Historic church preservation passed on to city of Nacogdoches - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Historic church preservation passed on to city of Nacogdoches

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Commitment is the foundation of Zion Hill First Baptist church. In 1914 a successful business man donated money, land and an architect as a gift to the African American community. It became their first organized Baptist church.

A step inside reveals more recent commitments. "The ceiling had been leaking for years.and all of this board had been hanging down and the floor was rotten," Mike Bay, president of Nacogdoches County Historic Foundation recalled. The familiar landmark was rotting away.

The foundation came its rescue in 2000. It made a promise to repair the roof and then give it to the city for further repairs. That was supposed to have taken five years. Instead, the project and many more unplanned promises were fulfilled over a course of 15 years.

Parts of the building were taken apart, then put all back together, literally. "You'll see there are numbers going up," Brian Bray, the city's historic site manager, said while pointing to hundreds of numbered boards on one wall. "Every board had to be labeled so it could go back in its exact location."

Like any puzzle, there's the urge to give up. Historians know that's not an option.  "It had to work," Jeff Abt, foundation board member and site manager matter of factly said. "This was such an important building, we just had to make it work."

A solid roof now leads to yet another promise. The city of Nacogdoches is accepting the church deed so further restoration can continue inside and out. "You have to sort of put on the rose colored glasses to see what it will look like on down the road," said Bray in the reflection of rose colored stain glass. "But through grant funding and hotel motel tax revenues I'm confident the city will be able to restore the interior and bring it back to its former glory."

Church is a place of celebration, as illustrated through discarded church cardboard hand fans setting next to an old Bible. All memories of celebrations years gone by. The city promises to restore the opportunity. The spirit of those who first sat in this church will fulfill the experience.

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