Historic Zion Baptist Hill Church renovation close to completion

Historic Zion Baptist Hill Church renovation close to completion
Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 11:19 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - The Zion Hill Baptist Church is a historic landmark in Nacogdoches, and has stood in the city’s downtown district since its construction in 1914.

Since the mid-1980s it has sat unutilized, but that could be changing by the fall as a nearly 20 year project to open it up to the public could be coming to and end.

“And at that point they started seeing leaks in the roof, rotting wood and there was water getting into the basement,” Jessica Sowell, Assistant Community Director for the City of Nacogdoches, said about problems that the building had when it was turned into an office in the early ‘80s. “Things like that. Then they moved out because it wasn’t usable as an office space.”

Over the next 15 years the church was abandoned. Then the Nacogdoches County Historical Foundation began an expansive project in 1999.

“If they hadn’t started the project, the building wouldn’t be standing today,” Sowell said.

But restoring a piece of history like the church adds problems that you wouldn’t see in a modern renovation.

“It wasn’t built to have electricity or plumbing or be ADA compliant or having fire sprinkler systems,” Sowell said. “So a lot of it is figuring out how to have the modern systems we need without just placing an AC unit in a stairwell.”

With a building so old, lacking blueprints can make simple things like fixing interior walls a challenge. When renovations were done, the original exterior wooden wall had to be removed and numbered so they could return to the exact place due to fear of not being able to get measurements correct.

Many of those hurdles have been handled, and the city hopes to have the newly-renovated church finished by the fall, and it will open as an African-American museum, as well as open for citywide events and for rental services for things like weddings.

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