The First Question People ask about Ima Hogg…
It’s usually the first question people ask about Ima Hogg, the First Lady of Texas:
Did she know her name was – shall we say – a little unsuitable?
The answer is unequivocally ‘yes.’ Miss Ima Hogg, whose philanthropy still resonates in the heart of Houston’s Museum District and across the State of Texas and beyond, was most certainly aware of her problematic name. So much so that she went out of her way to avoid using it, preferring to be called simply I. Hogg or Miss Hogg. And before you start spreading more rumors, there is no truth to the story she had a sister named Ura Hogg; Ima had three brothers, no sister. Despite her rather unfortunate first name (chosen by her father Texas Governor James Stephen “Big Jim” Hogg after a poem written by her Uncle Thomas) Ima lived a most remarkable life — spanning from the Victorian era to the 1970s.
Governor ‘Big Jim’ Hogg’s Oil Gamble Paid Off — Long After Meeting his Final Reward
Governor Big Jim just knew they’d strike oil one day on land he bought an hour south of Houston. Turns out he was right. Big Jim’s property — known today as the Varner-Hogg Plantation — produced one of Texas’ largest oil fortunes ever. Unfortunately for Big Jim, he had already been dead and buried for twelve years when, in 1918, they finally struck oil. Soon the burgeoning number of oil wells crisscrossing the land Ima and her three brothers inherited from their father began to produce unimaginable wealth — reportedly $225,000 each month — in 1919 dollars. Now a rich Texan oil heiress, Miss Hogg went overseas to study piano with the European masters of the day. Later in life she returned to Houston to embark on a lifelong pursuit of philanthropy in arts and culture. Among Miss Hogg’s many accomplishments:
- She established the Houston Symphony Orchestra
- She donated her John Staub-designed Bayou Bend home in River Oaks with its priceless collection of American antique furniture as well as rare paintings by Chagall, Picasso, Klee and Matisse to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts
- She help establish the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
And that’s not really a comprehensive list of all her philanthropic achievements.
So our healthy living Houston suggestion for this month is to take a short road trip to the Varner-Hogg Plantation, located about an hour south of Houston in West Columbia, Texas. Tours of the plantation home last for about an hour and you might want to spend another hour walking on the grounds (65 acres in total) to see the sugarcane mill and rum distillery ruins, the pecan orchards and original outbuildings. It’s a beautiful site. Admission to the park is four dollars per person; they’re open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 to 5 p.m. Tours of the inside of the home ($4 additional) are offered at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 pm. Call 979.345.4656, ext. 31 for more information.
Planning Your Trip to the Varner-Hogg Plantation? Why Not Combine Your Visit with a Trip to the George Observatory?
You can easily combine a mid-day or afternoon trip to the Varner-Hogg Plantation with a late afternoon or evening visit to Brazos Bend State Park, home of the George Observatory. They are about 20 miles (30 minutes) apart. See our related article on stargazing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science’s George Observatory, located in Brazos Bend State Park.