Historic Bricks in Houston Disturbed During Construction

Sun December 11, 2016 - West Edition #25

HOUSTON (AP) Officials and preservationists are upset by damage done to bricks laid by former slaves in Freedmen's Town in Houston when the bricks were mistakenly disturbed during construction work.

African-Americans settled in the area along the southern edge of the Buffalo Bayou. Residents made the bricks, which date back more than a century, on Andrews Street after city leaders refused to upgrade the area's streets, the Houston Chronicle reported.

A city contractor displaced a large segment of the historic bricks while removing a concrete slab during ongoing drainage work, according to Houston Public Works.

Freedmen's Town Preservation Coalition lawyer Ben Hall said the incident is disrespectful to the historical significance of the land.

Fourth Ward Redevelopment Authority chairwoman Jacqueline Bostic said any contract for work in the area should require a provision to protect the bricks.

An earlier infrastructure project may have already disturbed the same bricks, public works officials told District C Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, who represents the area.

“I feel terrible about it,” Cohen said. “I'd say the concerned residents of the Fourth Ward were probably in my office on the second day after I was elected, so we've been working on this now at least five years and have a great appreciation of the historic value of what they're trying to do and what we're trying to protect.”

With Fourth Ward and Freedmen's Town experiencing more gentrification, black community leaders have continued to work to protect the bricks.

City officials plan to replace the bricks within three months on a more solid foundation.

“We thought with this present mayor, he would have more concern and more interest,” Hall said. “We can preserve the things that we deem important and can't preserve things we don't. Protecting this history has not risen to the level of importance where you don't have these accidents happen.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is currently visiting Mexico City, voiced his disappointment on the situation on Twitter and vowed to address the problem on his return.

“The contractor should preserve any and all bricks removed,” the mayor tweeted, adding that no one should have touched the Andrews Street bricks without his specific authorization.

For more information, visit houstonchronicle.com.