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Houston's 2nd Ward

Historic Frostown

Frostown (Frost-Town), an early settlement in what is now the city of Houston, was named for the Frost family, who arrived in the 1830s. It was located on Buffalo Bayou in Harrisburg (now Harris) County eight miles upstream from Harrisburg and several blocks east of the conjunction of White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou, west of present U.S. Highway 59. In 1822 the area was settled by the Wilkins family, Dr. James A. E. Phelps and his wife, Rosalie A. Yerby, Stephen Holston, John Austin, and others. Austin received a two-league survey in 1824 under the supervision of Stephen F. Austin. The 1826 census of Austin's colony taken by the Spanish government listed about twenty inhabitants, mainly farmers and stockraisers. Between the late 1820s and the 1840s, Germans began settling in the area, and the settlement was called simultaneously Germantown and Frostown. (Cited from Handbook of Texas Online. The complete article is available at Handbook of Texas Online.)

The earliest surviving records indicate that in 1822, a "Mrs. Wilkins, with her two daughters and her son-in-law, Dr. Phelps, settled what is now known as Frost-town in the city of Houston, being the first settlers there." Records show the sale of a fifteen acre tract from the Allen brothers to a Johnathan B. Frost in April of 1837. Apparently, the earlier settlers were merged into this new subdivision site which was laid out two blocks wide and four blocks deep, running lengthwise from the Bayou.

Buffalo BayouThe central street was a narrow, corduroy affair named Spruce Street. As can be seen in the 1839 Bringhurst Survey map, Spruce ran directly through the southeast quadrant of the park.

The Frost families aggressively marketed their properties, and between July of 1838 and April of 1839 had sold about 66 of the original 96 lots available. The lots came in two sizes, 50' x 100' and 50' x 125', and sold for $25 to $30 each. Not surprisingly, in light of the Allen's fierce promotions overseas, the lots were purchased mainly by German settlers.

Naturally, the subdivision became known as Frost Town, and retained its identity as such well after being swallowed up by the insatiable outward growth of Houston.

Even today, the Frost Town area, now part of the larger Warehouse District, is recognized as a commercial transportation hub, and it was this peculiar marriage of water, rail, and wagon that encouraged the rapid industrialization of the area. Specific examples of the vitality and importance of the Frost Town commercial base are cited in the signage text, Section 6.

The residential development of the area is a study in radical change. The earliest residences were probably simple wood frame or log in construction and very little of their history is known. One brief reference to the area's condition in the 1890's is found in a 1928 newspaper article describing the dramatic changes that had occurred:

...the oldest section of the city and one that has undergone more metamorphoses in its time than any other...those who knew it a decade or two ago as a dreary huddle of shabby houses with an unsavory gas house brooding in their midst would hardly recognize the place today. The gas house has long since departed and broad paved streets, especially the great artery to the Turning Basin, carrying a humming stream of traffic...In the wake of this modern paving have come great factory buildings, many of them possessing sufficient architectural merit to contribute new aesthetic values to the neighborhood.

During the early part of this century, the identity of Frost Town was finally forgotten as the wheels of industry crisscrossed the area with new rail lines, factories, and warehouses.

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