Modern urban development has Freedmen’s Town surrounded. In fact, it has pushed into this Fourth Ward neighborhood, a pocket of Houston history just west of downtown.
But the past is still present here. Old turn-of-last-century houses line some of the brick streets — Colonials, Greek Revivals, Queen Annes and a bunch of Craftsmen-style bungalows.
The aura of history is unmistakable. The Freedman's Town Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. And now almost two dozen of the oldest houses, some more than a century old, are a step closer to being given protected landmark designation.
The Houston Housing Authority recently nominated 22 historic houses it owns in the Fourth Ward for protected landmark designation. That would preserve a portion of this historic community from destructive development.
The HHA properties are rented as affordable housing through its Historical Rental Initiative. Protected landmark designation would require further local historical commission approval before any changes are made to the buildings.
The Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission will review the nomination and vote on making a recommendation to City Council.
The move already has Mayor Sylvester Turner’s attention.
“I applaud the Houston Housing Authority’s nomination to designate these important structures as protected landmarks,” Turner said. “They are reflective of a significant neighborhood's history. Many historic homes have been lost in Freedmen's Town and the HHA's effort to preserve the properties that remain is admirable.”
HHA’s move is a continuation of its historic preservation efforts. In fact, the Houston Business Journal has already awarded HHA its “Best Community Impact Award” for preserving the properties and making them available as affordable housing.
Diana DuCroz of the City of Houston Planning and Development Department said the initiative to designate these 22 historic Freedmen’s Town houses is part of on emphasis that is not new. The push for landmark designation of the Freedmen’s Town houses gained momentum and came to fruition during former Mayor Annise Parker’s administration.
DuCroz added that it also reflects the Planning and Development Department’s and HHA’s determination to save historic structures essential to preserving Houston’s history. This initiative was a way to practice what they preach.
“If we want other people to do this, we should set an example,” she said.