77026: A History of Kashmere Gardens

Welcome to Kashmere Gardens

Sitting just above our original service zip code, 77020, lies this week’s focus: 77026. Nestled in the northern 610 Loop between an industrial area and a rail corridor, the zip code is split between the Greater Fifth Ward neighborhood and Kashmere Gardens neighborhood.

A map of the zip codes we serve and the client populations in those areas.

Driving through Kashmere Gardens, one will quickly notice the large lot sizes with single-family homes. Houston Gardens, completed in 1937, was part of the Suburban Resettlement Administration program created during the New Deal. The point of the program was to relocate struggling urban and rural families to new subsistence communities planned by the federal government. Established to be self-sufficient communities, the large plot sizes encouraged small-scale farms for community growth, as well as community centers and schools.

Like Greater Fifth Ward, Kashmere Gardens has a history of social activism – namely in leading the fight for school integration in Houston. Tyrone Day was the first Black student to enroll at an all-white elementary school in Houston. He enrolled at Kashmere Gardens Elementary in 1960, one of 12 students accepted into H.I.S.D. to begin school integration. Students at Kashmere High School were also involved in integration efforts, boycotting the ongoing segregation in Houston’s schools in 1965, more than 10 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954. H.I.S.D. desegregated in 1984.

Frenchtown in Houston

Greater Fifth Ward’s Frenchtown takes up the southern section of 77026. Frenchtown, briefly mentioned in our history of 77020, is a four-square block community. Established in 1922, it primarily consisted of Creoles of French, Spanish, and African descent from Louisiana, lending it the name it still carries. Houston was finding great success at this time, and many workers were attracted to the city, leading to the settling of Frenchtown. Workers were interested in the Southern Pacific Railroad, oil industries, and opportunities along Houston’s Ship Channel. Additional immigration waves occurred following the Mississippi River Flood of 1927 and Houston’s growth during World War II.

The Area Today

Volunteers working at our Willie H. & Gladys R. Goffney Community Garden in Kashmere Gardens.

As with 77020, the area saw great change following World War II and desegregation. Middle-class residents seeking opportunities elsewhere began moving to the suburbs. The area currently has 23,249 residents, nearly 50% of which are black or African American. The area has seen a surge in its Hispanic residents, increasing from 19% in 1990 to 31% in 2000, and now 48%. 1,561 families, out of the community’s 5,266, live below the poverty line. The median household income is $31,184, half of Harris County’s median of $63,699. Kashmere Gardens experienced great damage during Harvey, seeing some of the first flooding in the city and the eventual official closing of their library from damage.

The area has a special place for Target Hunger because it is home to our Willie H. & Gladys R. Goffney Community Garden that has been tended to since our founding in 1989. We are grateful to have a spot in the community that not only provides fresh produce for the people we serve, but also provides a beautiful green space.It is beloved by community members, volunteers, and staff alike. We encourage you to visit the garden by volunteering one day, and while you’re there, tour the Kashmere Gardens neighborhood.









Updates at Shotwell Street

Big Changes at Home

Volunteers working in our Shotwell Garden.

Target Hunger has been at our Shotwell location for about two and half years. Prior to our current warehouse, the organization operated out of an old school building. When Harvey hit, the building was damaged and no longer suitable to workfrom, and so we relocated operations to our current facility. Since moving in to 1260 Shotwell Street we have made several improvements, some of which have happened very recently!

We shared earlier in the year about the official opening of our Shotwell Garden – an above ground container garden that features 2,400 crates for planting, a 3,000 gallon rainwater catchment system, and a 72 square foot green house. We are happy to say that this garden is flourishing from the heat of summer with fresh produce leaving the garden and going directly into the homes of families who need it.

Creating Opportunity in the Warehouse

 Recently, our warehouse has seen a few changes as well due to a $426,000 grant from the Qatar Harvey Fund We are grateful for the installation of a new generator, which we hope will allow us to serve the community better, particularly in times of disaster. Most exciting of all is the establishment of a new Repack Room! Built into the inside of our warehouse, the new space has allowed for some significant changes. Now that we have the ability to repackage larger quantities of food, we can secure grains and dried foods in bulk, and can serve more families with healthy, nutritious staples. Large bags of rice and beans can now be repackaged into family size portions for our pantry boxes. We can even create portioned recipes for families!

The addition of the Repack Room means more volunteer opportunities as well! We encourage volunteers to visit the warehouse and help us repackage the food that will go to families. You can sign-up to volunteer at our warehouse or in the garden here. It’s a great way to get involved and see the changes at our Shotwell facility! We are excited to continue growing in this centrally located facility for our service area and see it come to life as the home base for all our work. We hope to see you there soon!

Zip-code 77020: A History

Meet Our Community

A map of the zip codes we serve and the client populations in those areas.

Over the next 9 months, we will be introducing you to each of the 9 zip codes that Target Hunger serves. Each month we will share the history of the neighborhood and later that month share the stories of the partners and Target Hunger families that reside there. This will be an opportunity to highlight these communities outside of the issue of hunger. These neighborhoods have deep histories and we are excited to share their stories with you.

77020 – The Greater Fifth Ward and Denver Harbor

This month we’re focusing on the 77020 zip code, home to the Target Hunger warehouse on Shotwell and two of our community partners – Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center and Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center. This is one of the first areas Target Hunger served when it was founded in 1989. Nestled within this zip code boundary are two major neighborhoods – Greater Fifth Ward and Denver Harbor.

The city of Houston was founded in 1836 and incorporated in 1837. The city founders made the decision to divide the city into four different wards based on geographical boundaries. These were meant to serve the city in a similar way as the council districts do today. At its creation, Fifth Ward was made up of many ethnic groups, largely represented by Irish and Jewish immigrants. Adjacent to Fifth Ward, Denver Harbor was settled by Greeks, Italians, and Poles. After the Civil War, newly freed slaves began establishing their lives in this area. The significant growth led to the creation of the Fifth Ward in the city’s ward system. By the late 1800s, Fifth Ward’s population was nearly equally split with 561 White and 578 Black residents, with people making a living in the eastside ship channel, industrial areas, and as domestic workers.

This hardworking population grew the Fifth Ward neighborhood to be a thriving community in the early to mid 1900s, as the population shifted to become predominantly Black. Denver Harbor remained as a sparsely populated area on the outskirts of the city. There were many small businesses, including barbershops, a pharmacy, and a dentist’s office, that opened on Lyons Avenue. By 1925, there were 40 Black-owned businesses in the area. They also survived the largest fire in Houston’s history – the “Greater Fifth Ward Fire,” in 1912. The fire destroyed 13 industrial plants, a school, 8 stores, a church, and 119 homes, totaling over $3 million in property damage.

In the 1960’s, after desegregation, the population began to shift. Many in the middle-class began moving to the suburbs looking for bigger opportunities. The neighborhood lost a significant part of its population – businesses were vacant, and houses were boarded up. In the 1970s and 1980s, it became known as one of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods. Ernest McMillan, a community activist, argued that this was due largely in part to the lack of resources in the community.

Since the 1990s, Fifth Ward and Denver Harbor’s Hispanic populations has increased significantly, making up almost 50% of the population. The community has remained a largely low-income area after the population shift in the 1960s, with nearly 30% of families living below the poverty line. About 8% is unemployed, and only about a third of the population has gone to college or beyond. The area is now considered a food desert – an area with limited access to affordable, nutritious food. Despite these obstacles, the area has seen growth thanks to the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation and the engagement of community members. 

A History of Civic Engagement and Culture

In the 1920s, Fifth Ward was home to the community of “Frenchtown,” an area

settled by a group of Louisiana Creoles. It is also home to some of the community’s oldest churches – Mount Vernon United Methodist was founded in 1865. As of 2011, there were six churches over 100 years old.

Fifth Ward and Denver Harbor are separated by the north-south Union Pacific Railroad tracks. These tracks seem to represent a fine line for residents – in the 1990s Fifth Ward residents frequently crossed to shop in Denver Harbor, but Denver Harbor’s mostly Hispanic population rarely entered Fifth Ward.

The neighborhood has a history of civic activism and engagement. Community members threatened secession from the city of Houston twice in the late 1800s because of complaints about insufficient municipal services. Both led the city to make changes in favor of the neighborhood. In the mid-1900s, a local businessman established the Fifth Ward Civic Club, and residents set up the Julia C. Hester House, a long-standing community center providing support and tools to improve the lives of residents.

Our second garden located on Shotwell St. in Denver Harbor.

Target Hunger also stemmed from the community’s civic leaders. At its founding, Target Hunger was a grassroots, community-based program started to fight the increasing hunger problem in the neighborhood. Led by late Congressman Mickey Leland and Houston businessman Pete Van Horn, the Select Committee on Hunger was formed in partnership with the United Way.

The neighborhood’s rich history and community connection make it an integral part of the city of Houston. Though today it is not at its peak, its community remains strong and ready to rebuild. We are grateful to be a small part of the history of this community and look forward to seeing it return to the thriving community it once was.