to the silent Cistern.

 

The corridor in the entryway was lit by bright, thin rope lights on the perimeter of the smooth concrete walls. Once inside the expansive 87,500 square-foot area, serenity washed over me. Rows and rows of 25 foot columns from floor to ceiling covered the room. The age-old columns were perfectly placed in the vast space. I felt as if I were witnessing a long-lost ancient ruin city.

 

Walking around the edge of the Cistern, I couldn’t help but gaze at the strong, repetitive columns. The columns were sitting in about 6 inches of water. Although, it was quite dim in the room, the slight glow from the rope lights reflected off of the shallow waters, creating a mirror image of more columns. Playing tricks on my eyes, the Cistern appeared to double in size.

 

According to buffalobayou.org, “The Cistern at Buffalo Bayou Park is a former drinking water reservoir built in 1926 for the City of Houston. After operating for decades, an irreparable leak was discovered and after a few years, the reservoir was decommissioned in 2007. Thanks to support from The Brown Foundation, Inc., Buffalo Bayou Partnership is opening this underground, industrial relic to the public, with future plans to house temporary art installations in this unique public space.”

 

As the tour guide gave his brief on the Cistern’s rich history, he allowed us to raise our voices and listen for the echo. I hollered until out of breath. The blast of voices carried through the air for an unbelievably long 15 seconds. Amazed by the lingering sound, he gave us another chance to be among the pleasing acoustic environment.

 

Coming out of the Cistern was as if I traveled back to the present. The glowing, evening sun and the big city noises came back. If living or stopping through Houston, everyone should stop by and witness the wondermint below the surface.

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