History of Fifth Ward, Houston

Fifth Ward is a neighborhood in Houston, Texas, that is located about northeast of Downtown. Fifth Ward is one of Houston’s wards and is bounded by Jensen Drive, Buffalo Bayou, Lockdown Drive, and Liberty Road. In this article, we are going to learn more about the history of Fifth Ward, Houston.


Greater Fifth Ward Negro CemeteryFifth Ward joined Houston’s districts in 1866, three decades after the original four wards were inaugurated. In fact, Fifth Ward was established from parts of the First and Second Wards along with some additional land located in the north of Buffalo Bayou.

Since its formation, Fifth Ward saw an influx of freedmen moving into the area, and the growing populationhelped Fifth Ward to be recognized as an official Houston ward. The Houston Shipyard and Southern Pacific Railroad gave people plenty of job opportunities for the working class; this also helped to speed up the population growth in Fifth Ward.

Back then, the Fifth Ward was known as “The Nickel” because it’s as if the neighborhood offered a sense of community among its residents, and at the same time, it serves as a hub for black businesses and audiences

During the community’s earlier years, its population was split somewhat evenly between Caucasians and African-Americans. However, Fifth Ward was overwhelmed by poor municipal and public services despite achieving economic success, which eventually led to unrest among residents.

The Great Fifth Ward Fire

Greater Fifth Ward FireFifth Ward continued to grow and nurture several churches and businesses; however, in February 1912, the neighborhood dealt with a significant problem when a raging fire suddenly broke out all over the Ward. The fire was so massive it could be seen from several miles away. Most people believed that the fire was started by nomads squatting in a vacant house near Opelousas and Hardy. During that night, the high winds helped the fire spread rapidly to homes and businesses along the way.

Luckily for the neighborhood, there were no human casualties. However, the fire was still absolute devastation not just in Fifth Ward but also in some parts of the Second Ward and Houston in general. The fore left several key industries temporarily closed, such as the railroad and cotton industry in the area.

After the devastating event, Fifth Ward managed to pull itself together, with the help given by the mayor and some businesses and charity organizations. Despite the fire’s damage, Fifth Ward was reconstructed and continued to thrive into the early 20th century.

The Rise and Fall of Fifth Ward

Greater Fifth Ward NewsHouston’s second public housing project dedicated to African-Americans was opened in the Fifth Ward after World War II. This housing project attracted more people into the community, and the area around Lyon, and Jensen became the home of several businesses. That is why the site served as the center of the local community.

However, because of several reasons, Fifth Ward started to fell into decline during the 1970s and 1980s. The creation of Highway 59 split off one of Fifth Ward’s most trendy areas from the rest of the district. Aside from this, the amalgamation gave the people the freedom to move around; that is why those who were able left the neighborhood to explore other opportunities. The population decline resulted in businesses closing in the area; aside from this, crime rates also escalated. This also gave Fifth Ward its new nickname, “The Bloody Nickel.”

From 1990 to the present years, the community and housing developments in Fifth Ward aims to reinvigorate the area. Despite being one of the most densely populated Houston neighborhoods, the people’s efforts to turn the community around allowed Fifth Ward to retain its sense of community.