Third Ward Renaissance: A short walk
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three-part series involving the renovation of the Third Ward. This series will run every Thursday in print from Jan. 16 to 30. Read parts one and three of the series here and here.
A quiet crumble
Take a drive through the worn streets of the Third Ward, and you’ll see the footprints of former residents all around you — some dignified and stately, others in need of a desperate reawakening. The Second Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, which remains well-kept despite closing its doors in 2007, serves as a physical example of the economic hardships that have degraded the greater Third Ward community. Churches in any community illustrate a communal need for, well, community.
More often than not, they serve as a safe haven of sorts, facilitating activism for the area’s youth and city involvement for the area’s elderly population. When a church can no longer stay afloat, a community loses much more than a church — it loses a place once reserved for peace, hope, charity and positivity.
Put simply, the Third Ward can’t afford to lose a place like that. Likewise, the Houston Negro Hospital’s presence in the Third Ward served as something of a communal hub in its own respect. Founded in 1926 by Joseph Cullinan, the hospital was explicitly born out of the needs of Houston’s growing black community. The hospital is no longer able to serve the Ward’s population today, but that doesn’t mean its people are no longer in need.
A land of affliction
Drive through the Third Ward’s sprawling suburbia, and you’ll see a loss of dignity. You’ll see the once-grand quarters of Houston’s early aristocrats now rotting in perpetual pauperism. Look at the area from the eyes of a child, and you’ll be introduced to the trials they face. With few businesses and little access to public transportation, many will succumb to more accessible, illicit temptations.
Seeing the area that houses so much of Houston’s history now sitting in dilapidated shambles serves as a reminder of many things. It shows, undeniably, that the sun that rose during the Ward’s momentous triumphs against racism in the 1960s is now little more than red blush against the horizon. It showed how quickly the fiscal tides could turn for an area that once brought so much culture, art and life to Houston.
This series isn’t an explicit proposal for displacement. It’s the recognition of the fact that a massive expanse of our city is suffering, and an exploration into ideas that could end that suffering. It’s a proposal that hopes to open the conversation on breathing new life into an area that desperately needs it.
The children of the Ward deserve better. Residents who have called the Ward home for generations deserve better. They deserve increased welfare, a strong sense of security and a shot at a prosperous life.
The milk and honey of the Third Ward is all but dried up. Today, it deserves better.
A shot at prosperity
Traveling to Riverside Terrace means going through the heart of the Third Ward, making the arrival at the subdivision littered with gorgeously renovated mansions both a humbling reminder of the Third Ward’s majestic past and a sign of what the Third Ward could one day be, albeit distantly.
MacGregor’s mansions, reminiscent of the once-Victorian-esque era of the Third Ward, have been beautifully up-kept and renovated.
These homes weren’t plopped into the Ward to try and play contrast to the otherwise crippling poverty. They’ve called the Ward home since their widespread establishment in the 1930s, mostly built to cater to young Jewish families.
With that being said, the mansions are also reminiscent of the racially fueled era of segregation, and no part of that is a desirable future for the historic Ward.
Still, the safety and prosperity that these residents assumedly have is a universally desirable future for every resident of the Third Ward — young and old, current and future.
Read part three of the series here.
Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]