Houston has museums dedicated to weather, telephones, and funerals. Why not one dedicated to the humble bicycle, an increasingly popular mode of transportation for health- and environment-conscious Houstonians? That’s the idea behind the new Houston Bicycle Museum, which opens to the public this Thursday in its temporary space, a renovated bank building at 1313 Binz St. in the heart of the Museum District.
Founded by 78-year-old Joy Boone, the owner of Daniel Boone Cycles, the city’s oldest bike shop, the museum owns a collection of several hundred bikes dating back to the mid-19th century. Around 60 are currently on display in the museum’s warehouse-like space, which it’s renting from the nearby Holocaust Museum. There are spaces for club meetings, bike maintenance classes, and guest speakers.
Boone was born in Duncan, Oklahoma and moved with her husband Daniel, a Schlumberger employee, to Houston in 1964. Living in Montrose, only a few blocks from the future site of the Menil, bikes were a family necessity. “When you have seven kids, guess what? You end up with lots of bicycles,” Boone told me. “Some we ended up saving, some we got rid of.”
Some of the ones they saved went on sale at the bike shop Boone opened up in 1967 on Crawford Street, only a few blocks from the new museum. She would buy used bikes around Houston for around $5 each, fix them up, and re-sell them at her shop for $35 or more. “We never did big bucks, but we had a steady stream of loyal customers.”
Around five years ago, Boone began raising money from Houston bicycle enthusiasts for a museum. The funds came slowly—the biggest single donation was $1,000—but she finally had enough to secure a one-year lease on 1313 Binz. Meanwhile, she continues raising money to build a permanent gallery on land she owns a few block away on Crawford and Calumet. She estimates that she needs about $1.5 million to build and operate the museum.
Although she’s starting small, Boone has big aspirations for her museum. “Long-term, I want people, when they think of bikes, to think of the Smithsonian. And then they’ll think of us."