Houston Heights Public Library

By: J. R. Gonzales

Type: General Entry

Published: October 17, 2017

Houston Heights Public Library opened in 1926 in the Heights area of Houston four miles northwest of downtown and is located in a historic city of Houston building—one of the oldest library buildings in the Houston Public Library System. In 1984 the building attained landmark status when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2005 it was designated a protected city of Houston landmark.

Beginning in 1896 Houston Heights operated as a municipality that included a textile mill, railroad station, newspaper, and park. Twenty-two years later, the town was annexed by the city of Houston. As the neighborhood’s population continued to grow, so did the need for a branch library building for its residents. As a result, a 150-by-150-foot site at the corner of 13th and Heights Boulevard was purchased. Previously, the library had been initially located at Baptist Temple Church and then at Heights High School on 20th Street at Heights Boulevard.

Designed by architect J. M. Glover and constructed by the Universal Construction Company, the building, which follows the Italian Renaissance Revival style, was formally dedicated on March 18, 1926. It featured pale pink stucco and arched windows and doors.

For decades, the library played a central role in the neighborhood for civic gatherings. In 1939 a reading garden was established and funded by the Heights Woman’s Club. The garden included a fountain by Heights resident Thomas B. Lewis that was erected in memory of his son, Sam Houston Lewis. Much of the credit for cementing the branch’s role as an integral part of the community and promoting the history of the Heights was given to librarian Jimmie May Hicks, branch librarian from 1931 to 1964.

In 1951 a second-floor addition was constructed on the north side of the building. In 1957 the city earmarked more than $86,000 to air-condition the library. Twenty years later, the building underwent an $800,000 three-year modernization effort that significantly increased the library’s square footage while altering the Italian Renaissance design and creating a more modern addition to the original structure. As a result, the reading garden was replaced with a community meeting center. The building also received much-needed repairs from water damage caused by annual rainfall. The renovated library reopened in 1980.

In 2001 efforts to replace the library branch with a newer building were shelved amid a lack of finances and community opposition. But renovations to bring the building in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act began the following year.

Jason P. Theriot, “Preservation vs. Modernization: The Houston Heights Public Library,” The Houston Review, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring 2006).


  • Architecture
  • Other Structures
  • Education
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Libraries


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

J. R. Gonzales, “Houston Heights Public Library,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/houston-heights-public-library.

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October 17, 2017

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