History and our modern world quite literally collide on the opposite end of Buffalo Bayou Park. It’s hard to miss the lush beauty of Buffalo Bayou Park nestled in between Memorial Drive and Allen Parkway as you drive towards Downtown. Bursting in shades of green, full of life and bustling with activity and visitors. But last month the park unveiled a very different entity at its entry: 12 feet below the streets surface sits the cavernous Buffalo Bayou Cistern.
Tours must be reserved online; upon arrival, visitors are led through a pair of non-descript doors into a dimly lit tunnel whose walls are made of smooth, cold, curving concrete imprinted with the wood grain from the wood that set the material in its place. There’s a warm glow provided by lighting on the floors along the curving walls. My mind quickly wanders imagining gladiators being led with torches underground to an arena. The tunnel quickly opens up to an arena-like large cistern – a large reservoir for holding rainwater – that used to be our city’s water supply when it was built in 1926. I imagine Houstonians using this water well before our times of filtered, clean water as we walk the perimeter of the space on a new concrete path with guardrails. Tours share the cistern’s history from its inception to its decommission in 2007, stopping along the way to offer dazzling views of reflected columns dancing with our lines of perception along the horizon of the waterline to create a sensory explosion of sight and sound. It’s impossible not to be blown away by the majesty of the space.