Where a High First Ward Historic District Might Go

Map Showing Boundaries of Proposed High First Ward Historic District, Houston

Owners of properties in portions of 18 blocks spreading roughly between Spring, Winter, Hemphill, and Johnson streets in the First Ward have 2 more weeks to decide if they want their properties to form a new historic district — and then, if the experiences of other would-be historic districts is any guide, a fair amount of time to squabble over the outcome after that. An application for what’s being called the High First Ward Historic District was submitted to the city in early December. Owners of property in the neighborhood have until February 24 either to return their ballots to the city or use them for papier-mâché. To be approved, the district would need 67 percent of owners in the district to vote yes; ballots that aren’t returned will be counted as votes against. If that percentage isn’t reached within the outlines shown in the map of the proposed district above, the city could carve out a smaller district for historic-district protection where the votes support it.

Map: Planning & Development Dept.

Voting Has Begun

22 Comment

  • Too little too late for the First Ward, unfortunately. The cancer in this neighborhood metastasized long ago.

  • I agree, time to move on

  • it is a pretty simple choice for these folks: do you want development in your neighborhood to come along like Old 6th Ward or do you want to be the next Cottage Grove? There is plenty of good historic housing stock in that little enclave to merit the effort to protect it from the onslaught of town homes. It will just come down to whether the existing residents can be unified enough to beat out the owners of the vacant lots that are sprinkled about the proposed historic district.

  • Owners of historic structures over there could go the Protected Landmark route if the historic nabe plan fails, although some or most might not meet the criteria.

    Reality is that Houston will be left with a scattered handful of turn-of-the-20th century homes with the exception being the greater Heights area and 6th Ward. The rest of the 1st-ring inner-loop is being carpet bombed with turn-of-the-21st century residential. Posterity will thank those few who dug in, hunkered down and survived the onslaught.

  • If somebody was trying to create a Historic District which included my property, I would slay their first born and unleash seven plagues of Egypt upon them. It’s just a theft of property rights and property values.

  • I wish them best of luck! If they can pull it off here I hope it will inspire folks to attempt it in other places that seem less hopeless than First Ward.

    I also have to agree strongly with Old School. I have taken walks and ridden my bike in First Ward and Sixth Ward, and sixth ward is an order of magnitude more fun and safe to move through and enjoy. While townhouses may be nice to live in, having an area made up of wall to wall townhouses with no sidewalk or trees is not a neighborhood.

  • Majority rules and denial is a river in Egypt.

  • Are there even enough historic houses in the first ward to form a district?

    And do wood frame 30’s houses count as historic?

  • I did not intend my comment to mean that I hope this doesn’t succeed, but it won’t be enough to preserve the integrity of the area as a whole. The issue of townhomes would be a lot different if those designing them gave some thought to the idea of streetscape. Garages, fences, and walls do not a nice streetscape make, and the remaining residents have every right to protect themselves from this. Just think, when Boston filled Back Bay with townhomes, the result was beautiful, and the values today are more than these ever will be. No reason we can’t build something beautiful like that, but we choose to build ugly.

  • The historic housing protection efforts in other cities is bolstered by the desirable and quaint designs of what is being protected as well as the condition it has been kept in. This is ridiculous in Houston as the housing here are from a pre-air conditioning era (in a city that needs it to want to spend all day inside a house) in a time where there really wasn’t a comparable amount of wealth in Houston compared to other cities. I’m sorry but this feels exactly like if Venezuela were to develop into a wealthy country and feel the need to preserve the shanty towns as they are.

  • Shannon, a successful republic balances majority rule with respect for the rights of minorities. Applying government guns to ensure that people don’t improve their properties too much is both silly and wrong.

  • I love preservation but frankly this proposed district will do very little in serving its intended purpose of protecting historical structures. In my opinion, the district boundries are an act of hurried desperation that will create an unfortunate gerrymander. This district will not include the landmark stuctures of the ward such as Jeff Davis or Houston Avenue. I love this neighborhood but my concern is that so many lots within the proposed district are vacant. Restrictions could slow development and development has saved this neighborhood!

  • Well at least it seems that the Historic crazies have figured out that not returning a ballot in the mail is not a YES vote like it was in the Heights. The way the Heights vote was done was the most dishonest ballot in history….why even vote if not returning your vote means you are in favor of something?

    If not returning your ballot means that it does not pass, I will go on record now stating that it will not pass…not without someone going door to door paying people for their cards. You cant get 67% of people to do anything these days, especially something which requires effort like checking their mail and returning a card.

  • I really hope this passes. Better late than never!!!

    It can curb the tide of ugly townhomes. True this should have been done awhile ago, but thankfully there looks to be a real attempt here.

  • @Marksmu: The vote in the Heights was to dissolve the historic district. Those who opposed the changes asked for the opportunity to vote to dissolve the districts and got it. Those opposing the districts had to get a mere majority to undo over a decade of work by those who put together the districts. They failed miserably and did not even get close to the 50% needed, despite a well funded campaign with yard signs and endless flyers stuffing mailboxes.

  • OldSchool… there wasn’t an opportunity. They had what 15 days during the holidays to return an card that was inside and unmarked envelope that was recevied the same day as a letter from the mayor urging people not to return the card. Oh yeah that seems legit.

  • Old School – lovers of history and facts appreciate your posts on here.

  • I’m all for preservation…but this place looks like crap…and as much I hate yuppies at least they’ll keep the neighborhood clean…same with hipsters

  • @Oldschool – The Heights districts were the most dishonest thing I have ever seen in my life. People who signed up for lot line restrictions, set backs and 90 day waiting periods, had their signatures morphed to include complete and total theft of private property rights. At least 50% of those signatures would not have been obtained if it were done honestly.

    Furthermore, your attempt to rewrite history based upon the income disparity is laughable. The anti-ordinance people were outspent 10:1. I reject your fabricated reality in its entirety. I was there, I saw it first hand, and it stank to high hell.

  • “High” First Ward… Colorado Street… There’s a joke in here somewhere about how residents must be smoking something to think this’ll pass.

  • it is a pretty simple choice for these folks: do you want development in your neighborhood to come along like Old 6th Ward or do you want to be the next Cottage Grove?

    Unfortunately, the First Ward already is Cottage Grove, just a few years delayed. I am afraid the ship has sailed.

  • It’s interesting that voting has started and there was no ballot in my mailbox.

    I would prefer for the neighborhood to continue to improve rather than limit development.