Bethel Missionary Baptist Church was in serious need of major repairs when it caught on fire in 2005. Then Mayor Bill White stepped in to have emergency bracing installed to keep the three remaining walls from collapsing. The City bought the site from the Church–who had already moved to a new location before the fire–with the intent to create a historic park.
Most of the story is contained in a well-written article by Lisa Gray published 12/8/2013 in the Houston Chronicle. The rewarding part, at least to me, was the archeological work inserted into the construction process as construction got underway.
The project was large enough that an archeological phase 1 was required. You might say that should not matter and do it anyway. But, public funds can only be spent on required things or services; not what any staff member thinks is eligible. So, we had to find a way to do it anyway.
Dr. Ken Brown’s students (from University of Houston) were working in the area on early African American culture. He was particularly interested in what the original residents or their ancestors brought with them from Africa. The dirt below the remains of the old church could hold a host of information and artifacts. He was joined by the Community Archeology Research Institute (CARI) lead by Dr. Carol McDavid. They figured out how to work hours and times that fit into the construction process. The contractor, Turner Construction, Inc., worked with CARI, Dr. Brown and city staff to allow the on-site digs by students to occur. Much credit and thanks is due Turner’s staff for helping this effort to succeed.
Ms. Gray’s article relates well what I enjoyed hearing Dr. Brown and Dr. McDavid tell us on more than one occasion.
Go to the post Bethel Park Respecting Memories of Bethel Church — Coming Soon.