The City of Houston today announced that Market Square Park, The African American Library at the Gregory School (1926), and the Farnsworth & Chambers [now Gragg] Building (1957) are winners of 2011 Good Brick Awards from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance. The awards recognize local contributions to the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of Houston’s architectural and cultural heritage.
Market Square was donated to the city by Augustus Allen in 1854, becoming a central point as Houston’s downtown district grew up around it. The Gragg Building housed the Mercury astronauts and engineers during the early 60’s before NASA’s headquarters was built in Clear Lake.
“We’re honored to be recognized and receive these awards,” said Houston Parks and Recreation Department Director Joe Turner. “Like so many of our parks, both Market Square Park and the Gragg Building at Gragg Park played important roles in Houston’s history. Both parks are part of Houston’s park system and, as park stewards, we feel it is important to preserve that history for today and tomorrow.”
Located in Houston’s historic Freedman’s Town, The African American Library at the Gregory School is housed in the Edgar M. Gregory School, which served as the first public school for African Americans in Houston. The building was originally designed by Texas architecture firm Hedrick & Gottlieb and built in 1926.
“We are pleased that the renovation of The African American Library at the Gregory School has been recognized with a Good Brick Award,” said Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson. “As the first library of its kind in Houston and one of the few African American libraries in the country, the Gregory School serves as a resource to preserve, promote, and celebrate the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston, the surrounding region and the African Diaspora. With the renovation and reopening of this library, we are honoring a generation of people whose cultural heritage played a signficant role in making the city of Houston what it is today.”
The Gregory School has been completely restored. As part of the renovation, windows were removed, carefully restored, and reinstalled. Bricks were carefully cleaned and preserved on the south, east, and west sides of the building, and covered with matching brick on the north side. The final result is a dramatic transformation of the existing, vacant structure to its original 1926 appearance.
Sustainable building practices were included since the early planning stages of renovation of The African American Library at the Gregory School. The project is an excellent example of the compatibility of green building and historic preservation. Reuse of the building and its materials is both “green” and historically correct. It is the first City of Houston project to obtain a Gold Level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.
The original building was designed intelligently to respond to climate, daylight and views, and those design elements were preserved. Green building features in the renovation include enhanced energy-efficiency; daylighting and views; reduction of indoor pollutants; redirection of construction debris from the landfill; reduction of heat island effect; recycled and regional materials; and enhanced building commissioning to ensure high performance.