Changing Dowling St. more about Third Ward than honoring a Confederate Soldier.

The lifeblood streets of Houston’s Third Ward were Dowling St & Scott. Scott runs straight down a strip that splits the University of Houston from Texas Southern and Jack Yates High School. Dowling is positioned right along Emancipation Park, a green space purchased by freed slaves in 1872. Now one of those streets has a new name, fittingly to match the feel of historic Third Ward.

The Houston City Council approved in January to change the name of Dowling St. to Emancipation Ave. Today, the signs were officially swapped out, ending what felt like a lifetime of memories for Third Ward residents and Houstonians alike. But like the saying goes, all nostalgia isn’t good nostalgia.

Unless you did your Googles or some deep dive into history, you wouldn’t have known that Dowling St. was named after Richard W. Dowling, aka “Dick” Dowling. Dowling was a soldier in the Confederate Army who, after finishing up battling for slavery (or “heritage” if you will) began his role as a private citizen, leading to the creation of the Houston Fire Department. Dowling died in 1867 though his legacy as an entrepreneur in the early days of Houston being a city didn’t go unnoticed. There’s a monument in his honor next to Sam Houston in Hermann Park.

“I’m not going to sit here and allow you to glorify him.” – Mayor Sylvester Turner

Does the change of Dowling St set off a new precedent? Possibly. After all, District I Councilman Robert Gallegos along with other east side leaders attempted to change Wayside Drive to honor civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. With gentrification looming large on Third Ward, I’m sure quite a few residents see the name change as only the beginning before everything in the area, from businesses to residents are flipped and changed too.

But the city has a deep history with the Confederacy. Back in January, Mayor Sylvester Turner shut down any defense of Dowling’s legacy.

“I’m not going to sit here and allow you to glorify him,” Turner said. “The reason we’re changing the street is because Emancipation Park is on that street and it’s consistent with what we’ve done with Memorial and Hermann.”

Dowling having a street named after him in arguably the most historic, predominantly black ward of Houston was ridiculous enough. In 2017, the honoring of Confederate soldiers, generals et. al seems like a movement that is dying slowly but surely. In New Orleans last month, workers had to wear bulletproof vests and be watched over by trained snipers as they removed a Confederate monument.

All of the hold for Dowling is pretty much a hold in familiarity and what you already know. You know what bars are there, Wolf’s Clothing Department, the turn you take from Southmore to cut through 288 / 59N traffic. None of that changes. Just the name. It may take a little time to get used to a bloodline of Third Ward being representative of the large chunk of its population and inhabitants. But time will come and life will go on.

Just without a hold over from the traitorous Confederacy.

Photo: ( Johnny Hanson / Chronicle)