Bayou Bend Garden Party Returns to its Roots, Gives Houston’s Elegant House Museum a Critical Boost in a $6 Million Mission

In a twist on tradition, necessitated on several levels due to the pandemic, the annual Bayou Bend Garden Party was delayed from its typical April date to the first Sunday in June. Yes, it was a bit steamy but not so sultry as to prevent wall fans, hand fans and icy libations from providing sufficient relief.

The event was relocated from the back garden to the ellipse in the front of the elegant house museum in River Oaks. The move was, in fact, a return to the setting that hosted the genteel soirée when it first launched 35 years ago.

“We are thrilled to rediscover this tradition,” Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow told the intimate gathering of 200.

He also noted that his post in the center of the ellipse, where the band stand and dance floor were located for this evening, had been 13 feet under water when Hurricane Harvey flooded much of the city in 2017. That explained the massive excavation tool that provided an unusual welcome to guests arriving via Lazy Lane.

“Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent flooding events have taken a tremendous toll on the bend at Bayou Bend and we discovered that Buffalo Bayou no longer wants to bend around Ima Hogg’s house,” Tinterow said. “It would prefer to travel straight across this lawn.”

In an effort to protect the gardens and historic home, which is lauded for its collection of American decorative arts and paintings, the museum is undertaking a year-long $6 million project to reinforce the bank thereby halting the bayou’s destructive progression.

Announcing that the garden party had raised $445,000 for Bayou Bend’s operating budget, Tinterow noted, “We needed that. We needed it badly.”

That was in reference to revenue lost during the pandemic when the house museum was closed but staff kept employed.

George Dodd, Lisa Fred (Photo by Wilson Parish)

On a happier note — it was a beautiful affair — Tinterow introduced Kendall Miller, president of Tanglewood Corporation which not only served as lead sponsor of the fundraiser but also signed on for the Bayou Bend Garden Party in 2022.

In brief remarks, Miller noted that his mother, the late Mary Catherine Miller, was a longtime “very enthusiastic docent” at Bayou Bend and that this evening served as a celebration for her enthusiasm for the house museum and a signal of the Miller family’s continuation of her traditions of civic involvement.

It was surmised that the matriarch was among those attending that first Bayou Bend Garden party in 1985.

Just as then, the florals and table settings were lavish, on this night in the hands of The Events Company. The dinner menu from City Kitchen was a delightful throwback beginning with Helen Corbitt‘s chilled pea soup with lump crabmeat which was followed by fried chicken, summer succotash and tomato salad. The dinner concluded with pralines and pecan ice cream balls laced with chocolate sauce. Doppleganger provided the dance tunes that had the dance floor filled, also a Bayou Bend tradition.

PC Seen: Bayou Bend director Bonnie Campbell, Sharon G. Dies, Anne and Charles Duncan, Bobbie Nau, Denise Monteleone, Kendall Miller, Marshall Miller, Catherine and Neal Gassman, Laurie Morian, Laura and Keefer Lehner, Lilly and Harrison Cullen, Leslie and Brad Bucher, Polly and Murry Bowden, Kathy and Marty Goossen, Michelle and Frank Hevrdejs, and Jay Jones with Terry Wayne Jones.