As first reported in last November’s newsletter, there is an ongoing push to restore Temple Freda, Bryan’s first Jewish synagogue and one of only three in the world named for a woman. Unfortunately, the process ground to a halt for some months; the last work done on the structure consisted of removing the endangered stained glass windows and boarding up the openings to protect the interior. Those windows currently reside at Foster Stained Glass waiting to be restored.
Twice over the past couple months Randy Hilliard, our Events Chair, and I met with The Friends of Temple Freda, the citizen group heading up the push to restore the synagogue. Brazos Heritage Society has been asked to partner with them, as we are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. As such, we can receive and hold donations for the project, as well as assist in applying for grants and other funding. Not only do we bring 30 years of historic preservation experience to the project, but also we offer an established organization that can serve as an anchor point for the process.
We typically meet at Arkitex Studio in downtown Bryan, the architectural firm involved in the project. The Friends group consists of Dr. William Bassichis (Temple Freda’s caretaker for over 30 years), Stephanie Sale (local artist), College Station Mayor Nancy Berry, Eva Read-Warden (Arkitex Studio) and her husband Robert Warden (Professor of Architecture at Texas A&M), Judge Tom McDonald, Randy Haynes and Lindsey Guindi with the City of Bryan, Nan Ross (Head Librarian for the Carnegie Library), Sylvia Grider (Retired Professor of Anthropology,
Texas A&M University), and Lewis Ford (a physics professor at Texas A&M University).
We’ve spent significant time exploring what needs to happen overall, as well as determining what specifically needs to occur first in order to make this restoration a reality. The final consensus was to start with a comprehensive structural engineering report, provided by Sparks Engineering. This report will detail the issues with the structure and provide a solid sense of the problems that need to be addressed.
This initial structural engineering report costs $2,500. Fundraising is underway, primarily via donations from members The Friends of Temple Freda.
However, we are always open to assistance from interested members and supporters of the Brazos Heritage Society. As soon as the $2,500 is raised, Sparks Engineering will be authorized to start the report process. To date, we’ve raised a little over $1,750.
While we do not yet have hard numbers on overall project cost, we’re honestly estimating approximately $1 million to restore Temple Freda to her former glory. Obviously, this is not a cheap undertaking. However, this beautiful structure is not only worthy of saving in its own right for its historical value, it also adds to the continuing beautification of downtown Bryan, further enhancing the area and increasing public usage. When the restoration is complete, the City of Bryan plans to utilize the venue for community events and appropriate private gatherings.