Out of the Way, Tiny Soldiers, Here Comes the Grand Parkway: Katy’s Forbidden Gardens Is Closing Down

Segment E of Houston’s new Grand Parkway — more commonly known as the new ring-road highway planned to cut through the Katy Prairie to link the Katy Mills Mall to the Houston Premium Outlets mall in Cypress (and to facilitate cultural exchange programs between those two institutions) — has its first casualty, and it’s not an Attwater prairie chicken. One of Katy’s quirkiest and most beloved attractions, Forbidden Gardens, has announced it will close. The Chinese history and cultural museum’s peculiar but convenient location on a former rice field along Franz Rd. just off the Grand Parkway’s stub end likely wasn’t “just off” enough. Forbidden Gardens’ last day open will be January 30; a note on its website says the closing will “make way for the Grand Parkway expansion.” Forbidden Gardens opened in 1996.


What will happen to Ira Poon’s famed but well-weathered one-twentieth-scale model of Beijing’s Forbidden City? And the model of the the Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di, with its terra-cotta army of 6,000 by now fully frisked one-third-scale warriors? Messages left on the museum’s answering machine have not yet been returned. To accommodate visitors who would like to tour the mostly open-air facilities “one last time,” the website reports, Forbidden Gardens is extending its hours.

Photos: Jennifer Gray

21 Comment

  • Darn! Never quite made it out there. Another unique Houston cultural “thing” disappears in the name of progress. :-(

  • I’ve been three times. It was nice when it first opened but steadily declined through the years. It was a nice idea but never had the cash to keep it up to par and was perhaps not in the best part of town for it to be appreciated. Maybe if it had been closer to the museum district or the Heights, with more cultural interpretation and historical accuracy, it might have made it. Now it will become a quirky, quasi-historical footnote that will surface in a web post 20-30 years from now where people gasp why it didn’t make it. How fitting, perhaps, the closing is announced on the day Hu Jintao visits the US.

  • …more commonly known as the new ring-road highway planned to cut through the Katy Prairie to link the Katy Mills Mall to the Houston Premium Outlets mall in Cypress (and to facilitate cultural exchange programs between those two institutions)…


    Such snarkiness. Love it.

  • Funny how many times I go to something in Houston for the first time in order to see it before they get rid of it.

  • Road trip, maybe I can get a few clay warriors to guard my casa.

  • I would be interested to know whether the expansion really would go over the top of that land. The map of that section still shows it skirting the lot line, close but by no means on top of.


  • Jimbo, maybe for them it’s just a little too close for comfort.

    I’ll be making a trip out there soon. And I also wonder what will become of all the ‘things’ they have on display…….I’d take one of the guards if the price was right.

  • I tend to feel that big players – developers of large parcels – have the head’s-up regarding regional planning. As a mere tax-payer, I feel I only know ‘what’s going on’ due to paranoia, obsessive searches of info, and of course Swamplot…
    So, I don’t know which is the case, in this case:
    1) it’s a shame that a developer of a large parcel had no idea of future plans to install a highway
    2) the quirky enterprise failed, and, Grand Pkwy is the scapegoat

  • Who needs Culture” when you have Outlet Malls??? It’s HOUSTON!!!

  • hdtex: Totally. You should buy some land and make some cultural stuff for us to enjoy.
    Thanks in advance for your contribution!

  • I’m with Pye … I’d like to have a couple of those soldiers for my yard too. I’ve been to this place, and was suitably impressed. Sorry to see it go.

  • movocelot, how much would the Forbidden Gardens folks have been told back in 1995-96?

    I was certainly here, and I drove I-10 out there on a pretty regular basis but for the life of me, I don’t remember hearing about Grand Parkway back then.

    So you think they knew about the Grand Parkway and went ahead and bought there and developed the Gardens anyway?

  • It’s 14 years old! Doesn’t it qualify under Houston’s historic structure rules?

  • A lot of people would relish the idea of a major road being built right up to the door of their loss-making attraction that is in dire need of more visitors. I for one am still suspicious that the road project is just an easy scapegoat.

  • The closing is not related to the Grand Parkway. The developer was aware of the issue before he began and the plans Harris County has prepared do not require any of his land for the project.

    Construction on the piece of the Grand Parkway from IH10 up to Franz began in 1989 and the current road from Franz to US59 in Sugar Land opened in August 1994. The access it provided was part of the developers reason to choose the site.

  • If it’s any consolation, if there’s a scale model of the Astrodome outside of Beijing, it’ll probably get paved over eventually, too.

  • Highwayman has it right. If you look at Segment E extension plans for the Grand Parkway, the Forbidden City’s east property line is angled to match the Parkway’s right-of-way. It seems the closing is influenced by factors other than the Grand Parkway’s extension. Can’t blame this one on the evil Parkway.

  • Seriously, I would like to see this moved to Old Chinatown. Maybe it could be incorporated into EaDo Promenade’s plan for Shenzen Garden?!? Imagine the Terra Cotta soldiers randonly scattered all over the streets of EaDo, randomly placed on sidewalks or next to street lights or bus stops.

    If Chicago can have Art Cows, we can have Terra Cotta Soldiers!

  • If the owners need money maybe we could buy the warriors. I’d put a couple in my yard.

  • I have been looking at the Google aerial images of the area and it would seem that the Garden’s current property line would form the frontage for the new feeder road for the Grand Parkway rather than be directly in the freeway’s path.

    I like the thought of having the Forbidden Gardens on a feeder road at the side of a freeway – that is much more in keeping with Houston’s quirkiness.

  • I picked up a few of the terra cotta soldiers (a small army actually) and if anyone didnt get a chance to buy one, id sell a few of them. Im located inside the loop, so you dont have to drive all the way to katy! email me at adam@newliving.net