Temple Freda in Bryan continues restoration efforts | Latest Headlines | theeagle.com

2022-06-15 13:18:20 By : Mr. Mark Zhuo

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Temple Freda in Bryan is pictured on Tuesday. The Bryan City Council approved more than $220,000 to continue restoration efforts.

Temple Freda in Downtown Bryan was originally built in 1912 as a synagogue, and Brazos County’s oldest religious structure.

It is currently closer to a full recovery through the City of Bryan and structural renovations will continue this week after the city council approved a Phase 2 construction contract worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

“What makes Temple Freda kind of an interesting piece of architecture is that it is the oldest piece of religious architecture in Brazos County,” said Lindsey Guindi, director of strategic projects for the city. “We don’t anticipate that it will remain a synagogue at this point moving forward, as it is really intended to be a community space. We would anticipate things like small concerts, reunions, weddings to take place in there. At this point going forward it won’t retain the status of or the use of a synagogue, [after] the city took ownership of it several years ago.”

Ultimately, the city would like to turn it back over to a nonprofit to run and maintain it on behalf of the community, Guindi said, and it is one of three standing historic structures in Bryan still needing restoration of this magnitude.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the council approved a $224,226 construction contract with Caffey & Sons of Bryan to complete Phase 2 of the project. Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson said after the meeting that he was excited to start this next phase.

“We have renovated the Queen, Carnegie Library, there are only a few more dominoes left and we haven’t done them all,” he said. “For several years we have been putting money into Temple Freda and what we approved tonight is for structural improvements, and this is really to focus on continuing to make the building safe and get it structurally sound so it can complete the building.”

The restoration efforts have been a long time coming, Guindi said. Phase 1 of the restoration project was the initial securing of the building.

“Phase 1 included redoing the columns at the front of the building as well as repairing the brick and mortar and doing some structural repairs on the exterior of the building on the rear of the building,” she said. “Phase 2 is just a continuation where we are furthering the internal structural repairs. … There is still the original metal ceiling inside the building. We are going to take that metal ceiling off and pack it away to be either replaced or restored at one point in the future. We are going to be rebuilding all of the windows in the rear of the building and we are going to take down the ceiling fans, the light fixtures and put it away for restoration. This phase is the last phase of securing the building.”

Once done with Phase 2, the temple should continue to be structurally sound, airtight and weatherproof for the next 100 years, Guindi said. In addition, the next phases will include updating the interior of the building and replacing light fixtures and HVAC systems, she said.

“If you were to walk in there once we are done, virtually everything will remain the same or be restored. We hope when we are done and people walk in there it is going to be like what it was in 1912, so pretty much everything is going to look the same,” she said. “The one thing that will be noticeably different potentially is the pews, because we would anticipate there being a little bit more flexible seating inside in case you didn’t want to use it in its traditional setting, so the pews will be gone but we still have them. Other than that, we anticipate it looking virtually the same as it did 100 years ago.”

Architect Studio, a local architecture firm, has really been instrumental in making this happen, Guindi said.

“We are using their architects and their expertise to really do appropriate restoration work on this building, and without them we wouldn’t be where we are today,” she said.

Nelson also noted that the story of Temple Freda is wonderful back when it was a “religious building; and it was to our historical research, the only Jewish temple dedicated to a Jewish woman in North America, and maybe one of three in the world.”

“Bryan is such a wonderfully diverse community … and I love the story of the Temple Freda because you had the Episcopal Church that donated some land to the Jewish community so they could also celebrate their religion,” Nelson said. “And even though it was two very different religions, it was so Bryan. From the late 1800s, we already had this culture of helping each other out and if we didn’t have worship in the same way, we were still a great community. It is a beautiful story of the City of Bryan and our community and working together. I think it makes sense to take this big historic and beautiful building and make it the next domino to fall to get it fully renovated. The council approved that because we have long supported renovating historic beautiful buildings in Aggieland.”

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Temple Freda in Bryan is pictured on Tuesday. The Bryan City Council approved more than $220,000 to continue restoration efforts.

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