The Shotgun House: Past, Present, & Future



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This paper analyzes the history, artistic representation, and contemporary significance of the shotgun house in terms of recent theories of property possession and what scholar Katherine McKittrick calls a “black sense of place.” While the paper examines the history and cultural significance of the shotgun house architecture in the United States, it concentrates specifically on the Third Ward neighborhood of Houston, Texas. After providing a historical overview of the shotgun house, I analyze paintings by Houston-based artist John Biggers and his student Harvey Johnson, both of whom illuminated the meaning of the shotgun home in their work as symbols of the African diaspora. In connecting the philosophical teachings of Biggers to the importance of the shotgun home, I describe how Houston artist Rick Lowe was inspired to create Project Row Houses, a revitalization initiative in the Third Ward that preserves abandoned shotgun houses. I show how Project Row Houses reimagines the architecture’s meaning and symbolism while simultaneously providing social services to help Third Ward’s community grow and prosper. Following this, the paper discusses the status of shotgun houses today, including the impacts of gentrification, natural disasters, and lack of government funding. Through such analysis, the paper addresses how the history of the shotgun house as a resource for community engagement might offer a new perspective on theories of property possession.