About First Ward Houston
The High First Ward Historic District is located in Houston’s historic First Ward. Today, the term “First Ward” has come to refer to the area bounded by Washington Avenue to the south, I-10 to the north, I-45 to the east and Sawyer Street to the west. According to longtime residents, the sections of First Ward to the east and west of Houston Avenue were known as the Low First Ward and High First Ward respectively. The main corridor of High First Ward Historic District consists of Crockett Street between Johnson and Henderson Streets, taking in sections of Shearn, Spring, and Summer Streets as well.
Founded in the 1800s, High First Ward has historically been a working-class neighborhood. With its location close to Market Square, Buffalo Bayou, and two parallel railroad lines, the First Ward served as a major artery for shipment of goods in Houston’s early days. Many First Ward residents worked for the railroads or in shops that served that industry. Today, the two train lines are a historic reminder of this aspect of the neighborhood’s history. High First Ward continues to attract those who want to live near downtown. In addition to longtime residents, there has been an influx in more recent years of artists and professionals.
High First Ward is comprised largely of vernacular Queen Anne cottages and Craftsman bungalows built between 1890 and 1930. Over the past few years many original homes of the First Ward have been demolished to make way for townhouses. Nonetheless, much of the area’s historic architecture remains. The historic structures within the district are modest in scale, and are superb examples of Texas folk architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The High First Ward was designated as a City of Houston Historic District on May 28, 2014. Per city ordinance requirements, Design Guidelines are currently being developed for the District. These will inform residents on how to obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness to appropriately alter the existing historic structures, and guide complimentary new construction on vacant lots. The Guidelines will facilitate the preservation and enhancement of the High First Ward District.
Living in Houston First Ward
The First Ward is a tight-knit neighborhood where newcomers quickly become part of the community thanks to the First Ward Civic Council, which regularly hosts community cleanups and safeguards the area’s historic character. Beautification efforts are often artistic endeavors, including a mosaic wall on Houston Avenue created by neighbors who covered 100 feet with handmade tiles depicting First Ward landmarks.
This three-year project is one of the reasons why Kitty Shields, a resident since 2007, values the camaraderie as much as the convenience of living in this area. “After living in Houston for 40 years, the First Ward is the only place I’ve lived that I felt like I lived in a neighborhood,” she told Neighborhoods.com. “The First Ward is almost a microcosm of Houston in that it’s very diversified in terms of race, age, socioeconomic levels, and yet, harmonious.”
“The First Ward is almost a microcosm of Houston.”
Prospective homebuyers are also drawn to the diverse housing inventory, which includes modern townhomes, renovated homes, and new construction taking inspiration from the First Ward’s original residences.
FW Heritage, fronted by husband and wife team and First Ward residents, Dominic Yap and Lin Chong, fills in vacant lots with one-story, single-family homes mindful of the area’s architectural origins. The variety of options from FW’s “respectful restorations” and townhome communities makes for an eclectic mix.
Theater District Houston Zip:
Things to do in First Ward in Houston
The First Ward is proudly part of the Arts District Houston, one of the city’s five state-designated Arts and Cultural Districts, making it a top destination to experience the local arts scene.
Home to over 300 artists, galleries, creative businesses, and nonprofit art organizations, Sawyer Yards anchors the Arts District in the First Ward. The 55-acre complex pays homage to the area’s industrial past and still-active railyard with six revamped warehouses filled with purpose-built studios and office space.
Each building hosts a rotating calendar of art exhibitions highlighting the work of resident artists as well as regional and national shows. Occasional large-scale installations take place at The Silos, where the interior of 34 former rice silos create an unconventional gallery space. Also, the Art Alley features 800 feet of vibrant murals painted by local and international artists, and it’s a favorite spot for photoshoots.
This creative campus is also the location for small theater productions, music festivals, and writing workshops. Second Saturday at Sawyer Yards, the regular open artist studio event, allows residents behind-the-scenes views, while the monthly and holiday markets are fun for perusing the booths of handmade jewelry, clothing, crafts, and specialty foods.
On Houston Avenue, Station Theater hosts weekly improv shows, stand-up performances, and classes in a building covered with murals of David Bowie and Gene Wilder. Nearby, the Spanish-inspired cafe Cafeza hosts musicians, live podcasts, and painting sessions.
The Sawyer Yards complex offers plenty of dining and drinking options to pair with its art scene. Spend an afternoon sampling Holler Brewery’s latest brews on tap and get to know the area by joining their running club. Poitin brings foodie accolades to the First Ward after Texas Monthly named their Southern-inspired menu one of the state’s best new restaurants in 2018.
Residents are anticipating the arrival of Buffalo Bayou Brewery’s new taproom and restaurant, which will include skyline views from its third-floor patio.
Since 1961, longtime First Ward dwellers have dined on classic and creative hamburgers at Stanton’s City Bites. Other popular spots along Houston Avenue include: Brussels Cafe, serving Belgian moules et frites; Spring Street Beer & Wine Garden, providing an outdoor patio for get-togethers; and R Bar, catering to sports fans in a former tire shop. Look for Paper Co’s blue door for coffee and lunch priced on a sliding scale so you can pay it forward as a karmic offering.
Despite the industrial backdrop, the First Ward isn’t lacking in greenspace. Hike and bike trails connect the neighborhood to scenic paths along White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou. The area’s high walkability is evident with easy access to the Greater Heights, Downtown, and its historic counterpart, the Old Sixth Ward. The First Ward Community Garden at the Elder Street Artist Lofts gives a hands-on opportunity to gardening fans.