The Laura might have been born in Kentucky and bound for the Brazos River, but it's here in Houston where the steamboat made history. After first transporting then-Republic of Texas vice president Lorenzo de Zavala to the site of the battle of San Jacinto in 1836, the 85-foot-long steamer became the first vessel to navigate Buffalo Bayou above Harrisburg. With none other than Augustus C. and John K. Allen themselves on board, the Laura proved to our founding brothers and everyone else who speculated otherwise that Houston—at the time, the newly designated capital of the Republic of Texas—was a navigable port.
This Thursday, Jan. 21 at Public Services Wine & Whisky, the Bayou Preservation Association celebrates its 50th anniversary along with Houstorian founder James Glassman by commemorating that cold January day in 1837. "Laura Day," which local preservation group Houstorian first celebrated two years ago, comes complete with a cocktail party that—appropriately enough—is admitting anyone named Laura for free. "Houstorian has had smaller versions of Laura Day for the past two years, where Lauras drink for free," says Glassman. "Obviously, we love blending Houston history with social events. Laura Day seemed like an idea that was way overdue."
Tickets for everyone not named Laura are $25 each. They include mixed drinks and light bites at Public Services, which itself occupies a historic space: the old Cotton Exchange building, built in 1884 to promote the commercial trade (especially in cotton) that was booming thanks to the Port of Houston.
Throughout 2016, the Bayou Preservation Association will continue to celebrate its semicentennial year with a series of events, including a student poetry contest, a 50th anniversary gala and kick-off party, and its annual symposium (last year's topic: the always-pertinent trash and pollution in our bayous). The $25 ticket price to this Thursday's celebration includes a one-year membership to the BPA, which has worked to both protect and restore our 2,500 miles of bayous and waterways since its creation in 1967.
Of course, you don't have to be a member of the BPA to help keep our bayous clean. The 23rd annual Trash Bash will take place this year on Saturday, Apr. 2, during which an estimated 4,400 volunteers will clean up the city's rivers, lakes, bays and bayous. Last year, volunteers gathered 37.4 tons of trash, 1.3 tons of recyclable materials and 434 old tires while cleaning 162 miles of shoreline. Another few years of this, and we may eventually have Buffalo Bayou cleaner than when the Allen Brothers first landed here.
Laura Day, Public Services Wine & Whisky, 202 Travis St., Thursday, Jan. 21, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the door.