Houston’s six wards are steeped with history, real discoveries, culture and distinct personalities and communities. The history of the First Ward tells the story of what was once the center of Houston. Today, the First Ward is filled with the new and the old, which makes it an amazing part of Houston to get lost in. Today, we are going to explore some of the First Ward real discoveries. Let’s get lost together!
First Ward Real Discoveries
The Louis and Annie Friedman Clock Tower: A Little Piece of History
The Market Square Clock Tower that sits at the eastern corner of Market Square at 301 Travis Street has a long and fascinating history. The clock was once a part of the last city hall building to reside at Market Square. When the building was torn down in 1960, the clock was moved into storage and forgotten. It was found many years later in a park in Woodville.
No one quite knows the full story, but by a strange turn of events, the clock had quite a journey, even passing through a junkyard before it was returned to the city of Houston. In 1996 the clock was placed back in Market Square in the current clock tower. Accompanying it is a more than two-ton fire bell, which survived the fire that took one of the previous city hall buildings at the turn of the 20th century. This complicated backstory only serves to make this little piece of history and First Ward real discovery that much more appealing.
Jefferson Davis Hospital
When it opened in 1924, Jefferson Davis Hospital was the first public hospital of its kind to treat indigent and low-income patients. It was built on top of a municipal cemetery where countless Confederate soldiers were buried, so rumors of the place being haunted have followed it throughout the years. Jefferson Davis Hospital was only in operation for a little over a decade before it closed its doors to patients. It was then used for other medically related purposes and was eventually used as records storage facility. After being abandoned for many years, in 2004 restorations began and this First Ward real discovery was renamed and repurposed into affordable housing for artists, now known as the Elder Street Artist Lofts.
Paper Co. Cafe
This little coffee shop certainly is a unique find, hidden away inside a refurbished paper factory at the back of Ecclesia Church on Elder Street. At the church’s previous location, the cafe was known as Taft Street Coffee. This “cafe for all” is in a loft-style building with exposed metal beams, giving it a distinctively open feel. The shop takes great pride in their beans and their brew, offering high-quality coffee to its patrons.
Washington Avenue Arts District
Today the First Ward has come to foster the largest community of working artists in the state of Texas, if not the country. The Washington Avenue Arts District is a recognized cultural district and is home to the large multi-building campus of artist studios composed of Spring Street Studios, Center Street Studios, Winter Street Studios, Silver Street, and The Silos at Sawyer Yards. These incredible artists open their doors to the public on the second Saturday of every month, inviting people in to view the many unique styles on display by the artists who call the studios home. Additionally, the Market at Sawyer Yards hosts a mix of artists, showcasing folk art, crafts, and food, and beginning in September of this year it will be held every Saturday instead of just once a month. Within the Washington Avenue Arts District, you can find many First Ward real discoveries and spend hours getting lost without wanting to be found.
Art is Fun
If you’re familiar with the We love Houston sign off of I-10, then you’re already familiar with the work of David Adickes. Another unique piece of his sits just outside the Silos on Sawyer and pays tribute to past artists as well anyone who visits the statue. The 35-foot-tall sculpture reads only one word, ART. The vertical letters perch atop a base listing the names of many legendary artists, but he has left a distinct accolade among these persons of infamy. Reading “Your name here,” it allows patrons to envision themselves in the ranks of historical talent. Naturally but aptly named, he calls the piece Art is Fun.
Blue Tile Project
The First Ward real discoveries of the Blue Tile street signs of Houston are said to have made their first appearance in the early 1920s. Despite rampant urbanization, these early forms of street art have somehow managed to survive over the decades and now serve as a reminder of the city’s earlier days. While the signs can be found all over town, the First Ward is the self-proclaimed home to the largest concentration. You can become a part of the project by taking pictures of any Blue Tile signs you happen upon and sharing them using the hashtag #BlueTileProject. Or if you would rather take a tour of the already documented signs, the project’s website and app provide comprehensive maps of the street signs cataloged thus far.
Be Someone: Graffiti Street Art
Some of the best First Ward real discoveries are found while driving the streets. For instance, driving down I-45 near its junction with I-10, you might notice some graffiti on the railroad bridge overhead. If you are driving southbound, you are reminded to “BE SOMEONE”, though almost ironically the artist is unknown. Its northbound partner, the “Remüv Hate” mural was created by a different artist though they appeared around the same time. The two murals first made their appearance in September of 2012 and have sparked many discussions among residents, both good and bad. The Be Someone mural has been adjusted on numerous occasions, but it always seems to find its way back to its original visage. Just recently it was changed to “Be Someone Else”, but we’ll see how long the modification lasts this time before it’s returned to its original state.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Market Square mural—painted by GONZO247—was crafted with a bit more approval from the city. In fact, it was commissioned in 2013 by the Houston Arts Alliance and Greater Houston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. A part of the “Houston Is” campaign, it strives to capture the city’s unique and diverse character. If this artwork is anything to go by, Houston is “inspired, hip, tasty, funky, and savvy”. Would you agree?
What First Ward real discoveries did we miss? What can you add to our list?