Super Neighborhood 63 - Second Ward
Your super neighborhood at-a-glance:
The Second Ward is located in the shadows of downtown Houston just east of US Highway 59.
As early as the 1840’s, the Second Ward extended from the center of downtown Houston, at the northeast corner of Main Street and Congress Avenue and extended eastward to the city limits. During the 20th Century, the cultural and geographic heart of the neighborhood became more closely identified with the area bounded by the Houston Belt and Terminal Railway, Harrisburg Boulevard, Lockwood Street and Buffalo Bayou.
- Houston City Council Districts H, I
- Houston Independent School District (4 public schools; 2 private schools)
- 1,846 acres (2.9 sq. miles)
Cultural identity and general community characteristics
Second Ward is one of Houston’s four original neighborhoods. Frost Town, which is arguably the earliest part of Houston (pre-dates 1836) is located in Second Ward.
The area is one of the city’s most historic and culturally significant neighborhoods. The site of some of Houston’s original recorded deeds, many area residents can trace their ancestors back to some of the area’s early settlers. Second Ward has a proud heritage of being a focal point in the city’s twentieth century industrial expansion.
The area has maintained a strong Hispanic identity for much of the 20th Century, but the neighborhood is so old that it has actually played host to several different periods of settlement by different ethnic groups. During the mid to late 19th century, the area was largely settled by Germans, followed by Italians and Anglos, and then by Hispanics beginning in the 1920’s and gaining in numbers by the 1940’s. During the early to mid 20th century, the area was settled largely by Hispanics of Mexican origin, but is now home to a more diverse population that hails from all over Mexico as well as Central America.
The area has undergone tremendous change in recent years. Once a thriving industrial and manufacturing hub for Houston, many of these facilities were hit hard during the recessionary 1980s and are struggling to remain competitive in a changing environment. Housing stock deteriorated as the abundance of high- paying manufacturing jobs declined. Neighborhood businesses have declined as well, feeling the combined pressure of fewer residents and lower income levels.
Today, residents have a new hope for the Second Ward. Lots of good things are happening in the neighborhood.
Brief history of the Second Ward
Aside from the parts of the neighborhood located within the downtown district, much of Second ward was very rural until the turn of the 20th century. There were few named roads to take residents to and from Second Ward into downtown, located only 1-2 miles, away except for Commerce Street, Engelke, and Harrisburg.
The area was home to many farms and even a horse race track during the late 19th century. Many of the large farm tracts were sold for industrial use after 1900. The former site of the Volksfest Park at the head of North York was sold to the Houston Meat Packing Company which was a large scale meat packing and canning plant. The former site of the horse racetrack became the Milby Car Barn for the Houston Electric Railway Company which was later purchased by Metro and is slated to become the future site of an HCC East Side campus. During the 1920’s -1950’s the area took on a distinctively Hispanic flavor due to de facto segregation in Houston. Just as 4th Ward became a self sustaining community for African Americans, Second ward did the same for peoples of Hispanic heritage.
The Second Ward was also home to businesses which catered to the local population and included social organizations, restaurants, bakeries, shoe stores, drug stores, and even a Spanish language radio station. Beginning in the late 1960’the area experienced a prolonged period of decline coupled with a rising crime rate and unemployment. The problem was compounded as many of the well established families moved away and the area’s housing stock was used more frequently for income producing purposes.
Today, the area is gaining stability as it plays host to an increasing number of stable families and organizations which focus their attention on the East End like the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Talento Bilingue De Houston, Ripley House, the Greater East End Management District, and the Greater East End Chamber of Commerce. The area is home to one City of Houston Landmark, two State of Texas Historic Landmarks, and numerous potential historic landmark sites and districts that date from the 1870’s, the 1930’s, and 1940’s.
Community Venues and Schools
- Neighborhood Centers Inc.: Ripley House Campus and Charter School
- Tony Marron Park
- Area Churches: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (a state of Texas landmark)
- Restaurants: The Original Ninfa’s - the original home of fajitas
- Theaters: Talento Bilingue de Houston (formerly known as Bilingual Theater of Houston)
Famous or Well-Known Residents
- Wiliam Marsh Rice, founder of Rice University, lived in Second ward.
- Tony Marron a political and civic activist and
- Sgt. Macario Garcia ( the country's first Hispanic Army Sargent)
- The Brady family who were responsible for the formation of the Houston Ship Channel and the development of the Magnolia neighborhood, which was developed in the 1890s and was, like the Heights, zoned for residential, commercial, recreational, etc.
Civic associations in area
- The Second Ward Residents Association
- Fullerton Place Civic Club
Key planned projects both public and private
East End Chamber Commerce and the Greater East End Management District have put forward an East End Strategic Vision where several projects are now being implemented through formed committees.Recent projects include the development of Tony Marron Park and the future development of a community boat lunch and canoe rental and storage location on the banks of Buffalo Bayou.
Super Neighborhood Council Meetings
Every 1st Monday of the month at 6:30pm at NCI Ripley House 4400 Navigation Blvd.