Wrong bricks replaced in Houston's historic Freedmen's Town

HOUSTON – Contractors hired by the city of Houston were hard at work in Houston’s historic 4th Ward on Monday.

They were supposed to be reinstalling the thousands of historic Freedmen’s Town bricks originally laid by slaves that construction crews mistakenly tore up in November.

But community leaders said there was a big problem: The contractors were installing the wrong bricks.

“The contractor is bringing those bricks from Kansas City, rather than the ones that were taken from here,” Gladys House-El said.

House-El, the head of the Community Development Corporation for Freedmen’s Town, says her preservation specialist was on-site and brought the issue to her attention.

When we contacted Mayor Turner’s office, a spokesperson told us the street was being restored with historic bricks only.

But less than two hours later, the contractor was told to stop working.

"They are historic bricks that were removed. The protocol was to have the bricks certified by archeologists. If those bricks that are being installed are non-historical bricks, then we made a mistake. We will pick those bricks up and replace them with historical bricks. If they are Kansas City bricks, then they are not certified,” Keith Wade, Mayor Turner’s senior advisor, told Channel 2 by phone. “The city and the contractor keep dropping the ball when the mayor has said, 'Don't do this that way, do it like we have all come together and agreed it should be done.'”

The city sent a letter to Channel 2:

"In an effort to ensure preservation protocols, the Freedmen’s Town brick re-installment has been been temporarily suspended. All of the replacement bricks laid today have been removed, re-palletized and transported from the site. The sand was also removed. Going forward, we will follow the procedure indicated below:

  • STEP 1: Our contractor will accumulate bricks from various sources to bring to the site.
  • STEP 2:
  • A. The Project archaeologist, who is an outside independent consultant, will examine these bricks and identify those which meet approval for placement. He will approve only the bricks that match the historic nature, look, size, etc. of the original bricks.
  • B. The archaeologist-approved bricks will be shown to the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition before they are reinstalled."

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