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Housing in Independence Heights

What made this settlement different from other black neighborhoods in Houston was the possibility of personal land ownership. In 1905, A.A. Wright, a white real estate businessman from the north, moved to Houston and purchased property north of Houston.
Within five years, he had established two businesses, the Wright Loan and Security and the Wright Land Company. The first was a company which was formed to sell land to whites, and the second was a company created to sell land to blacks.

___Mr. Wright owned the land that would later become Independence Heights. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was willing to sell land to African Americans and also to sell the land at lower than average interest rates. Not surprisingly, many enterprising African American families were drawn to the opportunity to purchase property where they could build the house of their dreams on their own plot of land.

_____You see that’s why they bought out here, so they could build the kind of houses that they wanted, ‘cause the houses for rent [in Houston] were shotguns,” explained Mrs. Vivian Seals, the resident historian of Independence Heights.

_____Many homes were built with such skill and thought that they are still standing today. The variety and styles of homes are amazing. Each one is its own creation, carefully planned by its owner.

_____The majority of the neighborhood’s houses were built by resident contractors and craftsman such as W.H. Chryar, Archie and Richard Thompson, Reverend J.S. Beverly, and Stephen Mitchell. Mike Jefferson and Tom Patten were electricians; James and Leroy Bland were bricklayers. Mrs. Vivian Seals recollects, “Just about everything we needed for a city was here.” Many residents would work in Houston during the weekdays and then return home to work on building homes for their own community during the evenings and weekends

_____The citizens of Independence Heights not only bought their own land, but they also built their own houses, maintained a flourishing business economy, and created a city that existed for fourteen years, as a separate city, from 1915 until annexation in 1929.

_____Residents had hoped that annexation to the city of Houston in 1929 would mean that more city services would become available. However, most of Houston’s black neighborhoods, and many other such neighborhoods in the South, had insufficient city services. In 1940, only about 23 percent of black-occupied homes had running water, while 95 percent of non-black homes had water service. In addition, black neighborhoods were often in need of paved streets, street lights, and adequate drainage.

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