5th ward history
After the American Civil War newly freed slaves (freemen) began settling in the sparsely settled area. In 1866, it became the Fifth Ward and an alderman from the ward was elected to Houston's City Council.
By the mid-1880s, it was virtually all black, home to working-class people.
Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, founded in 1865 by a former slave, is the oldest church in the ward. Five other churches are over a hundred years old.
Also home to the famous "Island of Hope (Anderson Memorial Temple) COGIC" the oldest Pentecostal church in Fifth Ward. Over the years it had been home to the city's minority and immigrant population.
In 1979 the largest church in Fifth Ward was Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, with 5,600 members.
The Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, completed in 1930 by Creoles for Creoles, serves as a social center for the Frenchtown neighborhood.
In the late 1800's The Fifth Ward community threatened to secede from the city of Houston twice, in 1875 and 1883. Complaints about inadequate municipal services, including fire and police services, lighting, sanitation, and drainage, occurred during this time period. The 1875 secession complaint asked for the paving of streets and upgrades to the utility system. The city government ameliorated the 1883 complaints by establishing a drawbridge at San Jacinto Street that crossed the Buffalo Bayou. It paved parts of Odin Avenue, now known as Lyons Avenue, in brick in the 1890s.
Mid 20th Century
Before desegregation, the community housed African-Americans of all occupations and income levels. Robb Walsh of the Houston Press described the 1930s era Fifth Ward as "one of the proudest black neighborhoods" in the US; more than 40 black-owned businesses were along Lyons Avenue in the Fifth Ward at that time.
In 1949 Brown & Root began buying land in the Fifth Ward for its headquarters.
When Interstate 10 was built, it went through the Fifth Ward, dividing the community.
The city government established some pocket parks and added pavement, gutters, and curbing to several streets in the southernmost part of the Fifth Ward in the period 1964-1974, during the term of Mayor of Houston
The 1970s and 1980s
In 1970 metal manufacturer Moncrief-Lenoir Manufacturing Company planned an urban renewal project, spending $10 million to buy 20 acres (8.1 ha) of land along Lyons Avenue's western end, but nothing was built by 1979. It was scheduled to be one of the largest urban renewal projects in the United States.
Between 1990 and 2000 the Hispanic population of the Fifth Ward increased from around 19% of the population to around 31% as Hispanics in the Houston area moved into majority-black neighborhoods. In the same period, the black population of the Fifth Ward declined by 3,286 as majority African-American neighborhoods in Houston had declines in their black populations.
There's no McDonald's, no Fiesta, no Target, no Wal-Mart. It's turf where national chains fear to tread." As of 1979 Mack Hanna, a black man from Houston, owned the Standard Savings Association, the only financial institution in the Fifth Ward.
Fifth Ward in 2002 was "in much better shape" than it was in the 1970s; the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation took many steps to improve the community including assisting low income borrowers in finding loans, encouraging architects to develop "innovative designs" for low income housing, and bringing commercial building projects into the Fifth Ward.
The city multi-service centers provide several services such as childcare, programs for elderly residents, and rental space in proximity to Interstate 10.
The center, operated by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, houses ten agencies, including the Fifth Ward Branch Library, American Red Cross, Harris County Juvenile Probation Program, Mayor's Citizens' Assistance Office, Neighborhood Centers Inc., and Fifth Ward Head Start.
The center opened in 1977 so that various social services supporting the Fifth Ward would be located in one place.
The Department of Health and Human Services also operates the John Wesley Peavy, Sr. Senior Citizens Center, adjacent to the Multi-Service Center. The Sr. Citizen Center was named after John Wesley Peavy, Sr., an East Texas native who served as a precinct judge in the area
The KBR office complex was the former headquarters of Brown & Root. Brown and Root began buying land in the Fifth Ward in 1949. It initially acquired 79 acres, then it acquired an additional 58 acres.
KBR maintained offices in a 138 acres campus on Clinton Drive, within the boundaries of the East End and the Fifth Ward. This property was along the Buffalo Bayou. As of December 2010, KBR no longer operates this office.
The North-South Southern Pacific Transportation Company railroad tracks separate the Fifth Ward from Denver Harbor. David Benson, an assistant to Harris County Commissioner El Franco Lee, described the railroad line as "a semi-permeable membrane."