City of Houston Bethel Park
Emerging from the preserved remains of an historic church, this park represents an impressive commitment by the residents and leaders of Houston to rescue an historic site before it fell into irreversible decline.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bethel Baptist Church was founded by freed slaves in the 1890s. It became a central element in a thriving African American Houston neighborhood called Freedmen’s Town. The most recent sanctuary on the site, built in 1950, was devastated by fire in 2005, with only the interior concrete floor, concrete support columns, and four walls surviving.
The City of Houston purchased the property in 2009 and installed temporary bracing to stabilize the roofless structure for conversion to park use. Teamed with White Oak Studio, PGAL restored the property by retaining and reinforcing the existing exterior walls and establishing a beautiful park on the interior.
The design includes seating reminiscent of church pews, interpretive panels highlighting the church’s illustrious history, and open web trusses to reinforce the structure without obscuring light and views to the open sky. PGAL also introduced refurbished masonry and accents, window openings that allow ample daylight, decorative fencing to secure the site while welcoming visitors, and beautiful landscaping throughout.
The resulting half-acre site, in an area where urban expansion and gentrification are fast changing the original personality of an historic neighborhood, provides much-needed inner-city park space, a museum-like educational experience, and a strong visual link to a proud past many current and future residents would otherwise never discover.
- Open web trusses that reinforce the structure without obscuring light and views to the open sky, plus window openings that allow ample daylight
- Seating reminiscent of church pews
- Interpretive panels that highlight the church’s illustrious history
- Refurbished masonry and accents
- Decorative fencing that secures the site and beautiful landscaping that propels neighborhood revitalization