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The Life of Ima Hogg: The Philanthropist

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image Ima Hogg playing the piano

"I must say it has ever been the aim of the symphony to serve as a unifying and democratic agency in our region and city, that music may reach and touch every facet of our civic life."

Believing that inherited money was a public trust, Miss Hogg became one of Houston's most generous benefactors. It was typical that she would want to share her great love of music with others. Compassionate by nature and progressive in outlook, Miss Hogg was deeply concerned with the welfare of all Texans. Having fought her own battle with depression, she became a zealous proponent of mental health care. In 1929 Miss Hogg established the Child Guidance Center in Houston, the first organization of its kind in the nation. When her brother Will died in 1930, she used his estate to establish the Hogg foundation for Mental Health and Hygiene at the University of Texas at Austin. Most of her own estate was also bequeathed to the foundation. Although she never married or had children, Miss Hogg was committed to public education.

In 1943 she was elected to the Houston School Board, where she profoundly improved the education of Houston's children. Many of her innovations were of fundamental and far reaching importance, such as her insistence that African-American students receive art classes as did white students. Others were more subtle, such as her personal donation of a fireplace to a kindergarten classroom so that the children would feel at home. Miss Hogg also worked to preserve the heritage of her family and her state. She restored the Varner Plantation as well as her parents' first home in Quitman, Texas. And, after restoring a number of Texas-German buildings in Winedale, Miss Hogg donated them to the University of Texas at Austin for use as a study center.

"While I shall always love Bayou Bend and everything there, in one sense I have always considered I was only holding my collection in trust."

Bayou Bend, the gracious home set upon 14 acres of formal and woodland gardens, was built for Miss Hogg and her brothers Will and Mike. Completed in 1928, the house was designed by the talented architect John Staub. Miss Hogg worked closely with Staub to develop an architectural style uniquely suited to the Texas Gulf Coast. Inspired by early American houses, Staub designed the interiors at Bayou Bend to showcase Miss Hogg's growing collection of American antiques. By the 1950's, the collection had achieved national prominence. Although Miss Hogg had always intended to share these rare antiques with the public, there was no museum in Texas capable of housing the vast inventory. Her friend and fellow collector Henry Francis du Pont encouraged Miss Hogg to establish a house museum as he had done at Winterthur in Delaware. In 1957 she donated Bayou Bend and its collection to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Under Miss Hogg's guidance, the comfortable home was transformed into a superb showcase for American decorative arts. The house opened to the public in 1966, but Miss Hogg continued to collect for her beloved Bayou Bend until her death in 1975 at age 93. Today, visitors to Bayou Bend continue to share the rich legacy of this extraordinary woman.



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