Transportation

Houston’s Historic Third Ward Hosting Sunday Streets

Streets will be closed to cars and opened to walkers and cyclists.

Third Ward artwork
Third Ward’s art

Third Ward artwork
Third Ward’s art

In 1947, legendary Houston musician Conrad Johnson and his Orchestra recorded “Howling On Dowling,” a tribute to the Third Ward’s Dowling Street and its famous Eldorado Ballroom.

The streamlined building on the corner of Dowling and Elgin now fills a different role. Carmen Jules operates the NuWaters Co-op on the building’s bottom floor. The store features baskets of fresh fruits and vegetables stacked high on tables.

But back in the day, Jules says the Eldorado ballroom was something quite different, as a center of Houston’s African-American culture.

“A number of different performers throughout history have performed here, James Brown, B.B. King, a number of them. So it has wonderful significance.”

Visitors have the chance to learn more about the Third Ward’s history as the neighborhood hosts this weekend’s “Sunday Streets.”

Sunday Streets is part of the City of Houston’s “Go Healthy” initiative, and the Third Ward event is the second of three scheduled this fall. The mile-and-a-half route goes down Dowling Street to West Alabama and makes a turn on Almeda Road.

The streets will be closed to vehicular traffic. And that will give people a chance to walk and bike, and slow down and enjoy the sights.

We visited the neighborhood with Raj Mankad, the editor of Rice Design Alliance’s Cite Magazine. He says there’s a lot to explore.

colorful falling down house
The home of the “Flower Man,” folk artist Cleveland Turner, is still standing on Francis Street.

“This street is home to all kinds of art, folk art, including the house of the late Cleveland Turner, aka “Flower Man.” It’s still here.”

Mankad came up with the idea for Sunday Streets and successfully pitched it to city leaders.

Along with highlighting the Third Ward’s art and culture, Mankad says the route will also educate visitors about the historic divides that were once in place in Houston.

“African-Americans were permitted to live north of Alabama but not south of Alabama Street. So this dividing line on Sunday will become a public space where everyone is invited.”

Back at the co-op, we asked Carmen Jules what she wants people to know about the Third Ward neighborhood today.

“That there are some terrific people here, that we have wonderful skills and we have vibrant businesses that are opening now, that have recently opened, and that it’s really a fabulous community.”

If you want to do your own “Howling on Dowling” you can check out Sunday Streets from noon to 4:00 p.m.

 

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Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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