Since the opening of Jones Hall in 1966, millions of arts patrons have enjoyed countless performances at the venue, located at 615 Louisiana Street in downtown Houston.
Dominating an entire city block, Jones Hall is stunning with its curving travertine marble facade, an exterior rectangle of eight-story columns, and a brilliantly lit grand entrance. The classically elegant interior dazzles visitors.
Jones Hall is a monument to the memory of Jesse Holman Jones, a towering figure in Houston during the first half of the 20th century. A key player in FDR's cabinet during America's recovery from the Great Depression, Jones was also a builder in Houston. At one point, he could count 35 buildings he added to the City's skyline. He owned the Houston Chronicle and was a prime mover in the dredging of the Houston Ship Channel.
Before his death in 1956, it was Jones' expressed wish to see that Houston had a new opera house. Jones Hall would become his lasting gift to the City. Jones Hall was built on the same location as its predecessor, the old City Auditorium, which was demolished in the summer of 1963. Construction of the new facility began in January 1964. The entire $7.4 million construction tab was paid for by Houston Endowment Inc., a foundation established by the building's namesake. Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts was accepted as a gift to the City in civic ceremonies on October 2, 1966.
Brilliant planning by the building architects offers unparalleled versatility, enabling Jones Hall to accommodate several art forms. Overhead in the theater, 800 hexagons create a moveable marvel that can be raised or lowered to regroup volumes, alter the physical circumstances of the room, and manipulate acoustics. The auditorium can literally to shrink from 2,911 seats to 2,300. The ambience of the hall is enhanced with its vibrant red velvet seating, golden teak walls and a sweeping loge that seems to reach for the stage.
Upon entering the building, visitors will notice the "Gemini II" sculpture hovering just below the lobby ceiling. Commissioned by the Houston Endowment, Gemini II resembles shooting stars as it pays homage to the hall's performers and acknowledges Houston's role in space exploration.
Outside, Jones Hall is just as beautiful, with its curving marble walls and a rectangle of columns. In 1967, Jones Hall won the American Institute of Architects' Honor Award, a national award bestowed on only one building annually. Caudill Rowlett Scott was the architectural firm.
Today, Jones Hall is home to Houston Symphony and the Society for the Performing Arts. More than 400,000 visitors attend some 250 events annually. Jones Hall is managed by the City of Houston's Convention & Entertainment Facilities Department, Dawn Ullrich, director, and Vivian Montejano, building manager.
Wortham Theater Center represents Houston's can-do spirit at its very best. Built at the height of the 1980s oil bust, Wortham Center was funded entirely by the private sector. More than 3,500 donors contributed $66 million to build a new performing arts mecca amid a period of job losses and recession. It was a true community effort -- 2,200 individuals gave $100 or less.
What's more, the 437,500-square foot facility was completed four months ahead of schedule and $5 million under budget, a testament to Houston's trademark ability to get things done. At the time, Wortham Center was the first major opera house built in the U.S. in more than 25 years, further underscoring Houston's capacity to do things other communities would not dare undertake.
The building is the legacy of the late Gus S. Wortham, the founder of American General Insurance Company, whose foundation contributed $20 million to the capital campaign. The Cullen Foundation and the Brown Foundation chipped in with $7.5 million and $6 million, respectively, in a demonstration of the collective strength of Houston's philanthropic spirit.
Today, Wortham Center is home to Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera. Since its opening in 1987, Wortham has entertained audiences totaling more than 5 million people. It has also served as the backdrop for hundreds of social galas, civic meetings, corporate and group events, and even weddings, further underscoring its role as a community center as well as a performing arts venue.
Bold and beautiful, the Wortham is a facility like no other. A wonder of technology, it is a masterful, creative playground for performing artists, and unrestrained in the exuberance of its architecture. Eugene Aubry of Morris Aubry Architects designed Wortham Center.
The facility features two theaters, the Alice and George Brown Theater and the Roy and Lillie Cullen Theater.
At 2,423 seats, the Brown is the "big house" at Wortham. The 17,000-square foot stage is primarily used for major performances by Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera. Despite its size, no seat is more than 138 feet from the stage.
The 1,100-seat Cullen Theater hosts smaller opera and ballet productions and serves other arts groups, such as Society for the Performing Arts, Da Camera of Houston, and Mercury Baroque. Its intimate size is ideal for solo artists, chamber music, small touring shows, and recitals.
Host to many of the world's most accomplished entertainers, it is the place of memorable times, special people, and important events. Within this splendid domain are an array of public spaces, both monumental and intimate: the jewel box-like theaters, the soaring six-story Grand Foyer, the delicately scaled Green Room, and Founders Salon.
Wortham Theater Center is managed by the City of Houston's Convention & Entertainment Facilities Department, Dawn Ullrich, director, and Michael Williams, building manager.