What We Are

The First Ward Visual and Historical Arts Center is a non- profit, dedicated to function as a working gallery for residential artists, as well as a educational and historical resource for the first ward


Statement of Intent

The Jefferson Davis Hospital, Houston’s first large public treatment facility, was constructed in 1924 on the Corner of Dart and Elder Streets in Houston’s First Ward,  just southwest of the city center.  Abandoned for many years before its recent renovation, in 2005, it became the Elder Street Artist’s Lofts, a home to many well known artists and a proud testament to Houston’s  commitment to function as a pre-eminent cultural hub.  The hospital, built on the site of a Civil War cemetery, is located in one of the city’s most historic and diverse areas - a quiet oasis, nestled amidst the hip Washington Avenue area with its thriving nightlife, The Heights, with its eclectic personality and the ultra-modern Houston downtown.
Behind the renovated main hospital building,  separated by a garden and easily accessible through an ample parking area, lies a small, elegant brick structure - at one time the hospital’s power plant.  Anyone who ventures to gaze through the barbed wire-rimmed fence around its perimeter will be completely taken, as I was, by the building’s unique use of space, detailed ornamental brickwork and classic neo-byzantine design. Despite some elements of disrepair, the building quickly reveals to even the casual viewer, the craftsmanship and aesthetic reflection put  forward by its architect.
Sadly this small jewel was not renovated along with the larger “lofts project”.  The building is clearly salvageable, but slowly slipping into disrepair.  Each year without care and maintenance moves it closer to the time when its decay is irreversible. 
We hope that you can look past the few missing bricks and see the “power” that the building can once again generate.  In its future incarnation, we hope the energy will be produced through rebirth as The First Ward Visual & Historical Arts Center.  The Center will function as a working retail gallery & show space for local artists, as well as a training  opportunity for students interested in learning the commercial aspects of the art world. It will also serve as a community educational resource, providing  visual arts classes and workshops for First Ward residents of all ages, including outreach to senior citizens and local schools. Finally, the Center and adjacent grounds will house an artistic, photographic and architectural archive, featuring displays of some of the unique visual history of the First Ward, including material pertaining to the hospital itself, as well as the hallowed ground upon which it sits and the proud working neighborhood that surrounds it, a vanishing heritage, as the area undergoes rapid gentrification.  
The  owners of this property theArtspace” were responsible for creation of the Elder Street Lofts.  They strongly regret that they did not have the remaining funds to renovate the outer building and are fully supportive of the current project.  They join with us in asking you to aid in the effort to resuscitate this noble structure, so that it in turn, can breathe new life into a proud urban community.