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Frenchtown, Houston, Texas (1922- )

Frenchtown, a community built in 1922 in Houston, Texas, was constructed by hundreds of Creole descendants of free French, Spanish, and African people living in southwestern Louisiana in the eighteenth century. Coming to Houston for economic opportunities, they settled and created this community because of the racial segregation existing at this time that limited them to certain parts of the city.

Houston experienced three major waves of Creole immigration. The first wave occurred at the beginning of the 1920s: Houston was economically booming and attracted a lot of workers. Among them were descendants of a mostly free, mixed-race French, Spanish, or African people living in the southern section of French colonial Louisiana. This first wave included skilled and semi-skilled workers; carpenters, bricklayers, mechanics, and sawmill workers.  They were mainly employed by the Southern Pacific Railroad, but they were also present in the oil industry or as longshoremen on the Houston Ship Channel.

The second wave of Creole immigrants followed the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. This migration was propelled by the immediate disaster, but the migrants also came for job opportunities. Finally, the economic growth prompted by World War II spurred the third wave, including people who were lured by job opportunities related to war production.

Both geographic and racial segregation led the Creole migrants to create a four-square-block community located between Collingsworth Street (North), Russell Street (East), Liberty Road (South) and Jensen Drive (West). Frenchtown is on the northern edge of Houstons Fifth Ward.

This residential segregation ironically allowed community members to maintain their cultural identity. Houses were built with discarded lumber coming from obsolete boxcars sitting at the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Englewood Yard. The streets were dirt roads and the public transportation was not accessible from the community: residents walked outside of the community in order to use streetcars.


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