The Old Sixth Ward
Home to approximately 2,000 Houstonians, the area now called the Old Sixth Ward was originally part of a two-league Mexican land grant issued in 1824 to John Austin, a close friend of Stephen F. Austin. It had been assumed they were cousins, but Stephen Austin’s last will and testament referred to John Austin as “my friend and old companion”.
Two years after the Allen Brothers purchased the grant from Mr. Austin’s estate in 1836 to establish the city of Houston, Mr. S.P. Hollingsworth filed a survey of the western environs of downtown Houston which included today’s Old Sixth Ward which he divided into large, narrow tracts that ran northward from Buffalo Bayou.
By January 1839, several tracts within the Hollingsworth survey had been sold to several prominent Houstonians, including W.R. Baker, James S. Holman, Archibald Wynns, Nathan Kempton and Henry Allen. Most of these tracts were used as farms, brick quarries, or plantations. Washington Avenue used to run a serpentine route through these tracts.
The Sixth Ward was officially formed by city ordinance on December 9, 1895. Just before that the area was identified as the Fourth Ward North.
During the 20th century, the Sixth Ward expanded to include other neighborhoods west of it. The original boundary that was established in 1895 still exists today, and is now known as the neighborhood of the Old Sixth Ward. It stands today as the oldest intact neighborhood in the city of Houston and features the largest concentration of Victorian structures in the region outside of Galveston.
In 1978, the Old Sixth Ward was the first Houston neighborhood listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was designated as a Historic District by the City Council on June 25, 1998.
In August 2007, Houston City Council designated the Old Sixth Ward as Houston’s first Protected Historic District where demolition is not permitted except for dire situations. As part of this designation process, City Council adopted Design Guidelines for Old Sixth Ward Protected District. This paved the way for Houston to establish other Historic Districts like the Heights, Norhill, Woodland Heights, and more.