Houston Warehouse District Survey

This survey, completed in 1991 for the City of Houston's Department of Planning and Development, contains documentation on more than 350 structures in the historic Fifth Ward Warehouse District of Houston, which sprang up in the late nineteenth century in an already settled and increasingly commercialized area along Buffalo Bayou. The area continued to grow in response to increased ship traffic and the demands of turn-of-the-century lumber and cotton concerns, and was further diversified with railroad accessibility and the burgeoning oil and gas industry.

At one time, the Warehouse District included homes and service-oriented businesses, such as hotels, groceries, and restaurants, scattered among the warehouses. And, though now heavily commercial and industrial, the area remains diverse today. Many turn-of-the-century residences have been converted into businesses, and many warehouses have been converted to office space, art galleries, or restaurants. Though primarily concerned with warehouses and loading docks, this survey also includes information on numerous homes, apartment buildings, churches, hotels, department stores, office buildings, fire stations, railroad terminals, manufacturing plants, and bridges. The earliest structures examined in the Houston Warehouse District Survey date from the 1880s.

Data from this survey can be located in a search of Harris Co. neighborhood surveys and is identifiable by a serial number beginning with "NRS-HR." Most properties are listed under current rather than historic names.

What will I find?

Each document includes serial number, common and historic names, property address, city, zip code, county, and block number; present and historic uses; architectural style, condition, and alterations; characterization of surrounding area as open land, scattered buildings, or densely built-up; and identification of the property as residential, industrial, or commercial, with notations about other surroundings or related features. Also listed are possible areas of significance; estimated and factual dates of construction; availability of information from other surveys; photo availability, including negative number and date; date prepared, preparer's name, and organization; property description; and property significance.

  • Condition of property is indicated as excellent, good, fair, deteriorated, or destroyed.
  • A site may be labeled as notable in one or more of the following areas of significance: architecture, arts & leisure, economic/industrial, religion, exploration/settlement, government, military, or social/education.
  • Other surveys include National Register Surveys, Houston Architectural Survey, METRO Survey, and other existing surveys.
  • Property descriptions for significant warehouse locations are often quite detailed, providing detail on size, construction, ornamentation, and alterations.
  • Discussions of property significance, given for most warehouse structures, frequently focus on the architectural significance of the site, but also often detail interesting facts about the location's history and its relationship to other buildings or business concerns in the area.

How can I use it?

Anyone interested in Houston's history, economy, or architecture will find information of interest here. Details of the Warehouse District's colorful history and changing economy are evident in discussions of such important structures as the San Jacinto Warehouse, the Old Cotton Exchange, and the Magnolia Brewery, whose buildings once spanned Buffalo Bayou. Peden Iron & Steel, National Biscuit Company (later Nabisco), and Star Bottling are just a few of the notable businesses whose histories are touched on in this database. Henke's Fifth Ward Grocery Store, built in 1883, is the oldest building in the survey, but occasionally details about previous buildings at a particular site are also given, thus extending the scope of the survey to the mid-1800s at times. Other locations are important because of their proximity to Old Market Square, Grand Central Station, or Allen's Landing. The history of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas and Southern Pacific Railroads is also touched on in this survey.

Students of architecture, notably commercial/industrial architecture, will find detailed descriptions of significant buildings and examples of characteristic styles. Changes in warehouse construction are chronicled here, from the brick and timber warehouses of the 1910s, to the exposed concrete frame and brick of the 1920s, to the plastered facade and Moderne styling of the 1930s, and the large 1940s warehouses, sometimes in art deco style. Important local architects, including Sanguinet and Staats, and Alfred C. Finn, among others, are also discussed.

What else should I know?

Because the data is listed under the present proprietor's name, information on previous businesses or historic locations may sometimes be somewhat difficult to access. In addition, the data from this survey is somewhat unevenly informative, concentrating most carefully on warehouse buildings and documenting other building types within the district in extremely brief fashion. The wealth of information on the most significant building type in the Warehouse District, however, when combined with additional information on the same properties often available from other surveys, makes this a valuable resource.