Sam Houston Park began with Nathaniel Kelly Kellum's purchase of 13 acres on the south bank of Buffalo Bayou in 1844 and 1845. Here Kellum built a brick factory, a tannery and his residence. The property was later sold to Zerviah Noble, who held it until it was purchased by the City of Houston in 1899 to become the first public park so designated by the City of Houston. The two-story brick house that had been built by Kellum in 1847 became the headquarters building for the Parks Department. The Park was known as City Park until its name was officially changed to Sam Houston Park in 1903.
By 1961, the park had expanded to nearly 21 acres, including property that had formerly been the Episcopal and Masonic cemeteries, yet the popularity of the park as a leisure site had begun to wane. In 1959 almost two acres of the land at the far western edge of the park had been taken for support piers and access ramps for the Interstate 45 elevated roadway, possibly contributing to the park's decline in attractiveness to the public.
The Kellum-Noble house stood vacant on the park grounds for several years, and by 1954 the City of Houston announced plans to raze the building. A group of preservation-minded citizens banded together to save the important landmark. The resulting Harris County Heritage and Conservation Society (now known as "The Heritage Society") not only achieved the goal of stabilizing the building and opening it as a museum, but also revitalized the park by creating a home for many historic and replica structures. Other public sculptures and monuments have also found their home in the park. Sam Houston Park has once again become a popular cultural, educational and leisure site for Houston's downtown residents.