Unlock the Freeman Houses 2018
The Mary and Eliza Freeman homes were just selected as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2018 11 Most Endangered Historic Places®.
This designation means that the Freeman Homes, are threatened, one-of-a-kind historic treasures that need to be saved, restored and reinserted into the physical landscape of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
As the video depicts, the two wood-frame houses were built by two sisters who belonged fully to Bridgeport's 19th century Black and Native American community. Like many of their neighbors, Mary and Eliza Freeman settled in the South End and helped to transform an isolated, undesirable part of town into a thriving, “peri-urban multiethnic enclave” in the 19th century. To better represent the bold place-making practices they were engaging in, residents renamed their community Little Liberia in the 1850s.
Like the West African Republic for which it was named, Little Liberia offered new definitions of what it meant to be Black and Free in the Atlantic world. Likewise, Mary and Eliza Freeman's homes stemmed from a community that dared to be free even in the face of fugitive slave acts and Indian removal policies which threatened daily life for many people of color. This community consisted of cooks, seamen, pastors, educators, domestic servants, clerks, and a plethora of entrepreneurs and property owners.
Today, the story of Mary and Eliza Freeman as well as the pathbreaking community from which they came is generally not known to many. However, the Mary and Eliza Freeman Center seeks to change that by first restoring the houses and ultimately revitalizing the surrounding block both of which are currently threatened by narratives of post-industrial decline, improper development, and natural disasters.
Despite these challenges, The Mary and Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community, Inc. has a bold and beautiful vision to not only restore these two homes, but also to reimagine the entire neighborhood in ways that empower urban residents, promote environmental justice, restore mixed-income housing in the South End, and increase public engagement with the humanities.
Your contribution to this campaign will go a long way in literally unlocking the doors of the houses and permitting us to reopen the site to architects and contractors who will complete the restoration. Your contribution will also help to support innovative public programming and outreach opportunities such as the groundbreaking Restoration and Reunion exhibit which brings scholars & visual artists together to create a doorway to Bridgeport’s past - to Little Liberia.
More immediately your contribution in any amount will help us secure the houses for this coming winter season, and obtain a recently awarded $9,999 matching grant from Connecticut Humanities by April 2019. This grant will enable the Freeman Center to build capacity by capturing and preserving key elements of the community’s history in physical and virtual archives, and create virtual spaces for scholars to connect this story to a global audience.
Thank you for your time and your generosity. Together, we will no doubt unlock the past, and move the Freeman Homes from endangered to thriving.