75 years ago

Since announcement last week through the columns of The Facts of a movement to secure substantial, more adequate bridge over the Intracoastal Canal to Bryan Beach, many calls have been received by this newspaper from residents throughout the area and some from other parts of the country commending the effort and supporting the need for such facility.

The project, sponsored by the Freeport Junior Chamber of Commerce, proposes a modern two-way bridge of substantial construction to withstand the elements for years to come. The center span of the bridge, according to plans to be drafted, will be of sufficient height to permit the passage of practically all types of small craft with the exception of a dredge or boats of similar size. This will render it unnecessary to employ a full-time bridge tender, since the span will not have to be raised but one or two times a year, at which time keepers of the locks at the mouth of the diversion channel could be notified ahead of time and attend to this detail.

A high bridge would also be above storm tides, which are the real source of damage to such crossings.

Other details likely to be added to plans for improvement in the Bryan Beach area is the construction of a road along the canal on the beach side. Material for such a road bed is already available in the spoil dumps which were pumped from the waterway in dredging the canal.

By changing the course of the road from the townsite levee to the beach, this pleasure spot could be brought around a mile and a half closer to Freeport.

Some have suggested that the road be built from the beach directly to the docks road, connecting with the present road to town somewhere in the neighborhood of the Abercrombie tank farm on the harbor. This would give more of the road protection inside townsite levees and the rest would be built over an area that has been filled in by spoil from canal dredgings. The road and bridge at this point would serve Quintana, the jetties and Bryan Beach, making only one bridge over the waterway necessary.

50 years ago

FREEPORT — The “offspring” of land speculators in the old Velasco Township Is growing up and may soon reach productive “maturity” after 80 years of “delinquency.”

Freeport’s Urban Renewal Plan is proceeding into the land acquisition phase, says Director of Urban Renewal Bruce Willis, and may be well enough advanced to permit the first sales of land in December.

Willis, an attorney, has the responsibility of clearing the titles to the long-dormant land. He said the city already has possession of a large part of the initial project area.

“We have received deeds or promises to sell on about two-thirds of the initial four-block area. This first part of the project represents the first acquisition in the total 82 1/2-block project area,” Willis said.

Part of today’s critical housing shortage in Freeport can be traced back to indiscriminate speculation in 1890s.

A nationwide campaign — advertising the harbor and agricultural potential of the Velasco area — was launched. The campaign was apparently a success from a speculation viewpoint, but a dismal failure as a development venture.

The land was sold in all parts of the country, but few of the buyers ever used the property. Many never even saw their property.

The township was divided into lots measuring 25 feet by 125 feet with corner lots only slightly larger. Five-acre tracts were also offered for sale, and with their purchase, a Velasco lot was thrown in as part of the deal.

At this time, over half of the original Velasco Township remains undeveloped even though a critical housing and space shortage exists.

The problem of development in the project area stems from the widespread and obscure ownership of the lots. Through the years, ownership has become more scattered, original purchasers have died, leaving the land to numerous heirs, deeds have become lost or were unfiled and titles have become clouded through tax sales.

The “legal chaos” has blocked development by individuals because of the cost and time involved.

This aspect gave birth to the idea of using urban renewal laws as a method for the city to reclaim the lost land.

Frceport is looking to this area — roughly north of Gulf Blvd. and west of Velasco Blvd. — as one answer to the city’s housing problem.

The project represents “the only significant area remaining in which Freeport can expand,” says Dr. J.M. Russell, chairman of the city’s Urban Renewal Council, an appointed board of five members authorized to administer the urban renewal program.

“The situation as it exists today is one of complete chaos as far as being able to secure good title to that property that is designated as Project 1 of the Freeport Urban Renewal Plan,” Dr. Russell stated.

15 years ago

Students marched down the street toward the open front doors, parents and brightly colored backpacks in tow, at West Columbia Elementary as Columbia-Brazoria ISD started its 2004-05 school year Wednesday morning.

Just through the doors, students crowded past a drawing of the building that will replace the aging elementary school early next year.

“This is going to be a year of firsts, because we’re closing an era on West Columbia Elementary,” Principal Jeannie Cummings said.

Officials are anxious to have the new elementary building, which would resolve parking and traffic flow problems along with a long list of problems with the current, decaying school building. The district plans to break ground on the new school in September and finish it in time for the 2005-06 school year.

Hours later, shortly after 3:30 p.m. outside the elementary school parking lot, a long line of cars roared to life. Parents, windows down, waited to sidle up to the building crowd of children seated at the front of the school.

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