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Metro does historic preservation

I was sent this press release about Metro workers getting some interesting training as they prepare to build the new light rail lines, and thought it was worth sharing.

‘Hardhat and blue collar’ was the dress code for training classes offered at METRO in mid-December. The classes weren’t elective; they are required study for contractors and subcontractors working on Houston’s East End, North, Southeast and Uptown Light-Rail Transit (LRT) Corridors to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the Texas Antiquities Code, and to help workers understand the impact of their work in a broader context.

Duane Peter, a professional archaeologist, and Marsha Prior, an architectural historian, both consultants for Houston Rapid Transit (HRT), presented a mix of information that touched on everything from bricks to bones and many points in between. Prior noted that historic buildings could be more fragile than other structures in a construction area; therefore, special care must be taken to ensure that workers are aware of the historic buildings and know how to operate around them.

“So far, 19 historic properties have been identified along the Southeast Corridor, and they range from houses and religious facilities to government and commercial multiple-story buildings,” Peter noted. “The Niels Esperson Building (814 Travis), the S.H. Kress & Co. Building (705 Main), and the Annunciation Catholic Church (1618 Texas) have features that are unique, such as limestone columns, terracotta coverings, or arched and round windows that require special care. Awareness of these properties on the part of the workers will ensure that they are not accidentally damaged during construction.”

I think I’ve mentioned before that when Tiffany and I visited Athens in 2000, we used their newly-constructed rail lines to get about. They were still working on some other lines, which were to be ready for the 2004 Olympics, but had a hard time meeting their deadlines because every time they stuck a shovel in the ground, they found some historical or archaeological artifact. One of the local museums had an exhibition called “The City Beneath The City” about what they’d found, which we got to see while we were there. Needless to say, Houston will not have anything like that to deal with, but it’s good to know that if the construction crews do find something of interest, they’ll know what to do with it.

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  1. Bill Kelly says:

    I visited Athens during Allison in 2001 (can’t remember the exact month, thinking June/July) and can give further testimony that the rails they were a’building. Would be great to see now, so if anyone is planning a trip for say, Dec. 2010, email me.

    The mass transit would be much, much better for a city built with small streets and a bad air quality problem. And you are 100% right that they could exactly build much because under every site was history. My favorite part was folks saying, “Oh, that’s Roman, like 1st century AD” and acting like it was nothing special. In Texas, 50 years is “old.”


  2. Charles,

    Great post on Historic Preservation and METRO. I wanted to remind your readers that Council Members Sue Lovell, Ed Gonzalez, and Melissa Noriega just successfully worked with METRO to save the facade of the old Sterling Laundry & Cleaning Co. on Harrisburg in Eastwood. You mentioned this in your September 4th posting and I thought it would be a good idea to recognize the hard work of these great Council Members.

    I have also been working with Council Members Lovell and Gonzalez to save Emmanuel Lutheran Church in the Heights area. It is great to see so many more Council Members “get it” when it comes to preserving our History. I am very optimistic for the future of Historic Preservation in Houston. Mayor Parker has been a long time supporter of Historic Preservation and Neighborhoods so it is my hope that we will revisit the Historic Preservation Ordinance and finally truly protect our established Historic Districts.

    Keep up the good work Charles and have a great New Year!

    Best regards,

    Maverick Welsh
    Board Member, Position 13
    Houston Archaeological and Historic Commission (HAHC)