Houston Matters

Hidden Beneath Houston — Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern Opens to the Public

The folks behind Buffalo Bayou Park have opened another attraction — and this time it’s subterranean. What used to be an 87,500-square foot drinking water cistern built in 1926 has been brought up to code to allow the public to view the space and learn about Houston history. The cistern is a 90-year-old underground drinking […]

Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern Banner - Florian Martin HPMThe folks behind Buffalo Bayou Park have opened another attraction — and this time it’s subterranean. What used to be an 87,500-square foot drinking water cistern built in 1926 has been brought up to code to allow the public to view the space and learn about Houston history.

The cistern is a 90-year-old underground drinking water reservoir that the city decommissioned in 2007. Most of Houston’s drinking water is now surface water from lakes and rivers.

The Buffalo Bayou Partnership rediscovered it about six years ago when it was working on developing its $58 million park project. The initial idea was to make it into a parking garage.

Stephanie Kiouses, the partnership’s visitor services supervisor for Buffalo Bayou Park, said it reminded them of the Roman Basilica Cistern in Istanbul.

So, with the help of a $1.7 million grant from The Brown Foundation, the partnership added an entrance tunnel and a walkway along the walls with a guardrail. They also installed some lighting, but the cistern is still pretty dark to maintain the original atmosphere. A few inches of water still cover the ground.

The plan is to later include light and sound art installations. There are guided tours every Thursday through Sunday.

(Above: Concrete pillars inside the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. Photo: Florian Martin, Houston Public Media. Florian Martin also contributed to this report.)

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