The Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses, the last surviving structures of Bridgeport’s Little Liberia community of free people of color in the pre-Civil War era, were named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as among America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Built in 1848, the adjoining residences at 352-4 and 358-60 Main St. were owned by sisters Mary and Eliza Freeman and were located within the predominantly African-American Little Liberia neighborhood. At its peak, Little Liberia consisted of 33 homes owned by African-Americans. A fire in 1980 damaged some of the Freeman property, and the houses have been closed to the public for decades due to a lack of funding for their maintenance. The houses were added to the National Register of Historic Places in February 1999.
CT Humanities recently awarded a $9,999 grant for the restoration strategic plan and to digitally store and preserve its institutional records. However, this matching grant requires the Freeman Houses to receive donations from public sponsors by April 2019 in order for the grant to be allocated.
“We realized early on that it was actually going to take a movement to keep these houses in place, and this movement has been sustained by myriad supporters from community partners, South End residents, scholars, and local historians and activists,” said Maisa Tisdale, president of the Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community Inc.