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Order granted to halt removal of historic bricks in Freedmen's Town

HOUSTON – A controversial restoration project in Fourth Ward's historic Freedmen's Town has been temporarily placed on hold.

Construction to begin removing the 100-year-old bricks began Tuesday morning, but was quickly halted after a temporary restraining order was granted on behalf of a group opposing the project.  A judge has ordered the work be stopped for two weeks.

This project has been much debated by the Freedmen's Town Preservation Coalition and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Opposers felt the project would disturb African-American history by taking up the bricks.

"The Freedmen's Town Preservation Coalition is gravely concerned about the urgent risk of destroying our heritage," said Dorris Ellis, president of FTPC. "This is problematic for our entire city and even our country for this approved June 11, 2014  action by 16 city council members, and the mayor will erase an importance section of Houston's history."

The FTPC said the historic brick streets are in danger of being uplifted, not preserved.  The streets are Andrews, Wilson and Robin located in Freedmen's Town, which is now also called "Midtown."

The city wants to upgrade the area, and the work will include removing the bricks, widening the streets and sidewalks, and adding new utilities under them before before returning undamaged bricks in a new arrangement.  FTPC is offering the tunneling methods to do the same infrastructure work which they feel would save the historic value of the street.

In the early 19th century, the Freedmen paid $125 per home for the bricks that were placed in Freedmen's Town. The FTPC wants the bricks to be preserved in place, according to the National Preservation Historic Act.

The FTPC said the African Yoruba patterns of the historic bricks are unique and they believe the property is priceless and worthy of preservation.