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Turner Plans Historic Preservation District In Houston’s Freedmen’s Town

The city will start work Monday on repairing a historic brick street damaged by contractors. But the mayor says this will only be the first step in a much larger effort.



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  • Contractors mistakenly removed about 200 historic bricks at the intersection of Genessee Street and Andrews Street in Freedmen's Town
    Contractors mistakenly removed about 200 historic bricks at the intersection of Genessee Street and Andrews Street in Freedmen's Town
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Community activists have been fighting for years to preserve historic brick streets of Freedmen's Town in Houston's Fourth Ward. Now the activists are on the verge of a major victory, following a painful setback in November.

Two weeks ago, a contractor mistakenly removed roughly 200 bricks while working on a drainage project. That damaged some of the bricks, which were laid by freed slaves. Mayor Sylvester Turner says repairs will begin Monday.

"This is expected to take about 12 weeks, but with the holidays, it could be a little longer," Turner says. An archaeologist will be on site at all times to oversee the work.

But Turner says he's determined to do more than reinstall the bricks. He wants to create a cultural district in Freedmen's Town – one that would preserve historic churches, schools, and homes.

"That is my commitment as the mayor of this city, that before I leave office, that we will see a revived area right here in this community," Turner says. "We cannot undo the mistakes of two weeks ago, but we can ensure this neighborhood's rich history is not forgotten."

Dorris Ellis is president of the Freedmen's Town Preservation Coalition. She says she's pleased with the mayor's plan to repair the street damage. "But I'm more excited about the opportunities as we move forward to follow the National Historic Preservation Act so that we can make this the place that it should be, using the best available technology just as the freedmen did over 100 years ago," she says.

Turner says he'll work with the coalition, as well as other local stakeholders to develop a roadmap for the project over the next six months.

Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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