The Third Ward is one of the six historic wards of Houston, Texas, United States. It is located in the Southeast Houston management district. The area originally defined as the Third Ward extended immediately south of downtown’s Congress Street and East of Main to the northern shore of Brays Bayou. Today the area referred to as the third ward is considerably smaller than it’s original boundaries. Local neighbors define third ward in various ways, and those definitions don’t always match up. The most common area referred to as the Third Ward is “mainly understood to extend south to Brays Bayou from the downtown intersection of the Gulf Freeway (I-45) and the Southwest Freeway (Highway 59), with Main Street forming its western boundary”. Many of the streets in this area, the cultural Third Ward, as some would call it, are characterized by rows of small, aging wood-framed houses built in the simple style known popularly as “shotgun shack”. The cultural Third Ward is the area where the music scene was born and prospered.
Northern Third Ward, home to Project Row Houses (PRH), has historically been the pulse of Houston’s Black culture. Throughout the greater part of the 1900’s, the Third Ward area was a strong community, rich in African American culture. Dowling Street connects the neighborhood and is its lifeline. Before desegregation, Third Ward was home to a vibrant middle and working class community of Black leaders including doctors, lawyers, and musicians. People rarely had to travel because of the wealth in resources available. Visiting Black musicians and leaders stayed in resident’s homes (due to segregation they weren’t allowed to stay in hotels), which created this great influx of people staying in and engaging with the community. Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, and throughout the seventies, the Third Ward lost nearly 60% of its population. Those who could afford to leave the area and seek better housing did. This resulted in the loss of an estimated 80% of the area’s 1960 population.