Fifth Ward, Houston: Wikis


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Sign indicating the Fifth Ward

The Fifth Ward is a historical political district (ward) and a community of Houston, Texas, United States, northeast of Downtown. It is bounded by the Buffalo Bayou, Jensen Drive, Liberty Road, and Lockwood Drive.[1]

The Fifth Ward, one of the six wards of Houston, was created partly from two other wards, the First Ward, which ceded the area to the north and east of White Oak Bayou and Little White Oak Bayou, and the Second Ward, which ceded all land within the Houston city limits to the north of Buffalo Bayou.



Sign pointing to the Evergeeen Negro Cemetery
Mount Vernon United Methodist Church

After the American Civil War, newly freed slaves (freemen) began settling in the sparsely settled area. In 1866, it became the Fifth Ward and an alderman from the ward was elected to Houston's City Council. By the mid-1880s, it was virtually all black, home to working class people who made their livings in Houston's eastside ship channel and industrial areas or as domestics for wealthy Houstonians. Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, founded in 1865 by a former slave, is the oldest church in the ward. Five other churches are over a hundred years old. Also home to the famous "Island of Hope (Anderson Memorial Temple) COGIC" the oldest Pentecostal church in Fifth Ward. Over the years it had been home to the city's minority and immigrant population. Although it had been a mostly black area, Latinos, Filipino Americans, Pakistani Americans, and Italian Catholics also moved there.[citation needed]

Before desegregation the community housed African-Americans of all occupations and income levels. The community was known as the "bloody Fifth" because of some highly publicized violent incidents in the neighborhood; Michael Berryhill of the Houston Press stated that the Fifth Ward was not as blighted in the 1940s as it was during the 1990s.[2] Robb Walsh of the Houston Press described the 1930s era Fifth Ward as "one of the proudest black neighborhoods" in the United States; more than 40 black-owned businesses were along Lyons Avenue in the Fifth Ward at that time.[3]

Desegregation lead to middle class African-Americans moving to the suburbs.[2] By the 1970s the Fifth Ward lost a significant part of its population, and many houses were boarded-up. Many area businesses were vacant and the area had many vacant lots with overgrown plants.[3] In the 1970s and 1980s the Fifth Ward became notorious throughout Houston for the violence perpetuated in the community.[4] Ernest McMillan, a community activist and contributor to the Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, said in a 1987 Houston Chronicle article that "One of the differences between this neighborhood and one like River Oaks is that they have lots of support and all kinds of resources available. Here in the Fifth Ward it's the exact opposite: These people have no resources at all. There's one clinic, one library, no YMCA, very few activities, and the community is very fragmented. It's not the kind of environment that helps a child excel."[5]

Between 1990 and 2000 the Hispanic population of the Fifth Ward increased from around 19% of the population to around 31%.[6] In 2000 the median annual income was $8,900. 62% of its residents lived below the poverty line. 9 of 10 school-aged children qualified for free or reduced lunches. The commercial streets had several empty buildings and vacant lots. Lisa Gray, a journalist in the Houston Press, stated in a 2000 article that the existing businesses "run mostly to dingy mom-and-pop operations, grim little grocery stores and cheerless liquor stores. There's no McDonald's, no Fiesta, no Target, no Wal-Mart. It's turf where national chains fear to tread." Gray added that the words "new" and "nice" were not often associated with the Fifth Ward, while "at-risk," "crime," and "poverty," were.[7] Walsh said that the Fifth Ward in 2002 was "in much better shape" than it was in the 1970s; he added that while the Fifth Ward is "hardly a garden spot," the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation took many steps to improve the community including assisting low income borrowers in finding loans, encouraging artchitects to develop "innovative designs" for low income housing, and bringing commercial building projects into the Fifth Ward.[8]

Japhet, a section of the Fifth Ward at Emile Street at Clinton Drive (two blocks east of Hirsch Road/Waco Street), was the Houston Press 2004 "Best Hidden Neighborhood." The article stated "Say the words "Fifth Ward" to most Houstonians, and they'll think crime, poverty and desperation." The article added that Japhet is "more like a village than anything else -- fragrant organic gardens are everywhere, bursting with vegetables, fruits and flowers, and the whole neighborhood comes together for a big party every full moon."[9]

In 2007 the Fifth Ward was one of several Houston neighborhoods with a high concentration of ex-felons.[10] During that year a debate regarding the ownership of the historic Evergreen Negro Cemetery in the Fifth Ward continued.[11]

Government and infrastructure

Fifth Ward is currently located in City Council District B.[12] As of 2008 Jarvis Johnson represents the district.[13]

The community is served by the Houston Police Department Northeast Patrol Division,[14] headquartered at 8301 Ley Road. The Fifth Ward Storefront is located in Suite 200 at 4300 Lyons Avenue.[15] The Houston Fire Department operates Station 19 Fifth Ward on 1811 Gregg Street.[16]

The city operates the Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center at 4014 Market Street.[17] The city multi-service centers provide several services such as child care, programs for elderly residents, and rental space.[18]

In 2002, open ditches were the predominate form of drainage of water in the Fifth Ward.[19]

The Fifth Ward is in Texas's 18th congressional district.[20] Its representative as of 2008 is Sheila Jackson Lee.


KBR offices on Clinton Drive

KBR maintains offices in a 138 acres (56 ha) campus on Clinton Drive,[21][22][23] within the boundaries of the East End and the Fifth Ward.[1][24] The KBR office complex is the former headquarters of Brown & Root.[25] By 2001 Halliburton owned the Clinton Drive campus. In August of that year Halliburton announced that it would consolidate 8,000 local employees to office space in Westchase. Halliburton planned to relocate around 2,000 employees from Clinton Drive and the industrial facilities would have been relocated to a location that was, in that month, undetermined. Sanford Criner, a principal at real estate brokerage Trione & Gordon, suggested that gentrification would turn what would have been the former Clinton Drive facility into entertainment, residential, or retail use, and that the facility would not have been redeveloped for office space usage.[26] In December 2001 Halliburton canceled its plans to relocate employees to Westchase. Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Business Journal said that it made more sense for the company to lease existing space instead of constructing new office space in times of economic downturns.[27]

In 2010 KBR announced that it will vacate the Clinton Drive campus and move the 1,600 employees who work at the Clinton Drive office to the KBR offices in Downtown Houston. The company will then conduct an environmental cleanup of the Clinton Drive site.[23]


Lisa Gray, a journalist for the Houston Press, stated in a 2000 article that the Fifth Ward has an overall sense of history and a "small-scale, deep-rooted personal history, the way that, in the middle of the city, lives are intertwined in a small-town way." Many families from the area had lived in the Fifth Ward for several generations.[7]

The north-south Southern Pacific Transportation Company railroad tracks separate the Fifth Ward from Denver Harbor. David Benson, an assistant to Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee, described the railroad line as "a semi-permeable membrane." In the 1990s many African-Americans went into Denver Harbor to shop at the area supermarket and stores, while the Denver Harbor Hispanics rarely entered the Fifth Ward.[28]


In 1922, a group of Louisiana Creoles organized the Fifth Ward community of "Frenchtown," which contained a largely Roman Catholic and Creole culture. When new residents no longer resided in Frenchtown, the neighborhood culturally merged with the greater Fifth Ward.[29] The community was about four square blocks.[30] The Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, completed in 1930 by Creoles for Creoles, serves as a social center for the neighborhood.[31] The Houston Press described the Continental Zydeco Ballroom at 3101 Collingsworth as serving as the "Saturday-night focal point" for Frenchtown for several decades.[32] Throughout its history, Frenchtown had narrow streets and a lack of sidewalks, complicating the riding of bicycles.[19] Around the 1950s young women from Frenchtown rarely married outside of the community.[30]

In 2002 Mike Snyder and Matt Schwarz of the Houston Chronicle said that Frenchtown was "scarred by decades of deterioration and neglect." The neighborhood had deteriorating houses that had been abandoned for years, vacant lots with high weeds, and a malfunctioning drainage system that resulted in standing rain. Snyder and Schwartz wrote that the issues "create health and safety hazards and lend the neighborhood a bleak, desolate appearance that discourages private investment and prompts many residents to leave when they can." By that year many Frenchtown residents began to distrust city officials. Frank Broussard, the head of the Frenchtown Association, said that the neighborhood needed new streets and adequate drainage and that the vacant lots needed to be dealt with. Snyder and Schwartz also said that "what distinguishes neighborhoods such as Frenchtown is chronic problems with basic infrastructure and services that contribute to blight and often lead to declining property values and dwindling population."[19]



Primary and secondary schools

Public schools

Area students attend schools in the Houston Independent School District.[1] Even though Denver Harbor and the Fifth Ward are zoned to Wheatley, the areas are represented by different board members.[28]

Elementary schools in the Fifth Ward and serving sections of the Fifth Ward include Charles H. Atherton,[33] Blanche Kelso Bruce,[34] Joseph H. Crawford,[35] Nathaniel Q. "Nat" Henderson,[36] and E.O. Smith Education Center.[37]

E.O. Smith Education Center serves most areas of the Fifth Ward for middle school,[38] while some areas are zoned to John L. McReynolds Middle School in Denver Harbor,[39] and a small portion is zoned to Lamar Fleming Middle School, north of the Fifth Ward.[40] Phillis Wheatley High School in the Fifth Ward serves almost all of the Fifth Ward,[41] while Jefferson Davis High School serves a small portion of the Fifth Ward.[42]

Carter Career Center, an HISD vocational school and pregnant girls' school, is located in the Fifth Ward.[43]

By Spring 2011 Atherton Elementary School and E.O. Smith will be consolidated with a new K-8 campus in the Atherton site. By Spring 2011 Crawford and Sherman Elementary School, a campus outside of the Fifth Ward, will be consolidated, with a new campus in the Sherman site.[44]

Private schools

A Kindergarten through 8 Roman Catholic school called Our Mother of Mercy School, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, was in the area. [45] It closed in Spring 2009.[46] The school was consolidated with the St. Francis of Assisi School.[47]

Histories of schools

Smith Education Center first opened in 1913. Crawford opened in 1917. Bruce opened at 713 Bringurst in 1920. Davis opened in 1926.[48] On January 31, 1927 Wheatley first opened in the former McGowan Elementary School building.[49] A school which was originally a county school was relocated to 2011 Solo Street in 1927; in 1929 it was renamed after Charles H. Atherton. The building how known as Carter Career Center opened in 1929. Wheatley received a new facility in 1949. A school was named after Nathaniel Q. Henderson in 1926. McReynolds opened in 1957. Fleming opened in 1968. In 2006 much of Wheatley High School had been rebuilt. Bruce moved to a new facility 510 Jensen Drive in 2007.[48]

Public libraries

The Fifth Ward is served by the Houston Public Library Fifth Ward Neighborhood Library.[50]

Community services

Fifth Ward CRCis a nonprofit community-based agency located in Houston’s historic Fifth Ward community. Kathy Payton is the President and CEO of Fifth Ward CRC which was founded in direct response to a period of negative migration – when businesses were fleeing the community, public schools were closing, school dropout rates and teen pregnancies were increasing and the community as a whole was being decimated by the prevalence of multiple social and economic ills. In 1989, the community responded to the devastation in the Fifth Ward when civic leaders, business owners, ministers and educators came together to establish a point of positive systemic change and Fifth Ward CRC was formed. Since its inception, the organization has operated under the same name, without change. The Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation (FWCRC) is to serve as a catalytic organization dedicated to the collaborative fostering of holistic community development.

Since its inception in 1989, Fifth Ward CRC has built 300+ new homes, two multifamily complexes totaling 336 units, two commercial developments, four public art installations and two community gateway monuments. It has preserved and renovated two of the most significant landmarks in the area -- the historic St. Elizabeth Clinic and the historic Lonnie Smith house. To support homeownership and enhance affordability, the organization has provided more than $500,000 in second mortgages to those in need – loans averaging between $5,000 and $30,000 that benefited more than 70 individuals and families. Fifth Ward CRC'scorporate offices are located at 4300 Lyons Avenue, Houston, Texas 77020.

Community Partners operated community services in the Fifth Ward.[51]

Parks and recreation

Finnigan Park

Finnigan Park and Community Center, operated by the City of Houston, is located at 4900 Providence. The park has a lighted sports field, a swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, a .65 mile hike and bicycle trail, and a playground. The community center has an indoor gymnasium, a weight room, and meeting rooms.[52]

The Swiney Community Center, operated by the City of Houston is located at 2812 Cline. The center has a playground and an outdoor basketball pavilion.[53]

The Julia C. Hester House serves as a settlement house and community center. It was originally known as Houston Negro Community Center of the Fifth Ward, but it received its current name before its opening. A biracial committee established the center in 1943 to improve the education, health, and welfare of Fifth Ward residents. It originally used rented facilities on Lyons Avenue, before moving into a $150,000 building on Solo Street in 1949; the center has occupied the Solo Street building since then.[54]


Fifth Ward/Denver Harbor Transit Center

Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas (METRO) operates bus routes. The agency operates the Fifth Ward/Denver Harbor Transit Center on Lockwood Street.[55]

Notable residents

"Fruits of the Fifth Ward," a mural depicting 21 notable individuals who are either from the Fifth Ward or have connections to the Fifth Ward

"Fruits of the Fifth Ward," a mural depicting 21 notable individuals who are natives of the Fifth Ward or have connections to the Fifth Ward, was created by Wheatley High School students. Reginald Adams, the executive director of the Museum of Cultural Arts Houston (MOCAH), oversaw the creation of the mural. The project began after the History Channel gave MOCAH a $10,000 grant to create a mural depicting the history of the Fifth Ward. The mural was dedicated on Saturday October 21, 2006.[60] The mural is adjacent to Crawford Elementary School.[61]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Fifth Ward, Houston from the Handbook of Texas Online Retrieved on June 25, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Berryhill, Michael. "What's Wrong With Wheatley?." Houston Press. April 17, 1997. 2. Retrieved on March 31, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Walsh, Robb. "The Nickel Burger." Houston Press. October 31, 2002. 1. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  4. ^ "Grogan, Paul S. Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival. 74.
  5. ^ Karkabi, Barbara. "FAMILY MATTERS/Program Helps Young Men Develop, Make Choices." Houston Chronicle. Sunday January 4, 1987. LifeStyle 1.
  6. ^ Rodriguez, Lori. "SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS / Latinos bringing change to black neighborhoods / Newcomers are finding acceptance comes gradually." Houston Chronicle. Monday May 2, 2005. A1. Retrieved on February 4, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c Gray, Lisa. "Not Your Standard Issue." Houston Press. November 9, 2000. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  8. ^ Walsh, Robb. "The Nickel Burger." Houston Press. October 31, 2002. 2. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  9. ^ "Best Hidden Neighborhood (2004)." Houston Press. Retrieved on November 23, 2008.
  10. ^ Fehling, Dave. "The ex-cons next door." KHOU-TV. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
  11. ^ Guy, Andrew. "BLACK HISTORY MONTH / An uneasy slumber / Development may be the key to saving many of Houston's historical black cemeteries." Houston Chronicle. Sunday February 18, 2007. Star 1. Retrieved on December 22, 2009.
  12. ^ "COUNCIL DISTRICT MAPS > DISTRICT B." City of Houston. Accessed October 27, 2008.
  13. ^ "City Council." City of Houston. Accessed October 27, 2008.
  14. ^ "Crime Statistics for Northeast Patrol Division." City of Houston. Retrieved on November 23, 2008.
  15. ^ "VOLUNTEER INITIATIVES PROGRAM - Citizens Offering Police Support." City of Houston. Retrieved on September 23, 2008.
  16. ^ Home Page. Fire Station 19. Retrieved on November 23, 2008.
  17. ^ "Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center." City of Houston. Accessed October 27, 2008.
  18. ^ "Multi-Service Centers." City of Houston. Accessed October 27, 2008.
  19. ^ a b c Snyder, Mike and Matt Schwarz. "Living in Neglect / Hasty annexation left a legacy of blighted neighborhoods." Houston Chronicle. Sunday November 17, 2002. A1. Retrieved on February 19, 2010.
  20. ^ "Congressional District 18." National Atlas of the United States.
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  22. ^ "KBR Announces Pricing of Its Initial Public Offering." KBR. November 15, 2006. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
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  24. ^ "Map." Greater East End Management District. Retrieved on March 8, 2010.
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  29. ^ "FRENCHTOWN, TEXAS." Handbook of Texas.
  30. ^ a b Phelps, Marie Lee. "Visit to Frenchtown." Houston Post. Page 2, Section 5. Sunday May 22, 1955. "It is about four blocks square." and "The young girls rarely marry out of Frenchtown."
  31. ^ Rust, Carol. "FRENCHTOWN/Snatches of French, a whiff of boudin and the joyous zydeco beat still define this refuge of Houston's Creoles." Houston Chronicle. February 23, 1992. Lifestyle, 1.
  32. ^ Lomax, John Nova. "Houston Musical Landmarks and the I.Am.We Collective." Houston Press. February 26, 2008. 2. Retrieved on February 20, 2010.
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  34. ^ "Bruce Elementary Attendance Zone." Houston Independent School District. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  35. ^ "Crawford Elementary Attendance Zone." Houston Independent School District. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  36. ^ "N. Q. Elementary Attendance Zone." Houston Independent School District. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
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  40. ^ "Fleming Middle Attendance Zone." Houston Independent School District. Retrieved on July 26, 2009.
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  42. ^ "Davis High School Attendance Zone." Houston Independent School District. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
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  44. ^ "Board Approves School Closings and Consolidations." Houston Independent School District. November 14, 2008.
  45. ^
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  49. ^ "History." Wheatley High School. March 22, 2003. Retrieved on July 19, 2009.
  50. ^ "Fifth Ward Neighborhood Library." Houston Public Library. Retrieved on July 20, 2009.
  51. ^
  52. ^ "Finnigan Community Center." City of Houston. Retrieved on July 17, 2009.
  53. ^ "Swiney Community Center." City of Houston. Retrieved on July 17, 2009.
  54. ^ "Julia C. Hester House." Handbook of Texas. Retrieved on October 27, 2009.
  55. ^ "Fifth Ward Transit Center." Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas. Retrieved on July 25, 2009.
  56. ^ a b c "Where the wards are." Houston Chronicle. Tuesday September 7, 2004. E1.
  57. ^ "Ghetto Do-Gooders. The 5th Ward Boyz may not be saints, but they're not sinners either.". Houston Press. 25 January 1996. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  58. ^ Flores Alvarez, Olivia. "The Sample Truth." Houston Press. September 28, 2006. 1.
  59. ^ Rasizer, Lee. "Experiencing many growth spurts." Rocky Mountain News. November 19, 2007. Retrieved on August 5, 2009.
  60. ^ Johnson, Laurie. "Fifth Ward Mural." KUHF. Friday October 20, 2006. Retrieved on July 17, 2009.
  61. ^ "Department News." City Savvy Online Edition (City of Houston). Fall 2008, Volume 13, Number 4. Retrieved on July 27, 2009.

External links

See also


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