Renovation of a historic East Texas Black church expected to be completed by fall

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“This type of history is not persevered often; it can really become a jumping-off point on teaching a bigger part of history.”

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The city of Nacogdoches has been working on renovating a century-old church that will soon become a historic landmark.  

The Zion Hill Baptist Church was built in 1914 in Nacogdoches’ Zion Hill Historic District. The church was also home to one of Texas’ oldest congregations formed in 1878.  

Since the church’s establishment, it continued to hold services along with community events until the mid-1980s, then became vacant until the late 1990s.  

In 2000, the Nacogdoches County Historical Foundation purchased the church and began collecting funds to cover construction costs. 

Assistant Community Services Director for Nacogdoches Jessica Sowell said it was a project that began before the city got involved. 

“The foundation knew the history of this building and how significant it was, and didn’t want the building to be lost,” Sowell said. “They started the fundraising, kind of the media campaign and started some of our big projects here, including a new roof, painting the outside of the building.”

The foundation would later collaborate with the city to begin exterior construction. 

“In 2010, they gave it to the city and academic office and we started the same type of thing, fundraising, advertising campaigns, working on grants,” Sowell said. “Now we’re to the part where we’re finally doing the construction. We’re restoring the interior of the building, and then we’ll open it to the public and run it as a museum, event center and community center. We’re trying to put air conditioning into a building that was never designed for it, electricity, plumbing, make things ADA compliant.” 

Sowell said once the building is open to the public, she’s excited for residents and visitors to learn more about the Zion Hill Historic District in hopes of creating new memories.

“Hopefully, people will come out of the woodworks and tell us, ‘oh, my grandma with to this church or my parents were baptized here,'” Sowell said. “So that way we can use all those community stories to create a community exhibit so I’m really excited to see that.”

The city expects renovations to be complete and open to the public by the fall. To stay up to date on this project, click here

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