Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern


Useful Information

Location: 105 Sabine Street, Houston, Texas
(29.7624, -95.3764)
Open: Cistern History Tours: All year Thu, Fri, Sun 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, Wed, Sun 13, 14, 15, 16.
Walk-in Tours: All year Mon-Wed 10-16:30.
Tickets can be reserved online 60 days in advance.
[2020]
Fee: Cistern History Tours: Adults USD 7, Children (0-8) not allowed, College Students USD 5, Seniors (62+) USD 5, Military USD 5.
Walk-in Tours: Adults USD 5.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaWater Supply
Light: electric
Dimension:  
Guided tours: Cistern History Tours: D=30min.
Walk-in Tours: D=15min.
Photography: allowed, tripods and flash permitted only on photography tours.
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Buffalo Bayou Partnership, 1019 Commerce Street, Suite 200, Houston, TX 77002, Tel: +1-713-752-0314-301. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1926 cistern built.
2007 decommissioned.
2010 became part of the Buffalo Bayou Park project.
MAY-2016 opened to the public.

Description

The Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern is located below a popular park in the middle of Houston. The concrete cistern has an area of 8,129m² and once held 56,000m³ of drinking water. It was one of the cisterns built in 1926. The cistern is covered by a 20cm thick concrete ceiling which is held by 221 concrete pillars. The pillars form parallel rows and are 7.6m high.

The cistern was part of Houstons water supply for 80 years, but finally leaks were detected. The leaks are a result of the age and repairing them would have required the replacement of the walls. This was too expensive, so it was decided to decommission the cistern instead. There were already plans to demolish it, when the Buffalo Bayou Partnership heard about it. There was the idea to integrate it into the park development, but using it for parking or mulch storage was finally rejected. Instead it was decided to use it as an unusual and attractive space for guided tours and art events. The park added an entrance tunnel, a railed walkway around the sides, and electric light. But otherwise the cistern is unchanged.

The massive hall boasts a 17-second echo, a reason why loud noises are prohibited. Outside sound is effectively dampened by the thick concrete walls. The floor is still covered by a shallow layer of water to keep the concrete humid and it also reflects the light. One of the the art installations is the Down Periscope project created by Donald Lipski. It offers a view into the cistern from the surface above through a periscope. The site is now generally called The Cistern.

There are multiple tours and events in the cistern. Tickets are sold online, there is no ticket office on site. The regular tour is called Cistern History Tours. But there are also tours for private groups, meditation visits, and one hour photo-centric sessions.