New Children’s Play Scape at Woodland Park

Photo of the Houston Electric Co. replica trolley installed at Woodland Park in Houston, Texas. Built by Paul Carr.

Photo of the Houston Electric Co. replica trolley installed at Woodland Park in Houston, Texas. Built by Paul Carr.

The Friends of Woodland Park (FWP) is proud of our latest accomplishment: the historic trolley replica which is located adjacent to the existing children’s playground. With the cooperation and assistance of the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and the Houston Parks Board we were able to get Paul Carr’s generously crafted and donated creation permanently installed in the park so the children can enjoy it. But what is the significance of a trolley car as a play scape rather than say a train, a bus, or some other means of transportation?

What is the Significance?

Before Henry Ford began mass producing automobiles, thus making them affordable for the average American family, people traveled around town on public transportation: trolley cars. And in Houston at the turn of the twentieth century the public transportation system was owned by the Houston Electric Company.

Public usage of the trolleys was great high during the week but decreased significantly during the weekends. The owners of the Houston Electric Company, a privately owned venture in the city’s early history, questioned what they could do to increase ridership on the weekends. They soon realized that they needed to have a destination for patrons to explore and enjoy. So the Houston Electric Company looked into a forested region approximately a mile north of the existing Houston Avenue trolley line terminus at Crocket Street, and found a spot where a naturally running stream could be dammed and a lake could be created. In addition to the lake they created a park with an assortment of amenities. They named it Highland Park and it was a huge hit from its opening in 1903.

The history of the park is fascinating and can be seen in its splendor in postcard photos of its early years. Copies of these picture postcards can be seen on the FWP website. The park routinely held concerts and events and even had various amusement rides. It is also noteworthy as the site of the city’s first zoo.

Soon after its opening a new residential subdivision was established and grew up just west of the park. That neighborhood was Woodland Heights, established in 1907, and it became one of the early streetcar subdivisions in the US. The neighborhood was so successful that its residents petitioned the city to rename the park, Woodland Park, when it was transferred to the city for it to operate in 1914.

In a very real sense, the trolley created the park, and the Woodland Heights neighborhood.

We hope that you and your family will visit and enjoy this historic replica as we expect it to be a fixture in Woodland Park for many years.

Become a Trolley Angel

Would you, your family members, your scout troop, your church or social group consider volunteering to be a Trolley Angel? The FWP is a small group of dedicated neighbors seeking to improve and enhance everyone’s experience when they come to Woodland Park. But we could certainly use your help.

Trolley Angels would be anyone, or a community group, who committed to care for the trolley for any period of time. It could be as short as a week or as long as a year. They would essentially pick up litter in and around the trolley and let the FWP know of any maintenance issues that might arise. In reality, a once-a-week check of the trolley along with a few minutes time dedicated to removing any litter would be all that is likely to be needed. It's a great way for the community to take ownership of this new amenity. Such a volunteer effort would be a great example of community service for our children. Trolley Angels will definitely be recognized on the FWP website.