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HISTORICAL – This is Our Home, It Is Not for Sale – A Study in Urban Transformation


Jon Schwartz with the sign produced by residents who resisted realtor solicitations in the Riverside subdivision.

Jon Schwartz with the sign produced by residents who resisted realtor solicitations in the Riverside subdivision.

by Carol Adams

This is Our Home . . . is a documentary, an archival collection and a chapter in Houston’s history. Jon Schwartz produced and directed a documentary film that traces the history of Houston’s Riverside subdivision from land grant to inner city neighborhood. Boundaries of Riverside are defined by the film as Alabama Street on the north, University of Houston on the east, Old Spanish Trail on the south and Almeda Road on the west. Schwartz tells the story of Riverside through interviews, photos, and home movies, now preserved in the Houston History Archives.

Known informally as the Jewish River Oaks, Riverside became an idyllic neighborhood close to downtown. Initially, Jewish residents developed the area as a prime residential location for Hous­tonians excluded by deed restriction from other elite Houston neighborhoods such as River Oaks. Later, as Riverside became an idealized location during the 1950s and 1960s, deed restrictions excluded upwardly mobile African Americans moving from the contiguous Third Ward.

Riverside’s story includes a bombing in 1953 at the house of the first African American who broke the color barrier and moved into the neighborhood, an act signaling the transition of an all-white neighborhood to a predominantly black area. With that transition came “white flight,” a complex concept that includes the workings of realtors, economic fears of residents and the processes of desegregation in a southern city. One aspect of “white flight” supported by materials in the “This is Our Home . . .” film and archival collection is a refutation of the assumption that whites stampeded out of neighborhoods where African Americans began to reside.

In fact, real estate agents working house-to-house encouraged owners to sell, but many residents resisted the inclination to move and posted yard signs stating “This is Our Home, It’s Not for Sale.” Transformation became inevitable for a constellation of reasons.  Intrusions into the neighborhood included construction of Highway 288. On the Medical Center side was development of the Harris County Psy­chiatric Center. By the conclusion of the time period covered in the film (mid-1980s), Riverside
was a multi-ethnic neighborhood, combining characteristics
of a peaceful wooded residential area with the conflicts of an integrated urban neighborhood.

(All materials from the This is Our Home, It is Not for Sale Collection, Houston History Archives, Special Collections, UH Libraries)

Apartments built in Riverside to replace an old home. By 1980s, pictured area had deteriorated from earlier residential ambience.

Apartments built in Riverside to replace an old home. By 1980s, pictured area had deteriorated from earlier residential ambience.

 

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Promotional flyer produced by Southwest Alternate Media Project to publicize the film’s premiere

Author Dr. Teresa (Terry) Tomkins-Walsh is historian and archivist for the Houston History Archives with the Center for Public History at the University of Houston. Located in Special Collections at the UH Libraries, the Archives collects historical documents on the growth and development of Houston with particular concentrations in energy, environmental and ethnic history. Contact her at tomkinswalsh@uh.edu.

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