Development of MacGregor Park

Henry MacGregor died on September 3, 1923, at his summer home in New Hampshire. He is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Houston.23 His widow, Elizabeth, with assistance from two of her relatives, spent the next eight years administering his estate. She spent two of those years in Derry,24 where the estate in 1927 purchased a parcel of land on East Broadway Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, for Derry’s own MacGregor Park and the Derry Public Library. The library building features an exquisite stained glass window from the MacGregor home in Houston, ca. 1890, which depicts the MacGregor coat-of-arms; side panels show claymore swords crossed under shields.

The land for the Park was surveyed in June 1926 by R. O. Bosworth of Howe & Wise, Engineers; Hare and Hare’s preliminary plans for the park were drawn in July 1929. A revised general plan and a map of the North and South MacGregor Way roadways were produced in October 1936; a planting plan for the parkway between North and South MacGregor Way, from Scott Street to Calhoun Street, followed a year later. These drawings show a marked change from a mostly natural space with trails and picnic areas, to a more designed plan with construction for recreational activities, such as baseball and tennis.

Over the years, the Park’s amenities were expanded to include a recreation center building, pool and bathhouse, baseball field, and two existing tennis courts. In 1961, the architecture firm of MacKie & Kamrath was tasked to add eight more tennis courts (with space for three more in the future) and a new clubhouse, with space indicated for the future expansion of the recreation center.

The Park includes a stone memorial to Henry MacGregor, designed by Houston architect William Ward Watkin, and a statue of Elizabeth MacGregor that once stood in the Peggy’s Point Plaza Park at the corner of South Main and Richmond. One of the provisions of Henry’s will had called for a statue to be made of his wife, and the artist Gutzon Borglum (then living in San Antonio) was duly commissioned for the task in 1927, just before he began work on his most famous sculpture: Mount Rushmore. The Peggy statue depicts Mrs. MacGregor as a young woman with an outstretched hand, in bas relief bronze mounted on rough white granite. The statue was restored in 1997 and moved to MacGregor Park by the Houston Municipal Art Commission.

In 2001, the MacGregor family sued the City of Houston for failing to maintain 47 acres on the east side of the Park and allowing it to become unusable and for selling a portion of it to the State of Texas for development of a highway spur. The City had allowed that section, about 40% of the total park land, to become overgrown and had posted “No Trespassing” and “Do Not Enter” signs to keep the public out. Attorneys for the family argued that the City had wanted to route TX-35 (Spur 5) from the Gulf Freeway to the University of Houston campus through that section of the Park, but were unable to, due to deed restrictions on the property. Instead, the City had encouraged the State of Texas to take 6.7 acres through eminent domain; the State then paid the City $425,000. A judge ultimately ruled that the City had violated its deed and gave the remaining 40 acres back to the family, which sold it to the University of Houston at an inexpensive price, so that it could be used for a public purpose.

The remaining 65 acres of MacGregor Park received a $1 million makeover in 2005, thanks to a grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Division, and an additional $600,000 in improvements in 2009 as part of Houston’s Parks To Standards program.32 Park facilities today include a community center building, playground, tennis center, lighted sports field, swimming pool, weight room, meeting room, 18-hole disc golf course, 1.25-mile hike and bike trail, picnic areas, and an outdoor basketball pavilion.