The Freeman Houses consist of one duplex, one single family house and backyard space. One side of the duplex can be used for housing. There can also be a garden, a bit of green space. The neighborhood has none. Should 20th century additions to the original structures be altered, modern additions can be designed to accommodate Center activities, commercial office space, or rental housing for an onsite caretaker.
Historic preservation is now “green” and restoration projects require specialized skills. There are grants available to teach these skills, so the Freeman Center views this project as a job training opportunity as well. The restoration, adaptation, renovation, and preservation of old homes and buildings is expected to be an area of economic growth in the future. Old structures will basically be recycled, an eco-friendly alternative that provides preservation construction workers with incomes 40% higher than their “ordinary” construction counterparts.
A “Visioning Workshop & Charrette”, one of two conducted by the University of Massachusetts/Amherst’s Department of Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture, revealed that community stakeholders are united in their view that the Freeman Center be used as a center for history and culture (in the tradition of the Anacostia Community Museum or Weeksville) that would attract tourists and scholars. They want to honor the contributions that all working people made to Bridgeport by focusing on the backgrounds, experiences, and arts of this community’s populations and their relationship to the Long Island Sound.
ABCD, the Friends of the Freeman Houses, and the CT Trust for Historic Preservation worked hard to move this project forward since the fall of 2008 with help from the Office of the State Archaeologist (UCONN), Fairfield University’s History Department, the City Historian, UMASS, Bridgeport’s Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA), and others. Structural engineering and archaeological studies have been conducted – yes, there is something under the ground! UCONN and Central CT State University archaeologists and anthropologists are planning a “dig”. Fairfield University is mapping the settlement. UMASS created a graduate level course in regional planning and landscape architecture focused on development of the surrounding South End neighborhood and produced a Historic Neighborhood Revitalization Plan. Preservation deconstruction of the non-historic additions and shoring up of the original structures began on July 11, 2012. Stabilization and restoration are the next steps.