Monday, March 2, 2015

A Part Of Laredo Long Gone

The St. Peter's Historic Neighborhood Association hosted an event at Caffe Dolce on Saturday.  "Creating a Gateway, Erasing a Neighborhood" told the story of the barrio that was wiped away to allow for roadway construction leading from the I-35 terminus, to what would become the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge (bridge 2).

Guest speaker Jesus Najar, of the Texas Historical Commission, spoke about the evolution of Laredo's original business district, its surrounding neighborhoods and the trade corridor that looks so different from when it was first built in the 1970s.

There were many forces that led to the demise of so many historic homes in what was the La Noria neighborhood.  In order to make headway towards the river, Najar cited propaganda efforts on the part of officials against those who still called the area home.  A new international bridge connecting to I-35 meant progress for some, but it came at a cost.  Not only were people displaced, but scores of homes and businesses - rich with history and culture - were simply razed, with no thought of their value to the community.

(Texas Freeway has the above image dated November 11, 1965.  The red lines represent the future extension of the I-35 terminus.  Bridge 2 was constructed in 1976.)

Jesus Najar spoke of the way the area was characterized at the time, as an aging neighborhood with dilapidated, boarded-up buildings.

People in attendance suggested that the Noria 'hood was dismissed partly because of the development taking place in northern Laredo.  Homes that dated back to the 19th century were of no use for those who stood on the side of modernization.  Progress eventually came, but at great cost to Laredo's origins and soul.

Mr. Najar said bridge 2 didn't see its full completion until 1981.  The 'plaza de la noria' park is still with us, but seems like a shadow of its former self.  It still has some semblance to what it once looked like, but it hasn't been given much thought about what it stood for.

In the background, you can see the bank with the giant flag pole on the corner of Santa Ursula and Matamoros.  La escuela amarilla (1910) used to be there.

 UPDATE on 12/12/2016:  Image above shows neighborhood in place before bridge 2 constructed.  Photo obtained from a Center for Transportation Research Library (Twitter) post.

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