Audio Tour of Dowling Statue in Hermann Park

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Audio Tour of Dowling Statue in Hermann Park


This six-minute audio tour, prepared by undergraduate students at Rice University in 2011, was made to be heard while visiting the Dick Dowling statue at Hermann Park. It provides information about the history of the statue's construction, its movement to different locations in the city, and the historical markers next to the statue.


Alex Honold
Elizabeth Shulman
Jocelyn Wright

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Welcome to the first stop on our Dowling Tour! In front of you stands a statue of Richard Dowling which was erected in 1905. In the process of getting here, you probably noticed that this is tucked away in a corner of Hermann Park where very few people will run into it. But, did you know that, 100 years ago, this statue stood proudly in front of City Hall in downtown Houston?


In the 1880s, a fervor of Civil War monument building swept across the South. As Confederate veterans began dying, white southerners sought to remember them in a more permanent fashion through monuments and statues. By the 1900s, nearly every Southern city had a Confederate war monument in a prominent location and Houston was no exception. Although Dowling died of yellow fever in 1867, just a few years after the war ended, but confederate veterans in Houston refused to let Dowling be forgotten. The local camp of the United Confederate Veterans named themselves Dick Dowling Camp No. 187 in his honor and, in the early 1890s, they had the idea for an even longer-lasting tribute to Dowling’s memory: a statue. The group had difficulty raising funds for the statue’s construction, though, until they enlisted the help of Irish groups in Houston, who were interested in celebrating Dowling as an important Irishman in the city of Houston. With the help of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish heritage group, and the Emmett Council, a Catholic organization, the UCV raised enough funds to build the statue by 1901. The Ancient Order of Hibernians was eager to encourage the construction of a statue commemorating one of Houston’s most famous Irishmen, especially since the Dowling monument was the first public monument built in Houston. Furthermore, the Irish and Confederate causes were not completely at odds; most Irishmen were still immigrants looking for a way to fit in to Southern society. By embracing Southerners’ “Lost Cause” ideology and celebrating Confederate heroes, the Irish were able to better integrate into Southern society. The City of Houston gave the group a piece of land in Market Square, by City Hall, to place the statue. The UCV commissioned Frank Teich to design the statue, and then went about deciding which elements should be a part of the statue’s final design.

Take a moment now to walk around the statue, and examine its features more closely.


If you walk up to the statue and examine it closely, you can see evidence of compromises between the various groups that contributed to its construction. The figure of Dowling himself appears to be a compromise between these two groups. He does not have the full regalia of a commanding officer, but is instead leaning on his sword and holding a pair of binoculars, which allows the statue to be more easily interpreted as both a Civil War monument and a celebration of Irish heritage. The base is adorned with clovers to symbolize Dowling’s Irishness, as well as a listing of all of the members of the Davis Guard who fought with him in the Battle of Sabine Pass to represent the role he played as a Confederate soldier. A list like this was not uncommon in Confederate monuments at the time although who to include on the final list was always a subject of contention. The UCV group in Houston had a committee whose job was to ensure the completed statue adequately represented the needs and desires of all of the groups involved in financing its construction. Between 1901 and 1905, the committee consulted the living veterans of the Davis Guard to compile an accurate list of the members of the guard who fought in the battle, taking care to exclude some deserters. The date of the unveiling itself was a subject of compromise between groups; initially the statue was set to be unveiled on June 3, 1903, Jefferson Davis’s birthday. There were delays in the design of the statue, though, and so the statue was instead unveiled on St. Patrick’s Day in 1905 as a nod to Dowling’s Irish heritage.

This Irish heritage has become particularly important in more recent years, after the statue was placed in Hermann Park in 1958. The statue was left largely unattended for much of its time at Hermann Park and fell into a state of disarray. The statue’s sword was stolen several times in the 1950s and 60s, showing that Houstonians no longer held Dowling in as great esteem as they once had. Dowling was still celebrated by the Irish community, though. Lary Miggins began hosting a ceremony commemorating Dick Dowling as part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the late 1960s. The Miggins family also took up an interest in maintenance of the statue and turned cleaning the statue into an annual St. Patrick’s Day tradition. The Dick Dowling Irish Heritage Society was founded by Lary Miggins and Ann Caraway Ivins, one of Dowling’s relatives, in the late 1980s to raise funds for a complete renovation of the statue. Adequate funds were raised by 1996, and the newly restored statue was exhibited at a rededication ceremony on St. Patrick’s Day in 1997, which placed much more emphasis on Dowling’s Irish heritage than it did on his role as a Confederate war hero.


The President of the Old Tuam Society in Tuam, Ireland, Dowling’s birthplace, was flown in for the ceremony to talk about Dowling. The Miggins family was also involved in the ceremony. Members of the family led the pledge of allegiance and sang the national anthem. Irish dancing took place around the statue, and there was even a strolling leprechaun hired for the event. The Houston Fire Department and members of the sons of Confederate Veterans led a posting of the colors and a military salute to Dowling and the Davis Guards, but the ceremony was still dominated by celebrations of Dowling and his Irish heritage. A celebration of Dowling has been held at the site of the statue by the Irish Heritage Society every year following the rededication of the statue.

Confederate groups still hold some degree of sway, though, as can be seen by looking around the statue. For instance, if you walk behind the statue, you will find a small stone marker by the UCV honoring the contributions of Confederate groups. Additionally, the text of the larger black marker erected by the Historical Commission of Texas was modified by Ivins at the request of some members of Confederate heritage groups to place a greater degree of emphasis on Dowling’s role as a Confederate and the mythology of Sabine Pass as the Confederacy’s Thermpoylae.



6 minutes, 52 seconds