There's a grassroots campaign currently happening to save a historic Houston structure from demolition.
1609 Saulnier is an original structure in Freedmen's Town, a historically Black community settled by formerly enslaved people after the Juneteenth announcement of Emancipation in 1865.
Viewers of Top Chef may recognize it from a recent episode of the hit show, where an elimination challenge was held in the district's Bethel Baptist Church.
Freedmen's Town originally contained over 530 historic structures within the 40 block area. Now there are less than 50 contributing structures standing.
Despite its cultural and architectural significance as an important cultural touchstone in both African American and Texas history, the community has faced ongoing disintegration of historic character and assets.
1609 Saulnier is listed in the inventory of the United States Department of Interior - National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places in the Freedmen’s Town Historic District, but it does not currently have landmark status.
"Our collective history is erased with each demolition, so we need your help to preserve the legacy of this historic building, ensure it is preserved by the City of Houston in perpetuity, and prevent the gradual destruction of Houston’s Freedmen’s Town Historic District," says the description of the project's GoFundMe page, which can be found at www.alliesoffreedmenstown.com.
The goal is to raise $300,000 by May 31, 2022, to purchase the property and make it affordable housing through the community land trust, and designate it as a City of Houston protected landmark.
Additionally, the HFTC is rallying volunteers for a spring cleanup event at 1609 Saulnier on Saturday, May 14, from 10 am-noon. Volunteers from the HFTC will be clearing out the historic structure and raising awareness of the importance of caring for homes like this one.
For additional information, you can contact fundraising coordinator Bill Baldwin at 281-850-6862.
The Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which protects and preserves Freedmen’s Town for the benefit of future generations. The Conservancy supports community engagement, re-education, and heritage tourism, and is the conservator of Freedmen’s Town as the City of Houston’s first Heritage District.