Houston conjures up images of the Astrodome, freeways, tall office buildings, traffic jams, malls, sprawling suburbs and strip malls. And yes, that is indeed Houston. Sometimes, however the city will surprise even a long term resident.
Went to the Salvation Army after school today to check out the books. It's on Washington Ave, another near downtown area undergoing revitalization. The sun was shining, the sky an Austin Texas blue so I decided to take a walk and do a bit of on foot exploring.
Turned the corner and found myself in back in the early 1900s. The Old 6th Ward isn't an area of grand Victorian homes, it was a middle class, working man's neighborhood.
Shotgun shacks and modest wooden homes with gingerbread adornment. A surprising number had Historical Markers -a couple of the homes date back to the 1860s. In Houston that's the equivalent of a Mayflower era dwelling.
Like all close in Houston neighborhoods there is a mix of the meticulously restored and the in need of a some serious loving care. It's easy to tell them apart - the former are painted in bright colors with tidy little yards, the latter are a shabby dingy white with a car up on blocks in the front yard. There are some tin homes built by artists and a smattering of new homes. Not to many, the 6th Ward is on the Register of Historic Places which gives it some protection. Houston has no zoning and normally what the developer wants, the developer gets.
The local elementary school dates back to 1912 and was once a focal point of the neighborhood. It's been turned into a local community center, which runs on a shoestring. The building still had traces of it's former grander but the rusty window air conditioners and askew window blinds gave it a shabby, down at the heels look.
Dow Elementary School
Rounded another corner and discovered a brick street. It was narrow - barely room for one car, lined with small homes. The end of the street afforded me a stunning view of the downtown highrises, all shiny glass and Philip Johnson architecture.
Who'd thunk it?