Near Northside Historic District
The Near Northside Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
Houston's first port was located at Allen's landing at the foot of Main Street near the confluence of Buffalo and White Oak Bayous. The first steamer, the "Laura," docked here in 1837 and the Port of Houston was officially established on June 8, 1841. Commerce and trade centered on the port gave birth to the surrounding warehouse district just north of Buffalo Bayou. When rail came to the city in 1850, a large swath of undeveloped land was available in the Fifth Ward in close proximity to the port. Subsequent development in the area including the location of the Southern Pacific rail shops and the expansion of the electrical streetcar system, allowed for the growth of the working class neighborhoods north of the bayou, including the Near Northside Historic District. In 1913 the port moved east to its present location, yet the neighborhood retained its major employment centers well into the 1950s.
The first platted streets and numbered blocks in the neighborhood appear on the W. E. Wood Map of 1866. This map, prepared for the city directory of the same year, shows the initial development of the area north of Buffalo Bayou. The platted areas are mostly east of Montgomery Avenue. A City of Houston map from 1884 depicts the extensive Southern Pacific rail shops, a major employment center for the neighborhood, south of Burnett Street and just east of Montgomery Avenue. The entire area north of Buffalo Bayou is labeled "Fifth Ward," a former political system term and still a part of the city's geographic vocabulary. The original four wards, established by a city charter amendment in 1840, divided the city into four political divisions. The Fifth Ward was created in 1866 from portions of the First and Second Wards and included the area north of Buffalo Bayou and east of White Oak Bayou. First Ward historically was the geographic area north of Congress and west of Main Street. Second Ward historically was north of Congress and east of Main Street. The Near Northside Historic District is no longer considered part of the Fifth Ward; the present day boundaries of Fifth Ward are Buffalo Bayou to the south, Jensen Drive to the west, Liberty to the north and Lockwood to the east.
Numerous small frame houses began to appear throughout the neighborhood as early as 1890 and scores survive to the present. Queen Anne stylistic embellishments appeared on more middle-class houses in the district. Like their counterparts throughout the country, they featured pitched or hipped roofs with fish-scale shingles in the gable ends and decorative brackets and turned posts on the front porches. From the 1920s through the 1930s, Craftsman-influenced bungalows dominated new construction in the Near Northside Historic District. As a result, half the houses in the neighborhood bear Craftsman influence, more than any other discernible style. Most were front-gabled frame buildings with full or inset front porches supported by tapered posts on brick piers. They often featured exposed rafter ends and knee braces under the eaves. Although brick was widely available, virtually all of the district's bungalows are of frame construction, possibly because milled lumber could be sent inexpensively by rail in the early 20th century.
† Anna Mod, historic preservation specialist, SWCA Environmental Consultants, Near Northside Historic District, Houston, Harris County, Texas, nomination document, 2010, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.