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p r o j e c t  African c l i e n t  City American Library at the Gregory School, Houston of Houston General Service Department a r c h i t e c t  Smith & Company Architects d e s i g n t e a m   Terry Smith, AIA; Jaurez White; Linda Yarbrough; Barry Moore, FAIA; Maria Perez c o n t r a c t o r  Prime Contractors c o n s u l t a n t s   ERC (environmental); Gallagher & Associates (exhibits); WJHW (AV/ IT/tele/data/low voltage system); Leeds Clark (historic window restoration); Gensler (LEED); Clark Condon Associates (landscape); Kuhn and Associates (roofing); Ingenium (structural); Marshall Engineering Corp. (MEP); Nathelyne A. Kennedy & Associates (civil); The Douglas|Group (graphics) p h o t o g r a p h e r  Joe Aker The African American Library at the Gregory School is located in a former elementary school building in Houston’s Fourth Ward neighborhood immediately west of downtown. The two-story concrete-frame, brick-veneer Classical Revival-style building is a designated State of Texas Landmark, City of Houston Protected Landmark, and is located within the Freedmen’s Town National Register Historic District. After Emancipation in 1865, former slaves made their way to urban areas from rural plantations and many settled in Houston’s Freedmen’s Town, part of a larger area called the Fourth Ward. Houston originally had four wards and later expanded to six until this system of political subdivision was abandoned in the early 20th century. The use of wards continues to this day to identify these early Houston neighborhoods. Fourth Ward was home to a large African-American community that “Jim Crow” laws effectively kept segregated until the 1960s. This resulted in the development of separate churches, businesses, and other institutions such as schools. Gen. Edgar M. Gregory, first assistant commissioner of Texas’ Freedmen’s Bureau, donated land on Jefferson Street between Smith and Louisiana for the Gregory Institute. The Texas Legislature incorporated the Institute in 1870 and classes were held in a small, four-room building on the site. All African-American students were transferred to the Institute from the county’s Freedmen’s Bureau schools. In 1871, Harris County had the largest black student population (734 males and 760 females) in the state. Local officials began studying the possibility of free schools in Houston in 1875 and a recommendation followed that schools be geographically distributed to closely correspond with the wards. Furthermore, the recommendation called for two schools to be built in each ward, one for whites and another for blacks, along with two city-wide high schools, one for each race. In 1876, a city ordinance transferred ownership from the Institute to the city and the Gregory Institute became the city’s first black high school. In 1926, its namesake, the Gregory School, was built on Victor Street as a Fourth Ward elementary school replacing an earlier frame school in the neighborhood. 1 / 2 2 0 1 1 t e x a s a r c h i t e c t 57

Texas Architect 2011 Jan/Feb: Education

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