LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Drivers in Lufkin should be aware of a street closure around the Lufkin First Baptist Church Property.
Bremond Avenue will be closed between First and Second Streets while the church demolishes the two oldest buildings in their complex. Lufkin's First Baptist Church erected their first building in 1892 and tore it down in 1926. The building that replaced the original is now being torn down to make way for the next chapter in the church's history.
Demolition has begun on the 1928 chapel building and the educational building that was built in 1950. The demolition is just one of several phases in a capital campaign that will add a more modern building for all ages to the facility. The new building will join the current sanctuary and the Family Life Center.
Getting to this point has been a 20-year process with committees looking at various options that included remodeling the inside of the buildings, moving to a new location around from downtown or making room for new buildings.
"There was a lot of water damage over the years," said Senior Pastor Mark Newton. "Whereas, the outside looks sufficient, the inside has a lot of problems. A lot of stairs and no elevators in the buildings. To renovate the building and make it compliant with the American Disabilities Act would have been just as much."
The church has been around as long as Lufkin has been in the Pineywoods. Soon after the town was founded along the Houston, East, and West Railroad, a small congregation formed the church. According to the church's history book, the site where the church sits was donated to the founding members by the railroad company.
Hundreds of families and thousands of people have all worshiped at the church. Some families that sit in the pews are new to the community while others near them in the pews have several generations connected to the church. Elizabeth Hearne has thousands of memories from the building between her, her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
"I was baptized in that building," Hearne said. "My children were baptized in that building. I was married in that building, but it was just a building. it doesn't take away my memories. I work with the children and have seen so many children raised in the church. I don't want to see that go away."
When finished, the new building will compliment the 1,200-seat sanctuary with a new welcome center atrium. Newton said the new building will give the church a bigger presence in the downtown area.
"We really believe that downtown Lufkin really needs and should have a strong established presence," Newton said.
Newton said the old buildings should be completely demolished by the end of the year and the church hopes to break ground on the new building in the early spring of 2017.
While it may be hard for many long-time members and residents to see the old chapel go away, Newton said it will one day be part of a bigger story of the church.
"Buildings are great," Newton said. "So many memories are tied to those buildings, but we know the church is much bigger."
It is not clear if the road will be opened on weekends or closed for the duration of the demolition, but crews are asking for understanding and patience.