On Juneteenth, the day set aside for the remembrance of emancipation, Mayor Annise Parker announced plans to renovate a park purchased and donated by former slaves to celebrate their freedom.
Purchased in 1872 for $800 by four former slaves, Emancipation Park, located on Dowling street between Tuam and Elgin in Houston's Third Ward, holds a place in Houston’s history. The park was donated to the city of Houston in 1916 as the city’s first public park. From 1922 until 1940, Emancipation Park served as the only park open to African Americans due to segregation laws and it was the intention of the former slaves for the park to be a place to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth.
“This park has a history, and this park has a future. We just have to work to connect the two together,” Mayor Parker said during a press conference held in the park's community center.
“This park has a history, and this park has a future. We just have to work to connect the two together,” Parker said during a press conference held in the park's community center.
On Tuesday, Parker took a step towards connecting the two by announcing plans for a $33.6 million renovation. Plans call for a new gymnasium, playground, basketball court, pool house, water features and baseball field. In the spirit of the holiday, a Freedom Gate will be erected and opened only on Juneteenth to celebrate the freedom achieved on that day in history.
The new facilities will be central to the community, serving as a place for meetings, theater performances and athletics, city officials said. They hope that the remodeling of the park combined with its rich history will help draw visitors.
“We want this to be a park that visitors to Houston want to see and experience,” Parker said.
The park has received donations from the City of Houston, the Kinder Foundation, Houston Endowment and the OST/Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority. The project still needs approximately $9 million to complete the funding, according to Director of Parks and Recreation Joe Turner.
City officials are hopeful that a renovated park will help rejuvenate the surrounding area and encourage more development in the Third Ward.
“We would like to emphasize that the goal of the Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority is to help stimulate the development and redevelopment in the area as the mayor indicated,” said Theola Petteway, exexcutive director of the OST/Almeda Corridors Redevelopment Authority.
Renovations are set to begin in 16 to 18 months. Construction will begin with the parking lots.