FREEPORT – Blessings of the shrimp boat fleet, political gatherings and her husband’s 60th birthday party are all things Jacque Cundieff remembers celebrating at the Freeport Community House.
The 72-year-old watched from the driver’s seat of her SUV Wednesday morning as the arm of an earth mover ripped into the walls of the almost 100-year-old building.
“If you want to know the truth, it needed to be torn down,” Cundieff said. “It really did. It got in really bad repair and it’s been in really bad repair for a long time.”
The former journalism teacher at Brazosport High School moved to Freeport with her family in the 1970s. She and her family would host and attend all kinds of events at the riverside venue off West Second Street through the years, she said.
Among her most memorable were the annual Blessing of the Fleet festivities when commercial shrimping played a big role in the local economy.
“A lot of people had a lot of good times at the Freeport Community House. I’m telling you, people of all ages,” Cundieff said.
Brazosport-area historian Dan Kessner was sad to see the building go, he said, but agreed safety made it necessary.
“Things were in bad condition in there, and it had been that way for a long time,” Kessner said. “I’m sorry to see it go, but I understand why it has to go. It’s just not safe.”
Having grown up in Freeport, Kessner remembers attending Easter egg hunts as a child, dances, weddings, school reunions and, at one point, a swimming area next to it, he said. The history lover has a photo from when the building was knocked down by a 1932 hurricane and remembers the entrance was once on the opposite side.
The Freeport Community House became unsafe after sitting unused for a number of years, and parts of the floor had caved in, city officials said. Kelty said it’s time for the city to move forward.
“There’s a lot of history there, but there’s a lot of history in front of us, too,” Kelty said.
Demolition kicked off about 9:45 a.m., and Kelty stopped by about 90 minutes later to check on the progress. He said the community house’s demolition shows the city is holding itself to the same building standards it is applying to private structures.
“The fact is we demand people don’t let their properties get blighted, and we hold ourselves to the same standard,” Kelty said. “It’s all about providing service, meeting the needs of the community.”
While the community house reduced to a pile of debris, the city is open to building a similar structure for the same purpose, Kelty said.
“I would be in favor of that because I think it would be the same, but it would be a place that would be good for events and families to meet occasionally,” Kessner said.
Until the city decides what to do with the now-empty lot, there are still three places people can rent for events in Freeport, Kelty said — Riverplace in Freeport Municipal Park, the Velasco Community House on Skinner Street and the Heritage House downtown next to the Freeport Historical Museum.