Houston’s Most Recognizable Neighborhood: The Official 2013 Ballot

This award will go to a Houston neighborhood that is reliable, familiar, consistent. Yes, our sixth category in the 2013 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate honors the area’s Most Recognizable Neighborhood.

We narrowed down your nominations to the list below, but now it’s time to narrow it down even further — to the winner. Which neighborhood deserves this particular superlative? Tell us by adding your vote in the comments below, or through email, Facebook, or Twitter. You can vote once by each method — up to 4 times — if you follow these rules. Whichever method you choose, make sure to explain your choice.

No, they probably don’t need any introduction. Here are your official nominees for Houston’s Most Recognizable Neighborhood:


1815 State St., Old Sixth Ward, Houston

1. Old Sixth Ward. “It has defined boundaries — no trying to figure out if you are in the Woodland, Sunset, or O.G. section. The style of home is consistent — and the historical preservation ordinance ensures it will remain that way. The brick sidewalks help tie everything together.”


452 Blalock Rd., City of Piney Point Village, Texas

2. Piney Point Village. “Tall trees, large homes on even larger lots, cul-de-sacs, and an aggressive police force. It’s been more or less the same since I moved here 25 years ago.”


Dun Huang Plaza, 9889 Bellaire Blvd., Chinatown, Houston

3. Chinatown. “Put me in a huge strip mall with Chinese characters, foot-massage spas, acupuncture/herbal places, Chinese restaurants teeming with actual Asians eating, and voila! — it’s Chinatown.”

“I remember the days when my parents would drag me there for Sunday lunch and grocery shopping before dumping us off at Chinese school. That part of town hasn’t changed — except for the recent nightmarish construction on Bellaire Blvd.”


3730 Del Monte Dr., River Oaks, Houston

4. River Oaks. “If, for some reason, you don’t recognize River Oaks immediately, just turn up your car stereo a decibel over a whisper and roll down your window; the kind folks with the River Oaks Patrol will be with you in moments letting you know that you don’t belong there.”


Ensemble-HCC Metro Station Outside 3622 Main St., Midtown, Houston

5. Midtown.The place where you can bump into drifters at a rail stop as you walk between Vietnamese restaurants, high-end shops, and the quirky businesses of Mid-Main. The Vietnamese street signs are a big clue, too.”


820 w cottage street

6. Norhill.Norhill is the only neighborhood in Houston that has craftsman bungalows with most of the original elevations preserved and restored thanks to deed restrictions and the historic district. Almost no humper houses. No New Charlestorlean boxes. No McVics. No townhomes. When you look up and down each block, you just see nice little porches lined up like little toy soldiers.”



7. Galleria. “Home to huge metal arches, fancy bus shelters, luxury highrise condo buildings, office towers, and those shiny spaceship-like circular street signs. Plus, it’s one of the few places in Houston that coughed up the cash to hide its electrical lines.”


Any of these look familiar? Add your vote and tell us!

Photos: HAR (1815 State St., 452 Blalock Rd., 3730 Del Monte Dr., 820 W. Cottage St.); Dun Huang Plaza; Candace Garcia (Ensemble/HCC Metro Station); Bill Barfield (Galleria)

The 2013 Swampies

64 Comment

  • I hate to say it, but ….. Galleria (groan)


  • Piney Point Village isn’t a neighborhood. It’s a town. Also, can you really tell Piney Point apart from Hunters Creek, Bunker Hill, or Hedwig Village?


  • Galleria hands down. Chinatown should be second place.

  • What is a piney point village, and why does that house pictured above not belong is any of the other massproduced ranch neighborhoods? I digress. Same is true for the bungalows pictured for Norhill and the Sixth Ward, both of those houses can be found all over the heights proper, woodland heights and parts of the east end.

    The ONLY recognizable neighborhood in Houston is downtown, and that didn’t actually make the cut. So…. I guess I am going to vote for the galleria.

    Galleria, #7.

  • Galleria. The floating spaceship rings above the intersections seal it as the most recognizable spot in town. They were cool when they went up, and they are still cool many years later.

  • OLD SIXTH. New street signs that brand the neighbor hood, classic old style street lights, brick side walks…etc.

    A classic 1800’s vibe that’s set in stone thanks to the Historic protection.

  • No neighborhood, other than the Old Sixth Ward (OSW) has worked more diligently…..and successfully to craft the total integrity of a particular style of ‘hood….through restoration. Not that the other areas are without merit….but the OSW is distinct. McDonald’s is highly recognizable….but hardly meritorious.

  • Old Sixth. In addition to all the stuff listed, there is a pretty killer view of downtown from most points in the neighborhood.

  • Galleria. On “recognizability” grounds only.

  • Most Houstonians couldn’t point to OSW on a map, and Piney Point village isn’t even IN Houston. People that assume other people can differentiate Norhill from the rest of the Heights are the same people that tell you they liked REM before Document came out. River Oaks is basically indistinguishable from Boulevard Oaks, and there wasn’t even such a thing as Midtown 20 years ago: it used to be called “that scary neighborhood where Spec’s is”.

    As much as we hate to admit it, it’s the Galleria (#7). (Runner-up is what used to be called new Chinatown, but since we got rid of old Chinatown, it’s now just called Chinatown.)

  • Old Sixth Ward! It’s the oldest preserved neighborhood in Houston and is protected so it can’t be overrun with townhouses. It has clear boundaries and doesn’t merge into any other residential area so it feels like a true neighborhood (if you see someone walking their dog, you know they live in the hood and it’s easy to meet and get to know your neighbors). You can easily walk or bike to downtown and it’s right by the Buffalo Bayou trails and Eleanor Tinsley Park so you have front row seats to the Fourth of July fireworks. No other neighborhood in Houston even comes close!

  • I like midtown and but half the time i mentioned it, people dont know where its at. They know its ‘like somewhere around downtown’.
    I have to go with 3. Chinatown.

  • I believe the name of the neighborhood is actually Uptown. The Galleria is a mall.

  • I vote for Old Sixth Ward as the MOST recognizable neighborhood. The architecture is distinct, allowing you to take a picture of a block and people will know where it was taken. In some of the other areas suggested, you would need to look at signs to recognize Chinatown, or look closely at the size of trees to make sure you are not in The Woodlands, Sienna Plantation or other developments on the outskirts of Houston with ginormous homes – and not in Piney Point or River Oaks. Walking through the neighborhood you see the major efforts undertaken since the 2007 preservation ordinance passed, a tremendous increase in renovations, new sidewalks, street lighting, etc.

  • The Old 6th Ward!

  • Many of the OSW posts seem more about the relative merits of the neighborhood than its “recognizability.” I would not deny that OSW is distinctive, more so than most of our other older neighborhoods, and has some features and amenities of merit, could you say that a photo of an OSW street would be instantly recognizable to those with limited familiarity with the neighborhood? (Let’s say you facing some other direction than east toward Downtown.) The brick sidewalks and distinctive signage give it a leg up of course.

    That said, I would say it’s a notch lower on the recognizability scale than Uptown (stainless steel fixures, planted medians, the Water Wall, and Williams [Transco] Tower) or Chinatown (relentlessly glitzy strip malls with a surfeit of Chinese and Vietnamese-lettered signage). My vote goes to Uptown.

  • Old Sixth Ward by a mile.

  • Chinatown! You haven’t lived until you head out to Chinatown on a weekend morning and fight with people to get into a parking lot, out of a parking lot, and to park and/or making your own parking spaces. Next time I whine about parking in Houston, all I have to do is just think about parking in Chinatown.

  • Objectively speaking, Old Sixth Ward. It is the only neighborhood in Houston with a substantial amount of Victorian architecture in place. Transomed doorways, gingerbread trim and Queen Anne’s make this neighborhood easy to pick out with a random drop of street view on google maps. But, if you were to take a poll of Houstonian, the Galleria would win by a large margin. Not as much for identifiable architecture, but for the nearly universal groan that most people let out when thinking about dealing with the traffic in the area and the teaming humanity of the Galleria Mall.

  • 4. River Oaks

  • “This award will go to a Houston neighborhood that is reliable, familiar, consistent.”

    The Old Sixth Ward = Reliable, Familiar & Consistent.

    Reliable. Not sure exactly what this means but if it’s the neighborhood leaders, they do their jobs well with weekly meetings open to everyone, a very active daily online forum, and a well managed TIRZ making regular improvements to the hood. It’s pretty damn reliable.

    Familiar. The majority of the neighborhood is older than your grandma. It’s been there through many generations. Many know it because of that. Not much has changed in the last 100+ years except that the homes & businesses from the 1800’s are being fixed up and kept up.

    Consistent. No other neighborhood in Houston has as much legal protection. Other than the few town homes that got in before the law, you will not see anything else like it in Houston and it plans on staying that way.


  • #3 – Chinatown

    piney point shouldn’t even be on the list as they’ve specifically decided NOT to be houstonians along with the rest of us so they can bask in their own affluency. river oaks is a bit too obvious, but outside the main streets you could easily be mistaken to be other parts of town as well. old sixth ward by itself may be obvious, but it’s just a small part of rice military to me and most houstonians won’t even know where the heights ends and rice military/washington heights/old sixth ward would start to even classify it.

  • I liked REM before Document came out. C’mon, Life’s Rich Pageant was the jam.

  • Old 6th Ward!

  • Old sixth ward. Great neighborhood with great old homes and nice folks.

  • O6W it is!

  • Old Sixth Ward. Not only distinctive and recognizable, but also cute, charming, convenient and walkable. An island of antiquities in the middle of an international city. The hard work of the residents, over a number of years has paid off in creating this unique and instantly recognizable neighborhood!

  • Chinatown….just because. :-)

  • Give me an fing break–only two neighborhoods on this awful list does anybody outside of this city know about and that’s the Galleria Area and River Oaks–all these votes for the “Old 6th Ward” are F##king ridiculous–I think this vote is completely rigged by some small time developers who have put money in that decrepit area–the winner should be River Oaks by a county mile, but the fix is in –I think we all can see who will win–what a joke–

  • Submitting a vote for Chinatown, even though OSW seems to be winning far and away.

  • I’m going to add my vote for the 6th, just to see if Shannon’s head explodes.

    It’s silly to call a neighborhood “recognizable” because of logo-emblazoned street signage or the business names. In the pre-war areas, the townhome:crack house:empty lot ratios are most telling. In the mid-century ‘hoods, it’s the number of driveways packed with beaters on dubs. Business districts aren’t even a contest, silvery hula hoops and Megatron’s penis give your location away the moment you raise your eyes skyward.

    The suburbs built out during the past 20 or so years definitely take the ticket for Most Unidentifiable Neighborhood(s). Endless mazes of branching cul-de-sacs, bucolic street names that refuse to stay memorized, and architecture that competes with Thorazine for effectiveness. Must be in good ol’ Canyon Bridge Lake Rolling West Ridge Crossing Land Ranch Estates Terrace Village!

  • There is no other place like the Old 6th Ward.

  • I recognize my old house, and that doggy in the window. Such nice azaleas!. OSW is my vote

  • Chinatown. If they dropped you from space at say, the intersection of Bellaire and Cook, there’d be no doubt where you were.

  • Old Sixth Ward.

  • #1 Old 6th.

    I refuse to recognize the Galleria as a neighborhood, it is a shopping district with apartment buildings

  • I’m confused. Does the consistency of a neighborhood’s housing stock make a neighborhood “recognizable” or “unrecognizable”? I was out of the loop during the nomination period, but sheesh if that’s what makes a neighborhood recognizable then I might have nominated Lakes of Bridgewater or some other small and completely obscure new subdivision lacking any quirks whatsoever, that has one of those strict HOAs that’ll come down on you for not edging where your grass meets sidewalk, and that has housing within only a very narrow price range. Everything looks exactly the same, making it unrecognizable to anybody but perfectly fitting within this category.

  • Old Sixth Ward

  • The Old Sixth Ward is #1!!!!!!

  • Great restorations, fun neighbors, great, short walk to downtown. A jewel box of a neighborhood. It is an amazing place to live.

  • Old Sixth Ward by a mile. It is the oldest most intact neighborhood. It is one of the few truly walkable ‘hoods in town, and each home is unique – not the cookie cutter, developer driven type that dominates the city.

  • Someone above asked whether many Houstonians could point to the Old Sixth Ward on a map; but I’d challenge anyone to identify where, on any map, one can reliably locate “The Galleria” other than the spot where a mall sits. If you asked a hundred different people to delineate its boundaries, you’d get a hundred different delineations. Then again, going by HAR listings, practically all of Houston must be “The Galleria” since every property inside the Beltway is “JUST MINUTES FROM TEH GALLERIA!1” The Old Sixth Ward gets my vote.

  • @Niche: There is a huge difference between consistent style of residential architecture and consistent design of residential architecture. Old Six and Norhill have preserved a consistent style of architecture (Victorian and Craftsman), though within those styles there are lots of wonderful and ingenious variations. In the burbs, the style is non-existent, but the design is consistent because the builders do not want to put out any more than they have to on architect’s fees.

  • Old Sixth Ward, hands down. Where else in Houston can you find such a large collection of restored Victorian cottages where the homeowners sit on the front porches and wave to other neighbors who walk by? Also, there are signs all around the neighborhood perimeter proclaiming the neighborhood as the Old Sixth Ward.

    By the way, Galleria isn’t a bona fide neighborhood, it is a mixed-use district with businesses, stores, and high rises. Chinatown nearly falls into the same category since it is mostly retail.

  • 1. Old Sixth Ward

  • I applaud the OSW neighborhood association coming out in droves. If they win this award enough years in a row, then maybe someone besides them will realize that Old Sixth Ward exists. Recognizable? No.

    Norhill? That’s a street in the Heights, right? Maybe they could team-up with OSW next year. Oh, wait…

    PPV? You mean ‘The Villages’, right? Even the aggressive police force is shared. Yeah, distinctive.

    Midtown? nope. It’s still that space between downtown and the Med Center. Heck, the Museum district is trying to create an identity of it’s own smack in the middle of it, with Little Vietnam losing its last tasty spring roll grip on life in the process.

    The guys who think that Uptown is the real name of the Galleria, um, y’all ain’t from around here, is ya’?

    Alright, it’s either the Galleria or River Oaks. However, since the dark forces of OSW seem to be trying to declare that space between the Washington Bar District and the Bail Bonds District a neighborhood, I’ll vote for Chinatown.

    So, Chinatown for the win!

  • Based on recognizability of landmarks by the most people I’d have to say the GALLERIA area (Uptown) is the top choice. I love the sound of the O6W people, but I couldn’t tell you where it is or choose between a picture of a streetscape there compared to one in the Heights. It’s not recognizable enough. Yet.

  • @ Old School: I don’t understand your comment. The parameters are “reliable, familiar, consistent”. To me, that’s the definition of the word “generic”. If this were a foodie blog, then he’d have just described plain Ramen noodles without the seasoning packet; it’s not though, and he just described the blandest of all possible suburbs.

    To that end, a neighborhood like Norhill or Old Sixth Ward is vintage generic, but the ravages of time have given individual houses there character that a modern HOA would never allow. So yeah, my write-in vote goes to Summerwood.

  • I love Old Sixth Ward. I looked at probably over 40 properties in 3 months before I purchased my home, but the one that I lost and still think of fondly is located there. However, I’m truly shocked that so many people think it is the most recognizable neighborhood in the greater Houston area. I am very tempted to wear a sandwich board with a picture of OSW on one side and another hood (Chinatown/Galleria-area/River Oaks) on the other while standing on the corner of a street (I’ll take suggestions) and asking people to name the area. I’ll even wear something on my forehead and carry a sign in each hand.

    I work Downtown, and an alarming majority of people cannot name another historic neighborhood that doesn’t start with H and rhymes with “lights.”

    Too bad there aren’t belated write-ins for the Swampies. I’d totally pay to see OSW and Eastwood duke it out for Neighborhood of the Year.

  • River Oaks

  • Uptown. :-)


  • I thought one of the criteria was that when anyone is blindfolded and plopped down in the neighborhood, which would be found to be the most recognizable.

    Ol’ 6th, really? No way! It looks like it will win from the comments below, but it shouldn’t bc most Houstonians wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and Germantown (if they knew what/where that was) or the Near Northside, or even parts of the Houston Heights.

    It’s either River Oaks, Midtown, or the “Galleria”. My vote is that most Houstonians, and even most of their out-of-town guests who have nothing else more exciting to see than the big mall or NASA, will most easily recognize the Galleria area.

  • Out of that list, Old Sixth for sure.

  • Without a doubt, Galleria area (Uptown).

  • Chinatown. Or perhaps ….. Chinastrip? Just rename Bellaire Blvd. and be done with it.

  • Norhill

  • #4 river oaks – in a fabulous time warp