The cornerstone of the Justin E. Dow Elementary School was laid November 21, 1912, and the building was first used for classes in the fall of 1913. The original Dow School was a wood-frame building constructed in 1886 on the NE corner of Washington and Ash. Ash is a short street north of Washington and one block east of Sabine. The school was named for Justin E. Dow, who was superintendent of schools until he died in May 1887, a few months after construction of the new school was completed in January 1887.
A new school was built because the student population had grown in the First and Sixth Wards and the school was too small. It was time for a 4th addition to the original building or a completely new building. A second reason was the growing awareness of the danger of fire in a wood-frame school building.
In June 1912 the City of Houston bought 13 houses and a store in order to be able to use the entire block for the construction of the new school.
Later, the Dow School became one of 10 schools in Houston that was not officially segregated but was a “designated” school for Hispanic children. The schools were on average 85 percent Hispanic, and Spanish-speaking children were separated into different classes from white children. Because of the small number of schools with these separate classes, Dow served families well beyond the Sixth Ward as Mexican families from other neighborhoods were “encouraged” to send their kids there. The travel was a hassle for many Mexican families, especially since the Sixth Ward was not home to much of the Mexican population.
In 1920, there were 6000 Mexicans living in Houston, and only 500 of them were in the Sixth Ward. The unofficial segregation of Hispanic school children stopped in Houston schools as the city quietly and slowly desegregated in the 1960's. The “boys” sign above the door speaks to another separation of the time –- boys and girls had separate entrances, playgrounds, and classes. This practice was popular in schools until the 1950's. Dow Elementary closed in 1993, but the building has since been used and renovated by the Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA).
Dow Elementary School on the NE corner of Washington & Ash