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.