A Diamond (House) in the Rough. Mary and Eliza Freeman Houses.

I love abandoned buildings.  I wonder what it was like when it once thrived. Someone built it by hand. So much time and effort once went into it.  It was someone's dreams.  It meant everything to someone. What would they think if they saw it now?
What has happened to it?

As I was leaving Bridgeport, Connecticut last month, (my car was in a parking lot for the ferry) I noticed this neighborhood was so run down. I didn't see anyone around in the middle of a summer afternoon.  The stores were closed with metal gates. The buildings, homes and near by church looked abandoned.
I saw a pair of neighboring houses with boarded up windows, closed with a chain link fence and a large sign out front. I thought this must have been something important to have that sign. I took a quick picture before I left.
Once I got home I looked more closely at the photo and looked up the information on the sign.

I learned these two houses were owned and built for two sisters, Mary and Eliza Freeman. Mary (1815-1883) and Eliza (1805-1862) were free African American women from Derby, Connecticut and moved to Bridgeport where they had neighboring homes built, in 1848. 

These two woman were part of a community of free blacks and Native Americans, that was created in 1821 with the 1st settlers in part of Bridgeport. It became known as Little Liberia. These new communities were beginning in other north east areas, New York City, Providence, New Haven to name a few.

These houses are the oldest remaining homes in Connecticut built by free African Americans, before the state completed its gradual abolition of slavery in 1848.
The two woman shortly after, leased their homes and moved to New York City where they lived and worked. They returned to Bridgeport in the later years of their life where they were respected members of their community and quite successful.
When Mary passed away at 68. she had accumulated a considerable amount of property, estimating its worth at $30,000 - $50,000.
For a single, African American woman in 19th Century, this wasn't very common.

These are the last 2 homes standing, out of 33, that made up the Little Liberia community. So it is important to keep them, and restore them so this history and this neighborhood is not forgotten.

In recent years, an organization was developed to raise funds and to restore these houses to become The Mary & Eliza Freeman Center for History and Community. To restore, preserve and ensure the viability of the houses, teach the history, revitalize the community as well as facilitate the preservation and revitalization of the other African-American and greater Bridgeport historic preservation communities. Learn more here 

It is amazing these homes don't need to be torn down. The have a good structure, the interior's original trim and molding, as well as hardware, will remain and be restored.

* Free Blacks
Since the mid-1600s, free people of African descent have been in America. It is a common misperception that only enslaved black people were in America from the earliest days of exploration and colonization until the final abolition of slavery at the close of the Civil War. Although the majority of black people came to America as captive slaves, there were free people of African descent who lived and worked with early explorers and colonists in the American colonies.
Source- Encyclopedia.com. 
A church in the neighborhood of Little Liberia, Bridgeport, Connecticut.