The Original Four Wards of Houston
Geographical constraint of the First Ward
1877 Houston Sanborn Key Map modified to show the first four wards of Houston south of Buffalo Bayou
The original four wards of Houston were established within the first few years of the town's founding. The original Borden Survey of Houston of 1836 (and corrected with a map in 1837) was confined to a 62-block area south of Buffalo Bayou. Present day descriptions of deeds of this area use the acronym SSBB for South Side Buffalo Bayou. The four wards emerge from two perpendicular axes, represented on my map as red lines: the north-south axis follows Main Street and the east-west axis follows Congress Avenue.
The First Ward contains only a small amount of real estate south of the bayou, with only six full-sized blocks within this area. The First and Fourth Wards extend over the bayou to the west, but with limited access points crossing it. The Fourth Ward includes only eight full-sized blocks from the original survey, but without a bayou to block its expansion to the south. The Second Ward contained double the number of full-sized block compared to the Fourth Ward, with no geographical obstacles blocking expansion to the east. It follows, therefore, that the Third Ward had the greatest possibilities for developing real estate since it could expand both to the east and to the south.
The First Ward is the one most geographically constrained by Buffalo Bayou, The Fourth Ward is similarly constrained to the west, but not to the south. The Second Ward is simarly constrained to the north, but not to the east. The Third Ward faces no geographical constraints in two directions, south and east. For this reason, the Third Ward had the most potential in adding residential area as Houston expanded.