The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips: Eclectic Menagerie Park, Houston

Outdoor collection is part sculpture museum, part inanimate zoo

By Gerald E. McLeod, August 20, 2021, Columns

The Eclectic Menagerie Park goes a long way to help keep Space City weird. In a field off the freeway in South Central Houston, out past the 610 Loop, is a collection of world-class folk art.

The inanimate zoo and sculpture garden fills the expansive 108-acre lawn of the Texas Pipe & Supply along the southbound highway. Hopefully the thousands of commuters get a daily smile as they pass the yard art of a giant fishing pole reeling in a pickup truck and Snoopy flying a fighter plane.

The outdoor museum began in 1987 when Jerry Rubenstein, chairman of the board at the oilfield supply company, purchased a concrete hippo. From there he was off to the races, acquiring large metal sculptures of an eagle, King Kong scaling a crane boom, a dinosaur, a roadrunner, and a spider big enough to give an arachnophobe nightmares. Most of the art is made from repurposed materials.

The majority of the monuments to silliness are credited to welder and artist Ron Lee and local sculptor Mark Rankin. Lee has worked for Texas Pipe & Supply nearly 50 years. When he's not fabricating industrial projects, he's exercising his creative side.

While the menagerie makes a great photo op, you'll have to do it from your vehicle. There is really nowhere to safely park and the public is not allowed on the company's property.

The Eclectic Menagerie Park is at the southwest corner of West Bellfort Avenue and the South Freeway (SH 288). The best way to view the whimsical creatures is to exit the freeway at Bellfort Avenue, drive slowly along the southbound frontage road, and take photos from the passenger seat of your car.

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