Home | Contents | Next
The Housing and Architecture of Independence Heights

Adapted from the work of Stephen Fox. Mr. Fox is a Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, and Adjunct Lecturer in Architecture at Rice University

The architecture of Independence Heights materially represents the circumstances under which some African American Houston families lived during the era of legal racial segregation in the first half of the twentieth century.

_____The most commonly occurring building type in Independence Heights is the one-story, wood-framed and -clapboarded single-family house, often slightly elevated above grade on brick or concrete block piers. The National Register nomination for the Independence Heights Historic District lists the following types of houses:

  • the center-entrance cottage (named for its front door, centered on the long side of the rectangular-planned house)
  • the L-front cottage (so called because a projecting front wing creates an L-shape within which a front porch was often inserted)
  • the pyramid roof house (so-called because of the profile of its hipped roof)
  • the bungalow, perhaps the most popular type of early twentieth-century American house
  • the shotgun cottage

_____The Jeannette and Ben Cyrus House in the 500 block of E. 35th Street and Houston Avenue is a center-entrance cottage. The rectangular-planned house turns its long front elevation toward E. 35th Street. The low-pitched, hipped-roof house features an attached, shed-roofed front porch, the same porch profile visible on the Polly Carroll and McCullough houses.

_____Two of the oldest houses in Independence Heights, the Polly Carroll House of c. 1910 and the Rev. Arthur McCullough House of c. 1911, are examples of the L-front cottage.

_____Both have hipped roofs (although the McCullough House has a gable capping the projecting front bay) and both have inset porches covered by attached shed roofs.

_____Although most often associated with Victorian construction, the L-front cottage type was built in Texas cities right up to 1910. The Independence Heights cottage of the iceman Charlie Johnson is a compact version of the L-front cottage with attached, shed-roofed porch.

____The Wilson House on Arlington Street and E. 32nd Street and the Woods House, across Arlington Street from the Wilson House, are examples of the pyramid-roof cottage. Both have rafter tails exposed along the eaves line of the roof and both have hipped-roofed dormers centered on the front slope of the roof.
____The original Wilson house and the Woods House incorporated a front porch on the street corner. The awnings on the Wilson House, although not original, are indicative of the kind of climate modifying devices that would have been affixed to many of Independence Heights’ houses during their period of historical significance.

_____Another Independence Heights resident, Oscar Lindsay, who operated an ice cream parlor, a cleaning and pressing shop, and a barber shop, and who Mrs. Seals identifies as the “town plumber,” lived in a bungalow type house at 7415 Houston Avenue. This center-entrance house has a wide-span porch, its gabled peak blunted by a jerkin head, a popular roof form for bungalows. The front porch is a key feature of the bungalow style.

_____The architecture of businesses in the Independence Heights shows the same uniqueness as the houses of the neighborhood. Mrs. Seals identifies eight grocery stores operating in Independence Heights between 1915 and 1928. In addition to sites on Houston Avenue and Columbia Street, stores were also located at corner locations on the north-south cross streets, Courtland Street, and Arlington Street.

_____Some of the corner stores in Independence Heights were identified as “halls” because of the spaces, often on the second floor, where the local chapters of fraternal organizations held their meetings.

_____The most prominent surviving commercial building in the historic district is the General Mercantile Co-Op Store, located at 7300 Houston Avenue and E. 34th Street. The building later became known as Burgess Hall after the incorporated city had been dissolved. The building was a two-story, wood-framed and -clapboard surfaced building, its narrow gabled end faces the street. A two-story wing, however, expands the Houston Avenue frontage of the building and contains a porch at one end.

_____Mrs. Ella Lewis’ store at 3408 Courtland Street is similar to this type also, although without the long side wing. It is a two-story wooden building, with its front elevation occurring on the narrow, gable-capped end of the building. A canopy projecting forward from the front elevation of Mrs. Lewis’ store is another typical feature of the corner store.

Home | Contents | Back to Top