One sunny, late fall day a few years ago, I had the pleasure of skipping the afternoon session of a trade show while in our state’s largest city. Knowing I needed to back in the Galleria area later that evening for a function or two related to the trade-show, I discarded a couple of ideas that would’ve had myself taking a serious day-trip, well out of the city limits. As it turned out, it was silly to even think of exiting the congested confines of what is an underrated artistic gem. Well, at least it’s underrated to many of us outside of the Gulf Coast.
Given the fact that Houston’s Museum District is as rife with time-killing goodness as it is, I highly doubt that it’s flying under the radar of any art or history-loving Houstonian. Growing up in the Ft. Worth area, as I did, it’s easy to think that everyone else in the state gazes enviously upon the historic and renowned Arts District (home to The Kimball Art Museum, among many others).
In one afternoon, I was treated to eclectic and edgy installations at the Contemporary Arts Museum, just after experiencing a more traditional, yet highly awe-inspiring visit to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In fact, the Fine Arts collection is showcasing a highly-praised grouping of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work from The National Gallery, at this very time. Clearly, I focused on the art which the neighborhood offered, but the history is as prevalent and important as the collections of the museums I managed to visit. Perhaps on another trip, I’ll make it to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, or possibly to Houston’s Holocaust Museum, which is different than the one in Dallas.
There’s also something for the kiddos, too. The Children’s Museum of Houston is a colorful blast of interactive fun for both parent and child. And there’s the Houston Museum of Natural Science - which, as is the case in Ft. Worth, has an IMAX Theater.
So, next time you’re sitting in a convention in Houston, and the rest of the day’s docket looks pretty dull, act like you have to take a call in the hallway and hop in your rental and point it to the museum district!
Tyler is home to several grand Civil War era homes but the grandest of all is the Goodman-Le Grande House around the corner from the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
The curator of the grand old house is Patricia Heaton, and damn if she didn’t just share the name of the actress who plays Ray Romano’s wife In the long running American TV series, Everybody Loves Raymond – she looks like her too. And, if the adage “do what you love and the money will follow” holds true, Patricia will be a millionaire. It’s so refreshing to be around someone who absolutely loves what they do. Heaton is a wealth of information about her subject. And, she’s still discovering things about the house and its many owners – stowed away in the attic, the closets and in the drawers of the incredible antiques inside this glorious mansion.
The house was originally built as a four bedroom one story structure in 1859 by wealthy bachelor Samuel Gallitin Smith, just before the Civil War broke out. Smith was a Confederate officer who wanted to have a beautiful home for his future bride after the war. But, he may have had a premonition that he was never to return – in any event, Smith sold the house to F.N. Gary before he went off to serve in the Civil War’s Confederate army. Smith was killed in battle shortly after the war began. The house’s third owner, Dr William J. Goodman, was a commissioned surgeon in the Confederate army who ended the war as Division Surgeon of the 2nd Division of Texas Infantry commanded by General Slaughter. Dr. Goodman’s tools and medicines are on display. The mansion was passed down to Dr. Goodman’s son, another doctor and underwent several renovations, including the addition of a second floor. The house had its final facelift In the 1920’s with the addition of the front and back porticos and pillars. The home’s last owner, Sallie Goodman LeGrand, bequeathed the mansion to the city of Tyler – and the house is preserved essentially the same as it was the day she died – with four generations of family antiques, hand painted china by Sallie and her sister Etta – ladies did that in their leisure time instead of surfing the net, silverware, Waterford crystal, artwork, furnishings and clothing still hanging in the closet. It’s like they never left.
Brides have their portraits taken in the downstairs parlor and drawing room. The Goodmans would open the doors to these two rooms across the hall – and the long petticoat mirrors are lined up just so – like seeing into infinity – the same way the mirrors are lined up at Versailles outside of Paris. The painted borders trompe l’oeil molding and medallion ceiling in the family room are impeccable. The upstairs has all the original hardwood flooring. The beds are covered with quilts and coverlets. One room has a black mourning dress draped across the bed – it looks ready for a lady in mourning to put on. There’s also a complete wedding ensemble displayed in a case in the upstairs hallway.
If you like antiques, don’t miss a trip back in time at the Goodman House. Admission is free, but donations are requested.
Goodman-LeGrande House Museum
624 North Broadway Avenue